There are different opinions among historians concerning the battle of Waterloo, but one fact may seem clear: the victorious armed forces were not only British, and the Duke of Wellington could defeat Napoleon only with the help of the Allied armies from Prussia and the Netherlands. Moreover, this battle was a certain turning point in the history of Europe that started with the outbreak of the French Revolution and was brought to an end with the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo battle and with the Congress’s of Vienna “Final Act” where a peace settlement was agreed and put in place, which lasted until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
According to the GoEuro website, 190.000 people are expected to visit Waterloo from 18th till 21st of July, during the bicentenary commemoration days. Most visitors are interested in the grandiose reconstruction of the Waterloo Battle, which is expected to be the "most impressive reconstruction" ever seen in Europe, including 5000 re-enactors, 300 horses and 100 canons. Belgians and Brits have undertaken major events this year to mark this occasion. Waterloo is a small city of about 20.000 inhabitants, located in the Belgian province of Walloon-Brabant, although the actual battlefield lies at about 5 km to the south from the city in the village Mont-Saint-Jean. Belgians riveted the attention of the whole Europe to the anniversary by creating an online informational campaign on the official website of the event: waterloo2015.org there is an official Twitter account @Waterloo2015_BE and a dedicated Facebook page.
The Belgian government also created a couple of worldwide headlines this year connected with the Waterloo battle commemoration. In March, France’s objections had blocked the Belgian issuance of a €2 coin commemorating Napoleon’s defeat. The French government was deeply discontented that the idea behind these coins would send a negative signal about the unity of Europe. French officials said that this would be “detrimental at a time when euro zone governments are trying to build unity and cooperation under the single currency.” Thus Belgium has been forced to scrap 180,000 coins which were already minted in Brussels and were worth 1,5 millions euro. According to the eurozone rules the design on a standard €2 coin has to be approved by all 19 eurozone countries. But Belgium was not so easy demotivated issuing one week before the anniversary a special €2.50 coin, valid only in Belgium to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle.
Another issue around the bicentenary celebration is the role of the Netherlands during the commemoration days. Although, the Dutch royal couple was invited as special guests of King Philippe of Belgium, some journalists are arguing in the Dutch media that the king Willem-Alexander must have a crucial role during the celebration. NOS journalist Piet van Asseldonk writes about the “Picant role of Willem-Alexander during the Waterloo commemoration”, as he is the direct successor of the king Willem I and his son Willem II which played an important role during the Waterloo battle, the Dutch king should be not only a prominent guest but also one of the host of the celebration. Another reason that confirms the arguments about the “starring role” of the Netherlands is the fact that during the Waterloo battle Belgium was a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and became independent only in 1830. Dutch media also mentioned these days that Dutch militants and the Dutch minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert were also not invited for the Waterloo commemoration.
Hopefully the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo will not create any tensions between the countries whose armies were involved in the battle. The exhibition “Shared Destinies” in the Wellington Museum of Waterloo devotes equal space to the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon, barely mentioning France’s defeat. It is crucial for the whole Europe to unite their “destinies” and commemorate the Waterloo battle without emphasizing the winners and the losers.
A short video inviting visitors to attend the 5 day programme in Waterloo was created specifically for the bicentenary celebration of the battle.