The Eagles have landed for Waterloo

Actors dressed as Commander James White, left, and Major Henry Percy with replicas of the French imperial Eagles. Picture: PA
Actors dressed as Commander James White, left, and Major Henry Percy with replicas of the French imperial Eagles. Picture: PA
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It was the proclamation eagerly awaited by all of Europe – that the British had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

And 200 years later historical actors have retraced the three- day journey across the continent, arriving with the dispatch wrapped in a purple pouch and the golden imperial Eagles wrested from the French army.

Actors dressed as Major Henry Percy and Commander James White, who carried the original victory message to the Prince Regent on June 21 1815, travelled across London in a horse-drawn carriage, known as a post chaise.

They set off from the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, south London, and rode in full military regalia carrying the banners and flags of Napoleon’s defeated army, stopping occasionally for photographs with tourists.

Last night, they rode through the capital, crossing Tower Bridge for ceremonies at the Tower of London and then on to St James’s Square and the Waterloo Room in the East India Club, where the message of victory was originally received by the Prince Regent.

The replica Eagles were due to be laid before the Princess Royal by Major Percy in imitation of the moment, two centuries ago, when Britain was told of its historic victory.

Julian Farrance, who was Major Percy for the commemoration, said: “It has been an astonishing privilege for us to be able to do this – to be able to ride the post chaise through the middle of town, but also to have started out at Waterloo and followed this journey through... and come splashing ashore – the whole experience has been simply astonishing.”

Two centuries ago the country was awash with rumours the allied forces, led by the British commander the Duke of Wellington, had been defeated at Waterloo.

They were on tenterhooks to hear what the battle’s outcome had been.

Mr Farrance said: “The country was in a fever of anticipation, waiting for the news, and finally Commander White and Major Percy manage to get it through to them.”

But Major Percy faced an epic journey to deliver the dispatch.

He was injured in battle and covered in blood which had spattered over his uniform when he was cradling a dying comrade. But he was the only one of Wellington’s aide-de-camps to survive Waterloo and immediately volunteered to take the dispatch back to Whitehall.