The Cross at Waterloo


One of the more romantic stories about Catsfield concerns the 1791 visit of the Princess de Lamballe, friend to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France, to Catsfield Place.  When the French revolution broke out in 1789 most people in England recognized that there were clear injustices that needed to be rectified in France, but sympathy soon turned to horror, as something of a bloodbath descended upon France.  According to the story the French Queen, who had a foreboding of ill, sent the princess, to deliver certain treasured mementos into the hands of trusted friends at Catsfield.  Her mission completed she chose to return to the dangers of France, where she met her end at the hands of a mob, for refusing to denounce the French royal family.


France continued to degenerate into further chaos until the strong hand of Napoleon Bonaparte brought stability and order to the country.  All would have been fine if he had stopped there, but unfortunately he also wanted to rule the rest of Europe and he successfully invaded most of it.


If we could go back just over two hundred years then Sussex would resemble something of a wartime footing with defensive forts along the coasts and large barracks of soldiers in readiness for the feared French invasion.   Many people had spent most of their lives in fear of invasion, so the final defeat of Napoleon, at Waterloo, in 1815 was a source of enormous relief and rejoicing to them all.  It also ushered in almost fifty years of international peace and for Britain it was to be one hundred years before we were involved in another European war.


One of the scenes of particularly bloody fighting at Waterloo concerns the farm at Hougoumont, which was held by the British.  All the buildings were gutted with the exception of the chapel: the flames had charred the feet of a wooden figure of Christ on the cross, and there they had stopped.  The crucifix was stolen a couple of years ago, but thankfully is now recovered in time for the bi-centenary.



Christ came to reconcile all peoples to God and to each other, so the Hougoumont cross is not only a symbol of personal suffering sacrifice, but also one of hope for a better future.  The official national prayer of thanksgiving for the end of the war with France, which would have been read in both Catsfield and Crowhurst, expresses a sentiment that is just as important now.


Let the remembrance of past injuries be blotted out by mutual good offices let the miseries of War be forgotten in the charities of reconciliation; and if it be, O God! Let the spirit of Peace, and good-will, and brotherly love prevail over the great Family of Christian Nations, now and for ever. Amen.


We shall be saying that prayer, again, at our Bicentenary Evensong for Waterloo, on Sunday 14th June.  Please do come and join us at Catsfield Church at six o’clock.


Father Michael


Posted By: valerie

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