Waterloo part 2 – Balls and Battles

So the ball and the battle? Well I said I’d write about those next so that’s what I’m going to do.
As I’m sure you all know, in 1815 on June 17th there was a big ball held in Brussles; the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. And at this ball many of the British officers were attending, as well as all the high and mighty people of society who were present. And it was during this ball that a messenger came with the news that Napoleon’s army was getting close, and Lord Wellinton (who was also at the ball) informed all the guests that they would be marching out that very night, but not before finishing off the last dance.

It’s probably the most famous ball in history and during the year there have been quite a few Duchesse’s of Richmond’s balls around, but this one was the one that me and Andrew wanted to go to, becuase it was on the right day, in the right city.

Since we were staying at the camp we had to get changed and ready for the ball in a tent. That was a new experience for me, it’s not quite the same as fixing your hair and putting on all your finery in a hotel room. But it worked. We were taking the car from Waterloo and into Brussels and we had rather a nice experience along the way. As we got into Brussels we became a little unsure of which road to take, so we stopped by this service station and went inside to ask. Of course, when you are in costume you tend to always get attention or a reaction, but this time it was rather funny. At the service station there was the lady working there and two older gentlemen, who seemed to be hanging out there just chatting, and when they spotted us one of the gentelemen got incredibly excited and started shouting “Napoleon! Napoleon!” to Andrew. But then he realised he was in a British uniform and corrected himself; “No! Wellington! Wellington!” He was almost jumping up and down with excitement! We tried to ask for directions to this house where the ball was, but none of them spoke any English really and our French isn’t the best. So then the excited gentelman gestured for us to follow him outside, and then he hopped into the back of our car and said he’d show us the way! So he came with us for the rest of the drive, pointing which directions to go and when we arrived he just jumped out wished us a pleasant evening and, with another little excited “Wellington!” walked back in the direction we came from! It was just so sweet and nice and it was just one of those great moments of friendly and helpful people! That he was really tiny and had a true Asterix mustache just made it all the better!

Anyway, we arrived at this lovely house where the ball was. Had time to meet all the people we know there before the dancing was to start. It really was nice to see everyone again, so many people I haven’t met in so long! Even a lady who I met in LA 8 years ago, at a Victorian ball well before any of my Jane Austen events! Those are the times when I’m so happy and grateful there are things like Facebook which means you can keep in touch for all that time and distance!

The dancing was great, as usual. But also as often is the case it was very crowded and hot. But very fun! There was a fantastic performance by a Canadian Fife and Drum group (I cannot remember the name of them…) and the Duke of Wellington was there giving speeches and, of course, towards the end of the evening, informing us of Napoleon’s arrival and that there was to be a battle, at a place called Waterloo.

It felt very special to be part of this historic event, and I’m so glad we were able to get tickets to go!

Andrew in the garden of the house where the ball was

Dancing. See what I mean about it being crowded?

All rights reserved by Phil Thomason for this beautiful image. I don’t have many photos of me from this ball, but here at least you can see my new dress 

Another picture that I love. All rights reserved for this one by Michel Van Reysen

And the battle? Well there were actually two battles; one on the Friday and one on the Saturday. I was fortunate enough to get to see both of them, which I was very happy  about.

For the first battle I marched with the soldiers, together with the rest of the camp followers who were to watch. The battlefield was a couple of kilometers away from the camp but I think it took us like 1 ½ – 2 hours to get there! For one reason because it takes a long time to get thousands of people from one place to another, but then there was also this bridge that we had to cross and that had broken when they had dragged one of the cannons over it! So we just had to patiently wait while they mended the bridge again!

 

The Nordic Battalion marching off to battle

It was quite an amazing feeling walking on to that battlefield. Even though we weren’t to take part we had to cross the whole field to get to the area where the camp followers were to sit. The field was massive and around it were these big stands for the audience, 60 000 spectators per battle!

