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Current Maughan Library exhibition

'The nearest run thing you ever saw’: the Battle of Waterloo

The Weston Room, The Maughan Library, Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1LR

Wednesday 10 June – Wednesday 23 September 2015

Opening hours: 

Monday to Friday 09.30 - 17.00; Saturday 10.00 - 18.00

It has been a damned nice thing—the nearest run thing you ever saw

Image from the Battle of Waterloo. From: William Milligan Sloane. Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1896With these words the Duke of Wellington summed up the fierce and bloody battle which on 18 June 1815 saw the final defeat of Napoleonic France near the village of Waterloo, ten miles south of Brussels. 

It was indeed a closely fought encounter; the French, whose forces outnumbered those of their coalition opponents, had victory within their grasp, but the timely arrival of Prussian reinforcements turned the tide in the direction of the Allied forces, and the day closed with Wellington and Blücher, the Prussian leader, meeting on the battlefield to offer mutual congratulations.  After two decades of European war, peace was at hand at last.

Frontispiece portrait of the Duke of Wellington. From: Arthur Griffiths. Wellington and Waterloo, 1898In this exhibition, conceived to mark the bicentenary of this momentous day in European history, we look at the course of the battle itself, the military tactics and techniques involved and the treatment afforded to those wounded on the battlefield. We look too at the careers of the two key protagonists – Napoleon and Wellington – both before and after the battle. 

For the former, defeat at Waterloo signalled the eclipse of the hopes entertained during the ‘Hundred Days’ since his escape from Elban exile of a re-establishment of his imperial rule; instead he would shortly find himself an island exile again, a prisoner this time on the remote Atlantic island of St Helena. 

For Wellington, ‘the nearest run thing you every saw’ would go down in history as his greatest victory; it would also herald a turning point in his career, as the coming of peace led to an increasing involvement in domestic British politics, culminating in his premiership of 1828-30. While prime minister, Wellington was instrumental in the foundation of King’s College London, and King’s is proud to maintain its connexion with the victor of Waterloo, the current Duke of Wellington serving as chairman of the College Council.

Exhibits include a contemporary printed map of the battle, a manuscript register of correspondence kept by the Foreign Office during foreign secretary Castlereagh’s attendance at the Congress of Vienna and a surgeon’s amputation set of the period.

Most items in this exhibition are drawn from the holdings of the Foyle Special Collections Library. We are also pleased to display items from two other collections at King’s, the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives and the Gordon Museum of Pathology.

Admission and access

Access to the exhibition is free. On arrival at the Maughan Library, please follow the signs to the Weston Room. Please note that visitors who are not registered members of the Maughan Library are required to complete an exhibition ticket on arrival at the Library. The exhibition ticket is available to print below, as is a guide to the exhibition. Copies of the guide are also available to pick up in the Weston Room. 

Exhibition closure dates

Please note that the exhibition is closed on Sundays.

The exhibition will also be closed on Monday 31 August.

Waterloo exhibition guide (pdf, 946kb) 

Waterloo exhibition ticket (Word, 82kb)

Waterloo exhibition ticket (pdf, 226 kb)

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