France triumphs in battle of Waterloo coin

Napoleon may have lost the main battle 200 years ago but this week the French won a minor battle as they prevented the minting of a euro coin commemorating the anniversary of the famous battle.

France triumphs in battle of Waterloo coin
A re-enactment of the battle of Waterloo, which is still a sore point in France it seems. Photo: AFP

Two hundred years may have passed since the Duke of Wellington and his allies routed Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo but the defeat is still something of a sore point in France, it seems.

Belgium wanted to create a special €2-piece coin in honour of the Anglo-Dutch-German victory near Brussels on June 18th 1815, to commemorate an event that shaped the continent.

But Paris put up some resistance on the grounds that the coin glorifies a conflict that split Europe, which runs contrary to today’s efforts to unite Europe.

In a letter to the Council of Europe President François Hollande said the project would be a “symbol that is negative” and “risk… engendering unfavourable reactions in France”.

The coin was expected to go into production next month but the pressure has paid off and the coin idea has been tossed.

Which has left the Belgians a bit miffed.

"I am a bit surprised by all this agitation," Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt said in a statement.

"Europe has plenty of other issues to deal with and challenges to overcome without wasting time and energy on this."

Belgium now faces having to scrap around 180,000 of the coins already minted which were to be sold as collectors' items in special boxes at a price of eight euros.

"Once you have got rid of them all, there will be a loss of 1.5 million euros," Manuela Wintermans of the NUOD finance ministry union told AFP.

France has not reacted publicly but it may have to fend off accusations of hypocrisy after it struck its own commemorative €2-euro coin to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings last year.

Britain however, which has its own currency does have a £5 coin commemorating the famous battle. 

Belgium is preparing to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo with a huge sound-and-light show planned and a re-enactment of the battle.

Hundreds of performers will take part in the open-air evening event titled "Inferno", which will have space for up to 12,000 spectators, director Luc Petit told a press conference at the battle site.

A special battle reconstruction on June 19th and 20th with 6,000 participants — twice the size of the annual Waterloo re-enactment staged by history enthusiasts — has already been announced.

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Bodies of 200 Napoleonic troops found in Germany

The skeletons of 200 Napoleonic soldiers have been found during construction work in the German city of Frankfurt, officials said on Thursday.

Bodies of 200 Napoleonic troops found in Germany
The remains of some 200 dead soldiers of the Napoleonic Army of 1813, on the way back after the defeat of Napoleon during his Russian campaign, are expected to be found. Photo: AFP

“We estimate that about 200 people were buried here,” said Olaf Cunitz, head of town planning for the city, at a press conference at the site in Frankfurt's western Roedelheim district.

“According to our preliminary estimate, they are soldiers from the Great Army in 1813”, who were on the way back from Napoleon's Russian campaign.

They had fought battles that claimed 15,000 lives in areas near Frankfurt in October 1813, said Cunitz.

SEE ALSO: Everything you really need to know about Napoleon

The soldiers probably died from battle wounds or succumbed to a typhus epidemic that decimated their army at the time, said Cunitz. He said this was yet to be scientifically verified.

It was certain that the “tombs were erected in an emergency,” said Andrea Hampel, heritage and historic monuments director in Frankfurt.

The soldiers were buried in coffins, which kept the skeletons well-preserved.

They were aligned in a row, without funeral articles, in a north-south orientation, not an east-west axis as was common for European Christians at the time, suggesting they were buried in haste, said Hampel.

Over 30 skeletons have been excavated and work to dig up the rest was expected to take four to six weeks, said site manager Juergen Langendorf.