Entering the battlefield. Hougoumont farm to the right

The Duke of Wellington with Hougoumont farm in the background (not the real one, just the one for the battle)

Nordic Battalion once again. Observe some of the audience in the background

This is where us camp followers got to sit

I managed to get a photo of Andrew as I walked past on the battlefield. He’s in the middle, with his head turned to the right.

They started off by playing very loud music on loud speakers, which I must say although it did sound pretty epic felt a little unnecessary. It wasn’t a show as such but a historical re-creation of a battle! But at least they didn’t keep the music going for very long.

From where we sat we had a pretty good view of the battlefield, that is until the fighting started! Then most of the field was swallowed up in a big cloud of gunpowder smoke. I now know exactly what they mean when they talk about the fog of war!

But we could still see of course. The second day even more so because then they had moved the action a little bit closer to the audience and we could feel the ground shake from the cannons firing around us and the horses thundering past! It was truly epic and amazing! I kinda wish I had actually been part of the battle itself and not just a spectator, but even being a spectator was incredible! And from what I’ve heard from those who were in the fighting it was all fantastic and felt so real at times that they almost forgot it was only pretend. Andrew said that when the horses came charging at their line you were terrified for real, and I can sure imagine it!

As with any event of this size and style of coruse there are injuries. And Waterloo was no different. There were gunpowder burns, fractured bones, people falling of horses and accidentally being slashed with swords (which though blunt would still hurt if you were hit by one). Ambulance was on stand by at all times and I have to say the medical service did a great job at this event (I can say so from personal experience since I managed to stupidly chop my own thumb with an axe and was sent to hospital..). But the scariest moment for me was when we were watching the battle and right infront of us this man falls of his horse but is caught by his foot in the stirrups. The horse of course freaked out and started charging around, with the poor man being bashed around left right and center. It looked like he kept being stepped on and people were trying to stop the horse. Everyone kept their breath and honestly we thought he was gone. But then he came loose, got to his feet and jumped right back onto the horse again as if nothing had happened! The whole audience cheered! But that was a bit too realistic to be comfortabel!

Before the smoke had completely covered everything

Cavalry in the distance

I loved the fact that it was in a field of crops like this, just made it feel all the more authentic!

Fire!

A thin line of red. The French were on the other end of the field, so I didn’t really get any photos of them

Beautiful, beautiful horses! 

The other farm house in the distance, that I sadly can’t remember the name of…

I’m rather proud of this picture, even though I know Isabel got one that was even better ;)  

With this one I like how clearly all the cross belts stand out!

I have a couple of short videos that I filmed while watching the battle as well that I thought I’d share. Just so you can get some sound and movement to the whole thing too :)

Sorry the quality isn’t better though :(

And that my dear friends really sums up my experience of the Waterloo 200 reenactment. I’m so glad I participated, I don’t know if there will ever be another event on this scale in my life time. But if it isn’t, at least I can say I was part of this one! And now I cannot wait for another reenactmetn!

Waterloo part 1 – Camp life

Greetings everyone!

After I wrote last time things with the blog have not worked out quite like I planned. We were traveling for 5 weeks with no internet at all and when we came back the internet at our home had been shut off until Christmas sometime, because of them re-doing the whole system. Also my plans of using Instagram more hasn’t so far worked very well either, it for some reason refuses to work on my phone despite all the things I’ve done to try to get it working. But I haven’t completely given up on it yet.

But never mind all that, what I really wanted to talk about this time was the amazing and incredibly EPIC Waterloo 200 event!
I don’t know if any one reading this had the chance to go there but for those who didn’t I’d like to give an account of how it was.

Andrew and I arrived a few days before the “offical” start of the event, and I’m glad we did because there were of course already lots and lots of people there and things happening! And it also gave us a chance to just enjoy setting up and getting into the atmosphere and catching up with friends and all that before the public were allowed in.

