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France Unhappy to be Reminded of Its Waterloo

June 9th, 2015 · No Comments · France, tourism

I love this story.

Belgium wants to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815 — a French defeat which ended Napoleon Bonaparte‘s dream of a Europe dominated by France, and him.

The French, 200 years later, are not happy about the looming celebration — as the Belgians found out when the French blocked their plans to circulate 180,000 two-euro coins which featured the Lion’s Mound, a symbol of the Waterloo battlefield, which lies within the borders of the modern Belgium.

Apparently, the French wrote a letter to European authorities saying that memories of their defeat by British and Prussian forces “had a deep and damaging resonance in the collective French consciousness”.


And that was the end of the two-euro coins.

The Belgians, however, outflanked the French, as the New York Times story put it.

They did that by printing 70,000 coins, also with the Lion’s Mound on them, with a notional value of 2.5 euros, which the French can do nothing to halt — because coins in a value not recognized by the wider EU are the province of the individual EU members and can be spent only inside that country.


The idea, in Belgium, is that the coins will never be in circulation. Instead, they will be sold as souvenirs to visiting tourists for considerably more than 2.5 euros. Actually, for six euros, or about $6.75.

“Waterloo” has entered American consciousness through the still-sometimes-used expression of “meeting your Waterloo”. Meaning an event that ended your hopes or success — as it was for Napoleon, who spent the last six years of his life in exile on the desolate south Atlantic island of Saint Helena.

(That’s what the band Abba was referring to, when they sang Waterloo.)

Otherwise, the Napoleonic Wars, which ended with Waterloo, are not recognized as well as they should be. (Several Englishmen with whom I work were not aware of the looming bicentennial of one of Britain’s greatest military victories.)

The notion of the French Revolution overthrowing sclerotic monarchy … is fine. Laudable.

But the French Revolution soon went bad, which the French are remarkably unwilling to acknowledge even now, turning into most of 20 years of continent-wide wars, most of them after Napoleon perverted democracy by ruling France as an emperor, from 1804.

Waterloo, then, is a battle that should be celebrated for ending France’s attempt to take over and dominate continental Europe under the rule of one man, not all that different, in basic geopolitical terms, than what Hitler and the Nazis had in mind in 1939. Except with Germans in charge of everything.

Napoleon was an evil man who cared little for his soldiers and probably didn’t lose a minute of sleep over the succession of battles (generally known as the Napoleonic Wars) that may have killed 1.4 million soldiers and 2 million civilians.

The fact that he went down, at Waterloo … that was good for Western Civilization and for self-determination in the rest of Europe.

So, if the Belgians want to produce some coins that commemorate the battle, good. Maybe a few Frenchmen might even be prompted to reconsider the vile regime that called Paris home.


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