Waterloo wonga: Belgium overrules France's objections to mint coins featuring Napoleon’s defeat
The 2.50 euro coins will be sold at a price of 6 euros. Collectors are expected to buy all 70,000 coins very quickly.
“This is the first Belgian coin with a nominal value of 2.50 euros. The coin portrays the picture of the Waterloo hill and a schematic position of the troops during the battle,” the Federal Public Service of Belgium said on its website.
The authorities will also release several thousand 10-euro silver coins. They will be sold at a price of 42 euros each.
“This silver coin depicts a scene at The Battle of Waterloo” that depicts the Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange, the commanders whose armies defeated Napoleon in the battle, the statement said.
The coins have been recently a matter of controversy between Paris and Brussels. Earlier Belgium minted about 180,000 2-euro coins marking the French emperor’s defeat in Waterloo, a village 15 kilometers south of Brussels in present-day Belgium. French troops were overpowered at the site by the combined British and Prussian forces on June 18, 1815.
Paris, having learnt of Brussels’ actions, sent a letter to the Council of Europe in March, saying that minting the coins could cause an "unfavorable reaction in France."
According to the letter, the Battle of Waterloo “has a particular resonance in the collective consciousness that goes beyond a simple military conflict."
"The circulation of coins carrying a symbol that is negative for a fraction of the European population to us appears prejudicial, in a context where the governments of the Eurozone are trying to strengthen unity and co-operation throughout the monetary union," the letter added.
Finally, all initial 180,000 copies of two-euro coins marking Napoleon’s defeat were removed.
However, Belgian authorities didn’t give up on the idea of commemorating the famous battle that was the last in Napoleon’s reign. The authorities used a rule allowing EU states to mint coins if they are in an irregular denomination – 2.50 euros in this case.
"The goal is not to revive old quarrels. In a modern Europe, there are more important things to sort out," Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt said, adding that the new coins were not issued to anger France.
"But there’s been no battle in recent history as important as Waterloo, or indeed one that captures the imagination in the same way,” he said.
The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon’s European ambitions and led to his exile on St Helena, where he died in 1821.