Sharpe's Waterloo (1997)

TV Movie   |  TV-14   |    |  Action, Adventure, History

Sharpe's Waterloo (1997) Poster

Based on the novel by Bernard Cornwell, "Sharpe's Waterloo" brings maverick British officer Lt. Col. Richard Sharpe to his last fight against the French, in June of 1815. Sharpe is assigned... See full summary »



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20 September 2017 | Freedom060286
| Degrades the brave men who fought at Waterloo
Rather than focusing upon one of the most significant battles in history, Cornwell's purpose seems to be to degrade the memory of the men who fought at Waterloo.

Much of this episode is dedicated to disparaging the man who would later become king William II of Holland. The opening scene shows him with a prostitute, and an ugly boil on his rear. Later, William's Dutch cavalry at Quatre Bras are portrayed as cowardly and refusing to charge when ordered to do so.

Cornwell gives William the nickname "Silly Billy" and portrays him as being a arrogant fool, but in reality, William's courage and good nature made him very popular with the British, who nicknamed him "Slender Billy".

The age 23 Prince William is shown as being responsible for losing the La Haye Sainte farm and the death of two of Sharpe's men. The fact is, William wasn't even in the farm when it was taken (about 6 PM). The farm was mostly burned by Napoleon's artillery and the area taken after an extremely fierce struggle. Sharpe is shown shooting William to get him off the battlefield, with MacDuff looking on from a wooden roof window at La Haye Sainte (but the French had just taken La Haye Sainte, and in reality, all the wooden buildings at the farm were burned by the time the French occupied the area). William was actually wounded about a half hour later, in a courageous but futile attempt to take back La Haye Sainte.

Cornwell and Clegg have Wellington say "humbug" five times in about 3 minutes. Although it is true Welington did say something like that (but not to Sharpe) it seems Cornwell wanted to over-emphasize that Wellington had been surprised by the speed of Napoleon's advance, by having him repeat it no less than FIVE times and sound foolish.

Later at the critical moment when the Imperial Guard was approaching the Allied lines, Sharpe makes the decision for the men who had been laying low on the ground to fire. The person who really gave the order at that moment was the allied commander Wellington.

They also portray as a pathetic coward Wellington's relative who recorded the times of the events of the battle. In reality, he was at the forefront of the battle facing the field and was eventually killed by cannon fire.

Typical of Cornwell, he does not portray Lord Uxbridge as courageous, despite the fact that at a critical time in the battle at 2:30 PM he led a charge that stopped a French advance. Uxbridge was extremely brave, he had eight or nine horses shot from under him during the Battle of Waterloo, and eventually lost a leg. But Cornwell for some reason usually portrays real historical leaders in a negative way.

And Cornwell and Clegg's portrayal of the very brave Frenchmen that day is also demeaning. He has Sharpe repeatedly refer to them as "frogs" and portrays them as slow marching, rigid, easy targets (even the Imperial Guard, considered the finest troops in Europe at the time). Several times, the episode shows French troops marching into fire without even trying to shoot back.

On a positive note, the costumes, locations and sets were very good, although what they show as La Haye Sainte looks more like the Hougoumont Château on Napoleon's left side, with the larger stone wall and the more extensive woods nearby. The initial battle at La Haye Sainte in the episode looks more like the historical description of the fighting at Hougoumont.

A book that covers the details of the Battle of Waterloo is 24 Hours at Waterloo by Robert Kershaw.

Critic Reviews


Release Date:

26 August 2006


English, French

Country of Origin


Filming Locations

England, UK

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