On the 18th June 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. Having escaped from exile on the island of Elba, he landed on the mainland on the 1st March and successfully secured support of a small army whom he marched to Paris. His arrival on 20th March led to Louis XVIII fleeing the city. This signaled the start of a period of Napoleonic government we now call the Hundred Days.
Napoleon’s return from exile was met with enormous hostility from the other European powers. Having already been defeated in 1814, Napoleon was declared an ‘outlaw’ by the Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna, who soon committed troops to remove him from power.
By early June, Napoleon had built an army of approximately 200,000 men. Determined to stop the separate allied armies from combining, he marched into modern-day Belgium in an attempt to defeat each army one by one. On the 16th June, his army defeated and drove back the Prussians, although they were able to retreat and regroup. This Prussian recovery was to prove decisive in the Battle of Waterloo two days later.
At Waterloo the British troops led by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, were outnumbered by French but managed to hold them off until the Prussians arrived to break through Napoleon’s right flank. The combined British and Prussian defeated the French, but Wellington himself said that the battle was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”. Napoleon abdicated soon afterwards and was exiled to St Helena, where he died six years later.