With this being the 200 year anniversary the event was of course much bigger than it ever had been before, indeed bigger than ANY Napoleonic reenactment has EVER been before! I heard varying accounts of home many people were taking part, ranging from anywhere between 5-7000. In any case, there was a lot of people!

The event was organized so that there was one big camp for all the allies, and 3 smaller ones for the French. Me and Andrew were both in the Allied camp obviously, he with the 33rd Regiment of Foot and I with the Nordic Battalion (it was very important for Andrew to be in a red coat for this specific event). Our camp was right smack in the middle of the old battlefield, which was quite special.

So what did people do all day? Well for anyone who was a soldier there was A LOT of marching around doing drill practice! Because people came from litteraly ALL over the world (specially impressed with people who came all the way from Australia and the Canadians who chartered two whole planes to come over!) this meant that though most were very good at drill to start off with no one had ever really done it on this scale before, with this amount of people. But I have to say that it all looked very impressive and spectacualr! All day the field was full of various regiments out practicing, and there was never ending music being played. Fifes, drums and bagpipes. My camp was very close to the Highland Regiment, which meant that we got to hear a lot of bagpipes, from early morning till night time. But I loved it!

Drill practice

More practice – with the monument hill the “Butte de Lion” in the background

The 33rd Regiment of Foot – Andrew is second from the right

So for the soldiers when they were not out practicing and marching they were either cleaning kit, or eating, or just collapsing completely exhausted. Hard leather shoes with wood soles are not the easiest on modern day feet, neither is all wool clothes or heavy packs and muskets that must be carried around at all times when on duty. So whenever they had a little time off most people just relaxed.

The Swedish camp with tired soldiers

Muskets being stored while not in use

As for the rest of us, who were not soldiers but camp follwers, our job was to take care of the camps and make sure that dinner was ready for when the hungry soldiers returned from the field. The Noridc Battalion consisted of quite a lot of people, from mainly Sweden and Finland, so there was a much cooking to be done. And of course dishes and tending fires and such like. But it was fun! It’s amazing how much more entertaining any such task becomes when it is done in historic clothes! And when you do it together with other people. And any time we had free we would just relax, sew, sing, go watch the pracice or (in my case) run off to have a chat and a little tea party with my very good friend Isabel. I was so happy that she was there, I hadn’t seen her in ages so we had a lot of catching up to do, and she is honestly one of the best people to spend time with!

Lisa making tea

Another view of the Swedish camp

Another thing we did in my camp was arrange a Swedish Midsummer celebration. Midsummer is one of the most important holidays of the year in Sweden (in a country where it is very cold and dark for 6 months of the year our summer is very important to us!) and we celebbrate it by making a Midsummer Pole that we decorate with leaves and flowers that we then dance around singing songs with rather silly moves. And of course we have a big dinner too, one that must contain fresh potatoes, herring (unless like me you are a vegetarian), strawberries and in most cases, lots to drink.

Since Midsummer was going to take place while we were in Waterloo we had our own celebration in our camp. Some fantasitc people had brought with them a pole and leaves all the way from Sweden, and with those and some elderflower flowers (they were the only flowers we found in the area) we made and decorated a lovely pole. And then we invited whoever wanted to come to join in.

We had a lot of people coming, Brits, Australians, Maltese, Russians, apart from of course Swedes and Finns. And teaching them all our silly dances was great fun! The sight of all those soldiers hopping around pretending to be frogs in our most famous dance “The Little Frogs” was a sight well worth seeing I can tell you!

Me and Lisa decorating the hoops for the Midsummer Pole

Raising the pole requires several strong people

Dancing, we were fortunate enough to get some musicians to join in with some music as well! 

So that is pretty much what we did all days. Cooked, marched, cleaned, ate, sang, danced, talked, drank tea and had a great time!

It was my first ever proper reenactment, before I’ve done many balls and festivals, but never any reenactments. But I loved it! And I can’t wait for the next one! Since this was my first one I had to do a bit of guessing as to what I would need in terms of clothes and things to bring, now I have a clearer idea so I can make necessary additions until next time. But what I had served me well enough this time.

