Foulkes, N.: Dancing Into Battle

Foulkes, Nick

Dancing Into Battle: A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo

Phoenix House, 2007

A Regency Enthusiast can hardly escape books about each and every military aspect about the Battle of Waterloo. I am therefore grateful to Nick Foulkes, who looked into the social and everyday aspects of the lives of English soldiers and expatriate families in Brussels during the weeks leading up to the battle: From mobilising and transporting English troops to Belgium and an insight into the lives and pleasures of ordinary soldiers to the happy-go-lucky socialites holding balls and picnics – while Napoleon is closing in. Nick Foulkes creates entertaining and authentic historical scenes. His book is based on original sources such as documents from the Goodwood Collections, letters of the Duke of Beaufort and the memoirs of James Gunn of the 42nd (Black Watch) Regiment. Foulkes lets the reader travel with officers, soldiers and tourists, visit their parties, and finally join them on (the edge of) the battlefield.

A focus of the book is on the experiences of the family of the Duke of Richmond. Even though the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on the eve of the battle is not a new topic for research, I enjoyed seeing its glamour unfurl while, behind the glittering scene, preparations for war unfolded.

The book was helpful to check some details for my post “Writer’s Travel Guide: Lyme Park- An Austen Drama in its Own Right“.