Coffee House

George Osborne’s Waterloo

8 May 2014

Hougoumont should be a place known to every Briton. It was the site of one of the finest feats of arms in the history of the British military. If this farmhouse had fallen to Bonaparte’s forces during the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s 100 days would have become a French 100 years.

But history has not been kind to Hougoumont. It stopped been a farm at the end of the last century and souvenir hunters are simply stripping the place. The excellent Project Hougoumont stepped in to try to preserve the site. They found an ally in George Osborne, who first visited Hougoumont in 2012 and was shocked by what he saw. He started helping with their fund raising efforts. But when he heard about how the crucifix in the chapel in which the soldiers had prayed had recently been stolen, he decided more needed to be done. The government is now guaranteeing the work which will restore Hougoumont in time for the 200th anniversary of the battle next year.

Hougoumont is a classic example of how a relatively small amount of government money can make a big difference. I visited the site with Osborne on Monday, and the progress is remarkable. You can read my reflections on the visit and Osborne’s thoughts on the economy, Europe and the election here. But if you have a chance, do have a look at the Project Hougoumont website, it is an effort deserving of public support.

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Show comments
  • M. Wenzl

    “If this farmhouse had fallen to Bonaparte’s forces during the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s 100 days would have become a French 100 years.”

    That is fallacious logic. It’s like when people say that if the Nazis had won Stalingrad, or the Battle of Britain, all of Europe would be speaking German now. Events and history do not work like that.

  • mariandavid

    If anyone won the battle it was the Germans – who made up all of Blucher’s and about a third of Wellington’s, being the Brunswickers, Hanoverians and a bunch of north Germans rudely shoved into the new Kingdom of the Netherlands.

    But all such little matters – the British and Belgians can take pride in Hougoumont and just about everyone else of every nation in their service in the battle. Incidentally the Belgians were much maligned by the Brits – the only regiment to really disgrace itself was a newly formed cavalry regiment full of callow upper-class twits and newly created noblemen who added cowardice to their already substantial list of failings.

  • you_kid

    The concept of mercenarism ought to be explored further.
    How is Mali today any different to what went on in 1815?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      It has much better music and food today but there’s too many of you socialist nutters and your islamofascist buddies about.

  • Denis_Cooper

    If Osborne had been around at the time he would not have been fighting Napoleon, he would have been helping him.

    • HookesLaw

      The utter drivel you have just posted demonstrates what a bonkers loony you are. Furthermore your ‘imagined’ speech demonstrates what a fantasy world you are happy living in.
      Indeed it because British interests are and always have been diametrically opposed to seeing anyone single entity have hegemony – a la Napoleon (or the Kaiser) in Europe that our political interests are served by being In the EU and not Out.

      • Denis_Cooper

        And that is why Osborne agreed with Darling that Greece should be provided with an illegal bailout to prevent the eurozone disintegrating, and why he agreed to the use of British taxpayers’ money for that purpose, and why he has since repeatedly urged the eurozone states to “get a grip” and hurry up with the introduction of more federalising measures; and also why in the late summer of 2010 Cameron agreed to simply give Merkel an EU treaty change she desperately wanted because she was afraid that the German constitutional court would declare the Greek bailout illegal, without even asking her for anything in exchange, not the long-promised repatriation of powers nor even any treaty changes to prevent the eurozone inexorably expanding so that eventually it engulfs us as well.

        • Wessex Man

          The traitor otherwise know as hooky will have us issuing retrospective apologies to Napolean and Hitler for staring their wars next!

          • the viceroy’s gin

            “The Battle of France is over.

            The Battle of Britain is about to begin.

            Upon the outcome of this battle rests the whole of Christian civilization .

            We apologize to Herr Hitler for his having to fight this battle.

            We also apologize for provoking him into invading the Low Countries, and France, too, but then they probably did need a good kicking, so His Reichsfuhrer was probably wise to deliver it.

            Please notify us as to when we can meet and settle all outstanding business. We suggest Brussels as a suitable surrender spot. It just seems appropriate somehow. Don’t ask why, just a hunch.”

