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This picture shows a turning point during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when around 30 French soldiers forced the north gate and entered into the grounds of chateau of Hougoumont.
Robert Gibb (1845 – 1932)
Oil on canvas
Height 2360mm, width 3146mm framed
Active Service, Gallery 6, National War Museum
Did you know?
This was painted nearly a century after the battle of Waterloo, to meet late Victorian tastes for dramatic images of British military heroism.
Men of the Coldstream Guards and the Scots Guards are shown forcing shut the gates of the chateau of Hougoumont against French attack. The moment of crisis shown in the painting came when around 30 French soldiers forced the north gate and entered into the chateau grounds. Before others could follow, the gates were forced shut again, and the French soldiers still inside were killed.
Hougoumont was a vital strategic point on the battlefield, positioned out in front of the right of the allied line. It was attacked throughout the day by thousands of French infantrymen, but held out to the end.
Prominent in the painting, forcing back the gate to the left, is Lieutenant-Colonel James MacDonell of Glengarry, the Coldstream Guards officer who was in overall command of the defence of Hougoumont. This son of a highland clan chief was celebrated for his part in the battle, and went on to a distinguished military career. His orders and medals, including his Waterloo medal, are displayed next to the painting.