I’m going to post a buch of more photos here now, because I want to show you more of what it was like.

Our tents were some of the closest ones to Hougoumont farm, which played a vitally important part in the battle

Hougoumont

There were MANY tents, I love the dried herbs hanging 

The camp where Andrew was staying, the 33rd’s. Wonderfully friendly and nice people!

I just love camp photos..

THIS is my dream tent! I mean look at that bed!!! This is what I must aspire towards now..! 

One of the few photos I have of me. Here having tea with Isabel. 

The Duke of Wellington (in blue)! 

I’ve got another post all planned, where I will tell you all about the battles as well as the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball that we attended. So as soon as I have a good connection and can do so I will post that. :)

Checking in really quickly

Hello everyone! This is just a short brief post to check in with you guys. It’s been a crazy last few weeks. First with the end of school and then packing up the apartment we were staying at, going back home to my family in the countryside, unpacking everything again, re-arranging our room to fit things in, working a few days and any spare time has been spent sewing.

As I’m sure many of you know next weekend is the big 200 year anniversary reenactment of the battle of Waterloo in Belgium. Like thousands of others Andrew and I will both be taking part in that (so that is why there has been lots of sewing that needed to be done). I will be at the event toghether with the Nordic Battallion coming from Sweden, Andrew, really wanting to be a redcoat for this event, will be going with the 33rd Regiment of Foot.

So this has obviously been a big focus lately, getting ready for Waterloo. But as well as this Andrew’s friend and his girlfriend have just come over for a visit from New Zealand and are here with us now, and we will be travelling around Europe together with them for some 3-4 week road trip. So after yet another few crazy days of packing (and last minute car reapairs) we are setting of in the morning, with our first stop in Malmö. From there a few more days should take us down to Belgium and the event, and from there who knows really! :) I just really wanted to write quickly before we set off as I won’t be bringing my computer with me and so consequently don’t know how much I’ll be able to update on here. But otherwise I will have lots to tell when we get back!

I will hopefully though be able to post now and then on my Instagram account which I’ve recently opened and where you are more than welcome to follow me. I’ve had some difficulty connecting with my phone these last few days but am working on fixing that and then I will be back to posting some more. But do please follow on there if you would like to see what we are up to :)  https://instagram.com/aurorasdreamworld/

I must tell you all my other piece of exciting news now before I sign off and go to sleep. I was fortunate enough to be granted a scholarship/grant for my crafts from the local Katrineholm’s Craft Association. I applied and was over the moon with excitement when they called me to say that they had decided to give me some money! The reason I had appllied and asked them was because for the second year of my course I have to do a 12 week work experience/internship somewhere, and I really, really, really wanted to do part of mine in New Zealand. And because I was so fortunate as to be given this grant this means that now I can!!! So Andrew and I will both be travelling down to NZ this fall, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about that!! So that is something you will be hearing more about on here I can tell you! :)

Last weekend, on our national day, there was the official cermony of giving out this scholarship. It was me and one other girl (a very talented florist) who had been given it this year and we got to go up on stage and talk a little and recieve flowers. It was fun :) And I really am so grateful for this!

After the cermony with the pretty flowers I got 

Ok, I really had better get some sleep now. Tomorrow will be a long day. But I will talk to you as soon as I can!

My outfits are finally done! This is what they looked like on the catwalk!

Ok finallay, after a whole school year of sewing a couple of days ago it was time for the end of year show and catwalk. I’ve already mentioned this coming up, and it was a very stressful week leading up to it, we had a different project (costumes for a big opera that we had been asked to make!) that needed to be completed in very short time. So it was a very full on week with long days. And then there was the catwalk! 

