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Friday, November 6, 1998 Published at 00:24 GMT


Waterloo insult to French visitors

Waterloo: May be a nasty blast from the past

A French politician has written to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding that he changes the name of Waterloo Station.

Florent Longuepée says it is upsetting for the French to be reminded of Napoleon's defeat when they arrive in London by Eurostar.

Waterloo station, which celebrates the Duke of Wellington's victory in 1815 over the French Emperor Napoleon, is the gateway to London for Eurostar passengers arriving from Paris.

[ image: No welcome at the end of the tunnel]
No welcome at the end of the tunnel
And Mr Longuepée, whose name means "long sword" in English, thinks it insensitive for the station to still bear the name of the old battle at a time when Europe is meant to be fostering closer ties with its neighbours.

"You will understand, I am sure, the discomfort which the French might feel ... coming to Waterloo Station, having crossed the Channel tunnel, which is a symbol of the co-ordination and co-operation between our two nations," wrote the conservative Mr Longuepée to Mr Blair.

"At a time of European integration, which I know you support, it seems to me opportune that England should give this station another name," he added in an open letter.

Mr Longuepée concluded that if nothing is done he will campaign to have the Gare Du Nord in Paris renamed Fontenoy, after a little-known battle in which the French beat the English two centuries ago.

History rears its head

Mr Blair may have inadvertently upset his French neighbours last year, when he chose Waterloo Station as the place to open the UK's presidency of the European Union.

As much as Britain and France try to reconcile old differences, it seems reminders of a hostile past live on.

Ironically, it was Napoleon who first proposed digging a tunnel under the Channel - to invade England.

But his dramatic defeat at Waterloo, near Brussels, at the hands of British, Prussian and Austrian troops, forced him from the throne and into permanent exile.

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