A Napoleonic Postscript
Although Mr Blackwood’s Fabularium is set in 1851, some of the stories are set in earlier periods. One of them is The Corporal’s Tale. Corporal Costello is a veteran of the Peninsula War and Waterloo. He was also in the army of occupation in Paris, which is where the events of his tale take place. I found this very hard to research. It took me a day in the London Library to track down an account of the occupation in a copy of History Today from the 1960s. All I wanted to know was where the British army – the Prussians were the other occupying force – was encamped. The answer was what I had suspected all along: namely, the Bois de Boulogne. My life would have been made much easier if Paul O’ Keefe’s brilliant Waterloo: The Aftermath had been published a few months earlier. To anyone interested in this neglected postscript to the Napoleonic Wars I cannot recommend the book too highly. The British occupation (under Wellington – picture below) was light touch, the Prussian (under Blücher – picture above) anything but. To give but one example: Blücher marched into the Louvre and seized all the pictures (including Corregios, Rubens and Rembrandts) which had been plundered by Bonaparte’s troops. Although no British gallery had been looted, Wellington was approached by the Dutch to rescue their plundered treasures. Unlike Blücher, Wellington first tried diplomacy. He approached Talleyrand, who failed to interest the newly restored Louis XVIII in the question of restitution, and only when diplomacy had failed resorted to force and placed the Louvre under martial law.