      • Denis_Cooper

        Remember all those years when Tories like you were saying that we needn’t worry too much about the euro, because it was so deeply flawed that it would fall apart anyway?

        And remember before that when Tories like you were saying that we needn’t worry about ending liable for other people’s debts if we joined the euro. because the treaties forbade bailouts of any kind?

        So how come that we then had a Tory Chancellor going along with bailouts to make sure that the euro didn’t fall apart?

      • tastemylogos

        Euro was a good idea according to you, once, remember?

        You have no credibility. Loon indeed.

  • Hello

    Oh, leave it out. Osborne is not the heir to Wellington. Wellington had the courage to be publicly obnoxious.

    • HookesLaw

      Where anywhere in this piece is it suggested that Osborne is the heir to Wellington? I am scratching my head to find out where Wellington was publicly ‘obnoxious’.

      • Hello

        There’s a pretty direct comparison being drawn between Waterloo and the EU negotiations, and apparently Osborne wants to handle those negotiations. So if the negotiations are Waterloo, who do you think Osborne is? Uxbridge?

        “The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth — the mere scum of the earth”

        Did you know that the Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister?

        • Wessex Man

          I expect that everyone knows that.

          • monty61

            I spoke to some schoolkids last week – 15 and 17 – who had no idea who or when Wellington was, thought Nelson was a pub chain, and when challenged couldn’t even put the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the American Revolution into their respective centuries never mind say which came first.

            The elder of the two got 5 A and 5A* GCSEs last year including history (which seems to be an endless recycling of Henry VIII, the Holocaust, and Martin Luther King which are done to death every single year).

            In short: everyone doesn’t know that. More’s the pity.

  • Terry Field

    Who can contradict the reality that it was the Prussians who saved the day for an otherwise defeated English army?

    • Barakzai

      “English Army?’

      You’re not English yourself, then?

      • Terry Field

        What has my nationality to do with that battle?

    • Martin Adamson

      I can. The British Army had not been defeated – it was still in the field and fighting. They may well have been defeated if the Prussians had not arrived, but the point is moot. They knew perfectly well that reinforcements were coming and that their duty was to hold their positions until they arrived. Which they did.

    • Denis_Cooper

      Equally, who can contradict the reality that only Wellington’s army was left to block Napoleon’s advance towards Brussels, because the Prussians had been defeated two days before at Ligny?

      Without Wellington’s army stubbornly blocking the route for a whole day at tremendous cost Napoleon would have pushed through to Brussels, but equally without Blucher’s Prussians arriving in the evening Wellington would have been forced to withdraw.

      • you_kid

        An early exemplar of a Eurocorps?

        • Denis_Cooper

          No, because it was not intended to be a permanent standing army but just an allied force put together for that campaign, after which its components went their separate ways. Like the allied forces put together by Marlborough even earlier.

          • you_kid

            Good point – yet the United States armed forces eventually unified.

            • Denis_Cooper

              The United States is a federation.

              • you_kid

                Indeed, now where were you saying Europe was heading?

                • Denis_Cooper

                  To a federation, unless it is stopped.

                • you_kid

                  So you are implying the US system of federation-backed military superiority was a failure?

                • Denis_Cooper

                  Why on earth should you think I was implying that?

                • you_kid

                  Ok, that leaves only one option when applying deductive reasoning – that you are not implyng it and that all is well. I believe the argument ends here unless you make another.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  No, I won’t allow you to waste any more of my time.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              No, the US has national guard that is a state based military, and reports to the governor of each state.

              Wrong as usual, laddie

    • Colonel Mustard

      It was an Allied army which included Brunswick, Hanoverian and rather a lot of Dutch troops, as well as Scots and Irish units in the British contingent.

      It was not defeated either.

    • HookesLaw

      British Army. British and Allies. Our best soldiers, the peninsular veterans, were fighting in America.

      • Wessex Man

        and yet you traitorous lump, the second string won, just as the scond string won the Battle of Flodden Field against an invading Scottish Army 500 and inflicted the biggest carnage ever on the Field of Battle in England, while dear old Henry was busy dealing the French yet again!

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