Napoleon Meets his Braine

On 18 June 1815, the Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the combined armies of Blücher and Wellington and a Eurovision legend was born. Though not primarily a song contest, the battle of the bands at Mont-Saint-Jean, Braine l’Alleud, gave rise not only to beauty and the beasts Swedish pop sensation Abba, but a string of hits including the West End spectacular “Les Miserables”, and oo-aar-ing beat combo the Wurzles “Where’s my Wellington” (probably). But, in an all too familiar example of the winners writing the history, they named it the “Battle of Waterloo” – presumably because Braine l’Alleud didn’t scan so well.

So now, when I tell friends in Britain where I live, they look blank. Even though the site of one of the most famous battles in history lies about a mile from our house.

The battlefield today

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