Visiting Waterloo, Belgium: its Lion monument is nearly 2 centuries old

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
The Lion of Waterloo, Waterloo (Walloon Brabant, Belgium)
The Lion of Waterloo, Waterloo (Walloon Brabant, Belgium) | Source
The Lion's Mound, Waterloo, in the evening.
The Lion's Mound, Waterloo, in the evening. | Source

Who is famous, and to whom?

Waterloo? It's a famous name, and being in Belgium, where the Battle took place, it sounds as if it's in the Dutch-speaking part of the country. Correct?

Well, no; for a start, 'Waterloo' is indeed a name of Dutch origin, but Waterloo is actually in the Walloon region, in the province of Walloon Brabant (French: Brabant wallon ).

Well, I see. Anyway, it must commemorate someone famous, military leader such as the Duke of Wellington, or even Napoleon, who lost the battle there, or even General Bluecher, whose troops assisted Wellington, right?

Well, no, wrong again. In fact, the Lion's Mound (French: Butte du Lion ) at Waterloo was built in 1826, sponsored by the King of the Netherlands, in commemoration of an injury sustained in 1815 by his son, the Prince of Orange.

So why would the King of The Netherlands build a monument in Belgium?

Well, as an independent Kingdom, in 1826, Belgium did not yet exist, and the Southern Netherlands were at the time under the Dutch Crown (having previously been under the Austrian Crown and even beforehand the Spanish Crown). This is a fact often forgotten, that between the Battle of Waterloo and Belgian independence in 1830/31, what is now Belgium belonged to The Netherlands. So it fell ultimately to the King of The Netherlands to commemorate what was undoubtedly a major event in European history in the way he saw fit.

So it boils down defining who is famous: the question thus needs qualifying: famous to whom?

To the King of The Netherlands, at any rate, the Prince of Orange, who sustained an injury there, was the really famous person worthy of commemoration.

Yet in France, people tend to link Waterloo with Napoleon.

In Great Britain, Waterloo tends to refer to Wellington's victory over Napoleon (this has stayed in the popular imagination in Great Britain especially because one of the mainline railroad stations in London, England, is named Waterloo. Canadians will also think of the city and region of that name in Ontario.

Atop the 43-metre mound is a pedestal with a 28 tonne, iron stature of a lion, sculpted by Jean-Fran├žois Van Geel (1756-1830).

Also worth seeing

Brussels (distance 16 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions, a few of these being the Atomium, the Grand' Place, the Royal Palace and BELvue museum, St Michael's Cathedral.

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How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a railroad link to Braine-l'Alleud station, near Waterloo . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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