 

We all had the choice between being part of the catwalk or have our things on show in the school exhibition. I decided early on that I wanted to do the catwalk, but there was just one more of the girls in my class who also wanted to. So that meant that out of the 11 people in my class only two of us walked the catwalk. I thought it was a little bit of a pity that not more of them wanted to do it, but of course we all should choose what suits us best :)

On the day before, Friday, we had the first rehersal. And it felt horrible. I really did not feel happy or comfortable after that rehersal. For one because everything was just very chaotic (as it often is on rehersals..) but also I felt that we stuck out so very much, me, Andrew, the other girl from my class and her husband. We were obvioulsy the only ones who did anything remotely historic, a lot of the other things were very modern and very much “fashion”. So I really didn’t feel like we fit in. Plus the music we had picked to walk to was so very different from what everyone else had. So I was not happy and not comfortable and that evening I was almost regretting having said I’d do this.

But of course this is so often the case, when you are just about to do something you wish you weren’t going to, but then when you actually do then you enjoy it. And such was the case this time too. On Saturday morning we had the proper dress rehersal, and then everything felt a hundred times better!

 

Because we had these historic clothes we were going to go out twice to show our stuff, first in the underwear and then a bit later in full costume. I think this was a good idea because as most people are not used to seeing historic clothes it could be fun to see more of how the layers are made up.

 

Andrew and I had been practicing in our living room how we were going to walk and pose, it was quite fun actually. I’m sure the neighbours were wondering what we were up to though!

 

So first up was the underwear. I was wearing my combination and my corset, Andrew was in breeches, stockings and shirt. And the music we had chosen for this part was THIS piece from the HBO mini series John Adams. We wanted something quite calm and good to walk to, and as we wanted to give the impression of it being a morning schene, with us half dressed only, the music couldn’t be too “epic”.

Second time we came in it was to this classic Swedish piece which I just love. It’s called ‘Drottningholmsmusiken‘ and was composed in the 18th century and Drottningholm is the name of the Royal Palace outside Stockholm which is the recidency of the King. And all the time I’ve been working on this outfit for Andrew this song has been what I’ve pictured for it. So of course we had to walk to that one!

Nervous as I was the day before I can’t but admit that it was so much fun to do this! It was a little scary yes, but sometimes we need to do things like that anyway. And I think for me it would have felt a little bit like an anticlimax after all these months of sewing to put them on a mannequin and leave them in an exhibition. But that’s just me.

We did stick out. But I think in the end it was a good thing. I think it provided a refreshing break with something a little different. And the feedback we got was so incredibly good and positive I can’t but be happy and grateful and just a little bit proud. :)

We took a few more photos afterwards too, so here are a few more.

Very happy that Andrew already had the wig and the sword and everything, it really completed the look!

I had made that necklace myself a couple of days earlier, as I really needed a necklace and I wanted a Downton Abbey style one…

It was a really exciting and fun day, and a lot of people turned up! I’m so grateful that I’ve got a boyfriend who is more than happy to do something like this with me, even if he was uncomfortable about wearing Georgian make-up.. He did such an amazing job that day that I don’t know how many people he had who came up and asked if he was a professional or an actor!

The day after we were so exhausted we didn’t leave the apartment once. Slept for 12 hours straight and did absolutely nothing. I’m slowly, slowly coming back to the world of the living again now I think, but last week was a tiring one!

Hope you’ve enjoyed these photos, I might do a more detailed post about my dress later, but here you’ve gotten to see what it is like at least. :)

Talk to you all soon!

Aurora

My readers are the best! :)

I once again want to thank you for your fantastic responses to my previous post. It was such an encouragement to read your thougths and opinions. And once again it was a reminder to myself of how sometimes when battelling a question in my mind and coming to no conclusion sometimes asking for help isn’t such a bad idea really. Because I can really be one of those persons who won’t ask for help but will try to solve everything myself. And the silly thing about it is that I know people are often so happy to help! So it is good to get wonderful reminders of that sometimes. :) You guys are the best!

