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The nearest run thing you ever saw: the Battle of Waterloo

The Treaty of Paris

Napoleon’s escape from Elba in March 1815 and his subsequent Hundred Days’ rule rendered the European peace negotiations temporarily obsolete, but they resumed almost immediately after the Battle of Waterloo, and on 20 November 1815 the Treaty of Paris was signed, marking a definitive peace between France, on the one hand, and the coalition powers of Austria, Britain, Prussia and Russia, on the other.

Castlereagh again led the British negotiating party, with a strong hand to play. The relative positions of the Great Powers were now different from those pertaining at Vienna. As the victors of Waterloo, Britain and Prussia were better placed to dictate terms. Austria and Russia played a secondary role and France was treated firmly as a defeated foe.

While Prussia pressed for a punitive settlement, Castlereagh understood that moderate terms were more likely to secure French good will and stability and thus to further the cause of lasting peace in Europe. The resulting treaty generally represented the triumph of Castlereagh’s measured diplomacy over Prussia’s thirst for revenge; its terms were firm but not crippling, and France’s Bourbon monarchy survived until 1830. 

Manuscript list of specific conditions insisted upon by Britain under the 1815 Treaty of ParisManuscript list of specific conditions insisted upon by Britain under the 1815 Treaty of ParisOn display is a volume of European peace treaties compiled by the Foreign Office. It is prefaced by a list of the ‘specific British engagements’ of each treaty, in the hand of the then Foreign Office librarian, Lewis Hertslet (1787-1870).

Among the engagements noted for the Treaty of Paris are the permanent exclusion of Napoleon and his family from the French throne, the ‘Renewal of meetings with the Allies, at certain Intervals … for the repose and prosperity of Nations, and maintenance of Peace of Europe’ (the so-called Quadruple Alliance), and the reversion of France’s borders to their 1790 limits.

This last term was harsher than that agreed at Vienna, where France had been allowed to keep its post-revolutionary gains. While Prussia’s influence was certainly a factor in the imposition of such terms, they also reflected the coalition’s concern at the ease with which Napoleon has resumed power after his escape from Elba and the absence of a French negotiator of Talleyrand’s calibre at the Paris conference table. 

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