A Week at Waterloo

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One Woman’s Story of War, Loss & Love|
Magdalene De Lancey: A Week at Waterloo|
History 112 - OLA: Western Civilization II


Magdalene Hall and William De Lancey had a fast tracked romance and remained married for three months prior to the devastating battle of Waterloo. The marriage was mutually beneficial, both socially & financially, for both sides; as was common in marriages of its time. The existence of true love is present throughout the narrative. The prevalence of true love was not a common aspect in 19th century marriages when at times marriage was a mere necessity. The couples honeymoon was cut short by international events and the Colonel’s newest assignment.

Magdalene proved to be a strong & brave woman by following her husband on his campaign against Napoleon in the Austrian Netherlands. It was not unheard of for women to follow their husbands and lovers to, and beyond death. Colonel William was critically wounded when he was struck with a ricocheting cannon ball in the back. Magdalene proved not to be a burden, but a god sent when she refused to leave her husband’s side, nursing him, after she found him mortally wounded on the near the battlefield during Waterloo. It was during this time, of tending to her husband, that she wrote a journal that later became the narrative; “A Week at Waterloo.” Her experience, full of honesty & attractive details, during this week of turmoil comes across clearly throughout her narrative.

During the three weeks between their arrival in Brussels and the French Army advancing on Brussels, the newlyweds were able to find time for one another, go for walks in the park and to enjoy being in love. They spent their time together not visiting or going to balls as they did not know how long they had before they would be separated. She describes her feelings in the following passage; “Fortunately my husband had scarcely any business to do, and he only went to the office for about an hour every day. I then used to sit and think with astonishment of my being transported into such a scene of happiness, so perfect, so unalloyed! feeling that I was entirely enjoying life not a moment wasted.” (n.d.2) The way she describes her happiness is very endearing. It is obvious she is in love. His love for her is clear as well and put above his duties. Before he left for his position as Chief of Staff to Duke of Wellington he first went to reassure his bride and arrange for her to be sent to safety in Antwerp.

While in Antwerp Magdalene kept to herself & kept her promise to Sir William not to believe any reports as well as not to move without his order on any account. William assigned a Captain Mitchell to keep charge of her. She may have been scared, but she did not show it to anyone and remained where she was waiting for word from her husband. Magdalene never lost faith even though at times it was very difficult and the time away. When she heard of the last effort of the battle she became restless & anxious to hear of her loved one’s well being. After the Colonel was hurt he asked for Magdalene to be informed in a kind manner as gently as possible sparing her from further despair. She was so relieved when she saw that William’s name was not on the list of killed & wounded. In fact his name was deliberately left off to spare Magdalene, but she was not; “Some kindly thought this might benefit me; but I was not so fortunate. Sad scenes were passing at Antwerp in the meantime.” (n.d.12) This sets the scene for the roller coaster of emotion she is about to embark upon when her hope is replaced by despair.

Magdalene’s anguish was about to begin when she was informed by Lady Hamilton that Sir William was indeed alive yet desperately wounded. Magdalene had a hard time believing this as true. When she came to accept his fate she immediately asked for assistance to go to him. Magdalene...
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