Within the confines of Sharpe's universe, the Battle of Waterloo is the last time Richard Sharpe goes into battle. It is the last time he fights with the men with whom he had marched and fought from Portugal to France.
Having retired to Normandy with his common-law wife, Lucille, at the end of the Penninsula Campaign, he is called on to return to duty with the return of Napoleon. He is hired from the half-pay list by the Prince of Orange for his staff, and given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, which was then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
An Imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, comprising an Anglo-allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher. It was the culminating battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last. The defeat at Waterloo ended his rule as Emperor of the French, marking the end of his Hundred Days return from exile.
Upon Napoleon's return to power in 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies. Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. The decisive engagement of this three-day Waterloo Campaign (16–19 June 1815) occurred at the Battle of Waterloo. According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw."
Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18 June to allow the ground to dry after a deluge the previous day. Wellington's army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. At that time, Wellington's Anglo-allied army counter-attacked and broke the French army driving them from the field. Pursuing coalition forces entered France. Napoleon abdicated, surrendered to the British, and was exiled to Saint Helena.
The battlefield is in present-day Belgium, about 8 miles (13 km) south by south-east of Brussels, and about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the town of Waterloo.