Everybody has heard about the battle of Waterloo, but fewer people know that Napoleon had already been defeated and exiled one year earlier – and that in a dramatic turn of events in February 1815, he escaped from Elba, raised an army, and marched on Paris. Having toppled the newly restored monarchy, he reinstated the Empire – and only then faced the Allies at Waterloo in June.
Theatre during the Empire had been a major outlet for Napoleonic propaganda but in 1814, his opponents had turned this against him by likening him to theatrical characters in order to belittle him. During the 100 days of Napoleon’s return to power in 1815, the Parisian theatres and many in the provinces returned to portraying heroes whose positive links with the Emperor were obvious to contemporary audiences – only for him to be ridiculed and mocked once more in plays after the restoration of the monarchy.
From 23rd February 2015, an online exhibition put together by the departments of History and French Studies at the University of Warwick www.100days.eu will release one object a day, alongside commentary tracing day by day the events that lead to Waterloo and then to Napoleon’s departure for exile on the island of Saint Helena in July 1815.
We are also launching a schools’ theatre competition to portray any aspect of the 100 days in a 5-minute theatrical sketch. The objects of the exhibition can be used as a starting point, or, to inspire you, you might look at Martainville’s play, Buonaparte ou l’abus de l’abdication (Buonaparte or how to abuse abdication), a biting satire of Napoleon's return to power (published in September 1815). Click here to read the play in French or download a translation into English of Act 4, the Waterloo battlefield scenes here.
There are 3 prizes:
• a prize for the best sketch about the 100 days in English
• a prize for the best sketch in a foreign language (French, German, Spanish, Italian)
• a prize for the best sketch by primary school pupils
Sketches should be recorded as a performance and submitted by midnight on 18th June 2015, the date of the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, to firstname.lastname@example.org