For the first few years the meal was in the 'small' dining room and it was limited to thirty-five or so officers who had actually commanded at the battle. In later years the Duke built the Waterloo Gallery and the guest list became slightly less exclusive and as many as a hundred of the great and good might be invited, the dinner attracting great crowds to the pavement, eager for a glimpse of the great and good - a bit like the big brother house.
Here's a painting of the sumptuous 1836 event
Wellington was son of the Earl of Mornington and brother of the Governor General of India. He was nothing if not an establishment figure and his annual dinner was a triumph of the values of tradition privilege and patronage
Even while Wellington was fighting the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812 the Grande Armee was marching on Moscow in the ill fated Russian campaign. The French army, composed of conscripts, peasants, foreigners lived through the most unimaginable conditions. Men froze in their boots standing in the cold, cut meat from their horses and stole clothes from their prisoners' backs. Only 50,000 men came home from Russia and Sergeant Bourgorgne recounted in his memoirs that whenever veterans met, years after, their talk always turned to Moscow, and Borodino, and the crossing of the Berezina.
French veterans were not recognised until 1857; they did not have banquets in Apsley house.
Which type of reunion would you be proudest to attend?