 

Andrew and I are having a short break from Göteborg right now and are up with my family in the countryside. It’s a long weekend here and I need to be in Stockholm on Monday together with my class, so we thought we might as well go home for a bit. It is always good to come home for a visit, although I’m enjoying trying out city life I really am a country girl at heart. And especially at this time of the year when spring is in full swing all around being in the countryside is nice.

 

So it’s been a relaxing weekend so far. Today I was trying out some ‘Downton Abbey’ hairstyles, beacause I realized I only have a week left until the end of term exhibition and fashion show at school where I will be wearing my complete outfit and walk the catwalk in it. So it was high time to figure out what to do about my hair! But I think I’ve got something that will work now, so hopefully I’ll be able to show you that in about a week! :)

I am getting slightly nervous about this catwalk thing. I’ve never done something like that before and it’s really exciting, but a little bit nerving too… Andrew will be walking with me in the outfit I’ve made for him, and I have to say I think he will really look the part!

It will be a fun experience I’m sure! :)

 


Oh and on a completely unrelated subject, I assume you’ve all  heard about the new little baby princess born today?? Congratulations William and Kate! I’m a die-hard royalist and so news like these are always important to me!

 
I was actually very annoyed when two days ago I was talking to a couple of friends and neither of them were aware of the fact that it was our King’s birthday that day! But then I am aware that not everyone in Sweden is as big supporters of the Royal family as I am. Sadly.

 

Off to sleep now, but I will talk to you all soon!

 

Aurora xx

 

 

Thoughts regarding this blog

You have probably all noticed that when it comes to this blog I have long been struggling to keep it going the way I used to. And I feel this is something I want to talk to you about.

 

Of course one of the reasons that I have been posting less often is simply because of life getting in the way, different things that keep me busy or just simply a lack of energy for writing. But apart from this there is also the fact that I don’t quite know where to take the blog from here. I have been turning this question over in my mind for a long time now, trying to decide what I want, but it’s not so easy for me. You see I love this blog, very much. I am proud of it and of how long I have kept it going for (with admittedly some rather substantial gaps in between now and then..) and it has played a HUGE part in my life. It’s one of the biggest reasons that I continued to immerse myself in this big passion of mine, Jane Austen and everything around it, it has been something to fuel that passion on even more. Give it more purpose. It has brought me into contact with some of the most amazing peopel I have ever met, many of who have come to be friends for life. It has been a connecting point between me and so many other Janeites all over the world, and that has been (and still is!!) a privilege and an honour! It has encouraged me with my sewing, which in turn has lead to me being where I am today at this school. And most importantly, it is the reason that I met the love of my life, Andrew.

 

So as you see it really has played a big part in my life, in more than one way. But I’m finding it harder to keep motivated and inspired when it comes to the blog now. I often feel like the posts I write I’ve written several times before, that it’s not new anymore. And that makes it less fun. I will admit there are times when I have thought about stopping altogether. But I don’t want to have to do that, because as I said, I love this blog. And if people are still happy to read then I am more than happy to write. I guess the reason that I am saying all of this is because I wanted to ask you for your opinion. What do you think I should do? What is the reason you come back to this blog and read it? Is there anything you should like to see me write more about? Or something completely new? And also, is there any other blogger who has experienced feeling this way too?

 

Many questions I know, but if you feel like answering even just one of them with your opinion I would be grateful. I just want to make this fun for all of us! :) And I’m not tired of blogging, I’m just feeling like I’m a little bit stuck in the same track with not enough inspiration to keep it as exciting as it used to be for me. I have also been considering potentially starting up a different blog too on the side of this one. But I would still need to figure out what that one would be about haha :P

 

Anyway, that was something I needed to say. And please know that when I say that I lack inspiration it doesn’t mean I don’t have things to write about, I do. And also know that it has nothing to do with all my wonderful readers out there! You are the best part about this blog and the reason I want to keep it going, because I love having you all here!! But if anyone has any thoughts please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment!

 

Thanks for listening to this rambling, I appreciate it!

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