World changed forever 200 years ago at Battle of Waterloo

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Waterloo, Jun 17: To the victor go the spoils: So Waterloo became synonymous with Napoleon's demise, even if the worst of the battle never happened there.

Ignoring the bloodied grounds of nearby towns, the victorious Duke of Wellington picked the name of the battle as the place where he slept after it was all over.

Waterloo battle: How world changed

And nothing has been the same since for the once-sleepy village — or for the world. Prince Charles leads a host of dignitaries Wednesday to kick off four days of commemorations Wednesday of the battle that changed the course of history 200 years ago Thursday.

Napoleon's defeat in the half-day battle against an overwhelming international coalition ended France's supremacy in the world and opened the British century with the biggest of bangs. Little wonder the French are still gnashing their teeth two centuries later.

"It is not easy for them psychologically speaking," said military historian Professor Luc De Vos. Earlier this year, the Belgians wanted to mint a commemorative Battle of Waterloo euro coin which all of the major belligerents in the fight Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands now share. Paris blocked the idea.

Belgium promptly turned them into commemorative coins that do not need approval from other eurozone nations before minting. But France's bruised ego over Waterloo has healed somewhat. Descendants of Napoleon and the French ambassador will show up during the four days of Waterloo commemorations just south of Brussels.

On the battlegrounds themselves, kept intact down to the lush wheat that stands near full ripeness this time of year, everything has been prepared for official ceremonies and re-enactments. At the heart of the battle was the pivotal French assault on Hougoumont Farm, on whose wooden gate, in the Duke of Wellington's words, the outcome of the entire world hinged.

Once the smoke lifted, France's Grande Armee was in retreat and 26 years of Napoleonic warfare to unite Europe under French rule had ended. On the small battlefield, over 10,000 soldiers lay dead and as many horses.

On Wednesday, Prince Charles will be at the lovingly restored Hougoumont farm again to survey the battlefield with the descendants of the troop leaders the Duke of Wellington, Prince Nikolaus von Bluecher of Prussia and Prince Charles Bonaparte of France.

AP

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