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Objects and Stories – The Waterloo Crucifix

The Waterloo Crucifix

Reputedly to have been picked up from the field of Waterloo after the battle by an officer in the SCOTS GREYS and then given to a brother officer who had recently joined the Regiment but had not participated in the battle. Inscribed with S Hubert OPN which translates Saint Hubertus Ora pro nobis or ‘Pray for us’.

Loaned with the kind permission of Dr Greg Warner

Scots Greys at Waterloo 18th June 1815

In the morning with the French infantry advancing and threatening to break the British centre, Wellington's cavalry commander, the Earl of Uxbridge ordered the Household Brigade and the Union Brigades to attack the French infantry of D'Erlon's Corps. The Scots Greys were initially ordered to remain in reserve as the other two brigades attacked. Just after 1:30 pm with the 9th Brigade beginning to crumble and the 92nd Gordon Highlanders falling back, on his own initiative, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton ordered his regiment forward at the walk. Because the ground was broken and uneven, thanks to the mud, crops, and the men of 92nd, the Scots Greys remained at the walk until they had passed through the Gordons. The arrival of the Scots Greys helped to rally the Gordons, who turned to attack the French column.

As Captain Duthilt, who was present with Général de Division Baron Pierre-Louis Binet de Marcognet 3rd Division, wrote of the Scots Greys charge:

“Just as I was pushing one of our men back into the ranks I saw him fall at my feet from a sabre slash. I turned round instantly – to see English cavalry forcing their way into our midst and hacking us to pieces. Just as it is difficult, if not impossible, for the best cavalry to break into infantry who are formed into squares and who defend themselves with coolness and daring, so it is true that once the ranks have been penetrated, then resistance is useless and nothing remains for the cavalry to do but to slaughter at almost no risk to themselves. This what happened, in vain our poor fellows stood up and stretched out their arms; they could not reach far enough to bayonet these cavalrymen mounted on powerful horses, and the few shots fired in chaotic melee were just as fatal to our own men as to the English. And so we found ourselves defenceless against a relentless enemy who, in the intoxication of battle, sabred even our drummers and fifers without mercy”.

Saint Hubertus

Saint Hubertus was born in around 656 most likely in Toulouse as the eldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine. Marrying in 682, his wife died giving birth and Hubertus retreated from his noble life, withdrew into the forested Ardennes, and gave himself up entirely to hunting. He was pursuing a magnificent stag, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, Hubertus was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell". Following his vision Hubertus studied for the priesthood was soon ordained and rose to become bishop of Maastricht and then finally Liège.  Saint Hubertus of Liège is patron of archers, dogs, forest workers, trappers, hunting, huntsmen, mathematicians, metal workers, and smelters.

The Conversion of Holy Hubertus", Wilhelm Räuber (1849-1926)

Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, nos. 3994–4002

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