Royal Mail will commemorate the 200th anniversary of one of the most famous and decisive battles in European history, the Battle of Waterloo, by issuing six stamps and a miniature sheet on June 18.

The culmination of two decades of conflict collectively known as the Napoleonic Wars, the single-day battle in what is now Belgium on June 18, 1815, saw the final defeat of the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, at the hands of an Allied army largely composed of British forces commanded by the Duke of Wellington and Prussian forces under Gebhard von Blücher

The landscape-format counter sheet stamps, designed by Silk Pearce, illustrate some of the key exchanges in the battle in chronological order, based on paintings by 19th-century artists.

The portrait-format miniature sheet stamps, designed by Webb & Webb using modern illustrations by Chris Collingwood, depict rank-and-file infantrymen from the key nationalities who took part, emphasising the international nature of the conflict.

The issued was printed by lithography by International Security Printers.

1st class THE DEFENCE OF HOUGOUMONT

The Defence of the Château de Hougoumont by the Flank Company, Coldstream Guards, by Denis Dighton (1815), illustrates hand-to-hand combat in the early stages of the battle, as French troops tried to storm farm buildings fortified by the British. The defenders held out all day.

1st class THE SCOTS GREYS DURING THE CHARGE OF THE UNION BRIGADE

The Charge of the Second Brigade of Cavalry, by Denis Dighton (1815–17), features a British counter-attack led by the Scots Greys in the early afternoon. It disrupted French progress in the centre of the battlefield, but became increasingly disorganised and suffered heavy casualties.

£1 THE FRENCH CAVALRY’S ASSAULT ON ALLIED DEFENSIVE SQUARES

The Attack on the British Squares by French Cavalry, by Denis Dighton (1815), depicts a charge of the Cuirassiers against the British centre in the late afternoon. It was repulsed by the tactic of forming the infantry into static squares with their bayonets pointing outwards, which could be neither breached nor outflanked by cavalry.

£1 THE DEFENCE OF LA HAYE SAINTE BY THE KING’S GERMAN LEGION

The Defence of the Farm La Haye Sainte, by Adolf Northen (1858), illustrates the Allied rearguard action at the farm in the centre of the battlefield. This lasted for most of the day before the King’s German Legion ran out of ammunition and was forced to withdraw.

£1.52 THE CAPTURE OF PLANCENOIT BY THE PRUSSIANS

Prussian Troops Storm the Village of Plancenoit during the Battle of Waterloo, by Adolf Northen (1863), shows the key moment when the Prussian IV Corps arrived at the battlefield and stormed a village on the French right flank. Control of Plancenoit changed hands five times before the French were forced to concede defeat.

£1.52 THE FRENCH IMPERIAL GUARD’S FINAL ASSAULT

The Battle of Waterloo by Sir William Allan (1843), depicts Napoleon’s last gambit, an early evening advance by his elite Imperial Guard in an attempt to break through the British centre. When they were forced into retreat, the French were in disarray. This painting was purchased by the Duke of Wellington himself, and still hangs in his London home, Apsley House.

 

MINIATURE SHEET

1st class PRUSSIAN ARMY: 15th INFANTRY REGIMENT, IV CORPS

Prussia’s IV Corps entered the battle when the result was on a knife-edge, and helped to turn it the way of the allies.

1st class ANGLO-ALLIED ARMY: LIGHT INFANTRY, KING’S GERMAN LEGION

The King’s German Legion was a British Army unit comprised of expatriate Hanoverians, after the Electorate of Hanover (whose ruling Prince was King George III of the United Kingdom) had been abolished by Napoleon in 1806.

£1.33 ANGLO-ALLIED ARMY: 92nd GORDON HIGHLANDERS

Legend has it that the men of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders infantry regiment joined the Scots Greys cavalry charge by hanging onto the stirrups of their mounted colleagues!

£1.33 FRENCH ARMY: GRENADIERS, IMPERIAL GUARD

Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, which acted as both a bodyguard and a tactical reserve unit, encompassed infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments. It was proudly undefeated in battle until Waterloo.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack offers a visually rich overview of Waterloo written by historian Professor Charles Esdaile.

First day covers and stamp cards are available as ever, and a coin cover comes with a specially minted £5 coin portraying the meeting between Wellington and Blücher at the end of the battle.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps £6.30

Miniature sheet £3.92

Presentation pack £10.75

Stamp cards £4.95

First day cover (set) £8.04

First day cover (miniature sheet) £5.18

Coin cover £17.50

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   5/5

Landmark days in British and European history don’t come much bigger than this

QUALITY OF DESIGN   5/5

The use of period paintings for the battle scenes and sets exactly the right tone, and the miniature sheet complements them well

WOW FACTOR   2/5

The stamps look stunning when enlarged, but may have less impact at normal size