The News from Waterloo

Brian Cathcart

A wonderful historical caper, telling the farcical tale of attempts to be the first to break the news of the British victory at Waterloo.

Date Published
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The Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo ensured British dominance for the rest of the nineteenth century. It took three days and two hours for word to travel from Belgium in a form that people could rely upon.

This is a tragi-comic midsummer’s tale that begins amidst terrible carnage and weaves through a world of politics and military convention, enterprise and roguery, frustration, doubt and jealousy, to end spectacularly in the heart of Regency society at a grand soiree in St James’s Square after feverish journeys by coach and horseback, a Channel crossing delayed by falling tides and a flat calm, and a final dash by coach and four from Dover to London.

At least five men were involved in bringing the news or parts of it to London, and their stories are fascinating. Brian Cathcart, a brilliant storyteller and historian, has visited the battlefield, travelled the messengers’ routes, and traced untapped British, French and Belgian records. This is a strikingly original perspective on a key moment in British history.

Critic Reviews

Brian Cathcart's vastly entertaining narrative marries the scepticism of an investigative journalist with a dramatist's gift for suspense. Four desperate men rowing a boat in the open sea! Post-chaises thundering along the country roads! How dull by comparison are our smug digital days where news comes - and goes - at the speed of light.

Sir Harold Evans
Critic Reviews

A fascinating eye-opener into one of the most significant moments in British history, well researched and written in an exuberant style.

Sir Tony Robinson
Critic Reviews

[An] entertaining, expertly researched account ... exuberant.

Financial Times
Critic Reviews

[C]omplex, intriguing and exciting.

Critic Reviews

The bicentenary of Waterloo has crowded publisher's lists, but Cathcart's original study would make a worthy addition to any library.

Sunday Telegraph
Critic Reviews

Percy's journey provides the thrust of the story ... it was thrilling, and Cathcart invests it with due urgency. He intercuts it with fascinating accounts of the Fleet Street of the day, beset by political and financial pressures and fierce currents of rumours, and draws vivid portraits of the leading players. The News from Waterloo is an entertaining addition to the growing library on the subject.


Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University London and a founder of Hacked Off. He has been deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday, assistant editor of the New Statesman and specialist adviser to the Commons Select Committee on media, culture and sport. He is also a historian. His books include The Fly in the Cathedral: How a…

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