600 French soldiers dressed in frocks

As I am out and about most of today, writing a blog might be a bit of a problem.

So here is something published today 200 years ago.

It was sent to me. Don’t even begin to ask why.

It refers to the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, held in Brussels shortly before the Battle of Waterloo.

This report was printed in the Bury and Norwich Post on 13th September 1815. That is Bury as in Bury St Edmunds.

The Duchess of Richmond's ball depicted by Henry O’Neil (1868)

The Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Henry O’Neil’s painting Before Waterloo (1868)

Bonaparte, it is said, had made a complete arrangement, previous to the battle of Waterloo, to entrap the British Staff by finesse. He had engaged the Ladies of Brussels to apply to the Duchess of Richmond to give a ball; her grace consented. On the evening of the day of the fete, he posted 600 men dressed in blue frocks, with arms underneath them, in an appropriate situation, where they remained unobserved.

The dancing commenced, and the hour rapidly approached when the signal was to be given; and Bonaparte meant to enter at the head of the force already named. Providentially one of the Ladies became violently enamoured with the personal attractions of her partner, so much so that she could not resist the impulse to disclose to him the situation of himself and his gallant brethren. She took him aside, and communicated to him the plan. The Commander in Chief was directly appraised of his situation, and as promptly took the necessary steps to seize the enemy in ambuscade. The counterplot succeeded. – The credibility of this story may be suspected.


Alas I presume the blue frocks were frock coats.

But the image of 600 French soldiers about to attack in frocks still lingers. And it still begs the question: Where can you hide 600 French soldiers in frocks?

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