For 200 years, the world has been saying that Napoleon met his Waterloo, when he was handed a resounding defeat by the British and their allies on June 18, 1815.
Who knew that the battle actually took place in Braine-l’Alleud or that the people of that town now expect due recognition?
Two hundred years ago [today], Napoleon lost his last battle, changing the course of history and providing a lasting metaphor for defeat.
But the French emperor didn’t meet his Waterloo in Waterloo at all, and a town that did see significant fighting would now like a little more credit.
“Napoleon never set a foot in Waterloo—it’s a fact,” said Bernard Coppens, a Belgian historian and former Waterloo resident. Most of the Battle of Waterloo took place a few miles south, in Braine-l’Alleud and Plancenoit.
The battle got its name because the victor, the Duke of Wellington, penned his official report from his Waterloo headquarters.
More than a hundred places world-wide are its namesakes. ABBA’s “Waterloo” ranks among the best-selling singles ever. It abides in English, French and other languages as an expression for one’s final, insurmountable challenge.
But as the world prepares to descend on the battlefield for the June 18 bicentennial, officials from Braine-l’Alleud want to set the record straight.
“Nobody will ever call it the ‘Battle of Braine-l’Alleud.’ That would be completely ridiculous, and that’s not our goal at all,” said the town’s mayor, Vincent Scourneau. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to correct errors that were made.”
Let’s give them their recognition but let’s also give a cheer for those doughty English who, with their allies, finally defeated that upstart little emperor and in the process ended nearly 500 years of war between the British and the French.