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France snubs Waterloo anniversary ceremony of Napolean defeat

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament arrive to attend the commemoration service for the Battle of Waterloo, at St Paul's Cathedral in London, June 18, 2015
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament arrive to attend the commemoration service for the Battle of Waterloo, at St Paul's Cathedral in London, June 18, 2015 REUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool

Exactly 200 years ago, thousands of Frenchmen died at the hands of an Anglo-allied force led by the Duke of Wellington, in an ignominious defeat that ended the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. On Thursday, June 18, close to a quarter of a million spectators flocked to Waterloo to commemorate the battle. But France failed to send a single official.

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It's a "painful memory" that we would rather forget, France's Defence minister Jean Yves Le Drian said in a TV interview on Thursday, in justification of why not a single French official attended the bicentenary ceremony in Waterloo, near Brussels.

A total of 200,000 spectators made their way to Waterloo for three days of memorial events, starting with Thursday's commemorative service and culminating with two days of battle re-enactments on Friday and Saturday.

Belgium's King Philippe led a ceremony early Thursday morning at the foot of the famous Lion's Mound monument erected in 1826 at the battlefield site to pay tribute to those who died.

The Grand-Duke of Luxembourg and the Duke of Kent, the cousin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, were also there, along with Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission.

But no top French official is present, neither President Francois Hollande, nor prime minister Manuel Valls bothered to show up.

Reliving the fall of their "Emperor" and the deaths of thousands of their countrymen was always going to be a hard sell. In the re-enactment ceremonies, many of the actors were actually foreign than French themselves, proof that the battle of Waterloo still rekindles some bitterness.

Earlier this year, the French tried to block plans for a 2 euro coin commemorating the Battle of Waterloo, saying it was against the united spirit of the Eurozone.

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