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16th June 2024


On June 16th, 1815, His Serene Highness Frederick William the ‘Black’ Duke of Brunswick, Prince of Oels fell in battle at the head of his men on the field of Quatre Bras.

Tod des Schwarzen Herzogs (German: “Death of the Black Duke”) at the Battle of Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815.
An 1835 painting by Friedrich Matthäi now displayed in the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum.

The event was reported in dispatches by the Duke of Wellington thus:

“…His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Brunswick, and Lieut. General Sir Thomas Picton, who were engaged from the commencement of the enemy’s attack (Napoleon), highly distinguished themselves. The troops of the 5th division, and those of the Brunswick corps (The Black Brunswickers), were long and severely engaged, and conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry. Our loss was great, as your Lordship will perceive by the enclosed return; and I have particularly to regret His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, who fell fighting gallantly at the head of his troops.” 

The heroic actions of the Duke and his brave Brunswickers prevented the French under Marshall Ney from occupying the ‘four ways’ of the Charleroi–Brussels cross road and afforded Wellington the opportunity of gaining the high ridge at Mount St Jean overlooking the field of Waterloo. The rest, as they say, ç’est de l’histoire.

Duke Frederick was never to return to his beloved Duchy of Brunswick, or to his fine house at Vauxhall. However, much like his brother in arms the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House, he will be forever commemorated at another busy crossroads by the stately prominence of his London mansion.