Battle of Waterloo: 200th Anniversary — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:51 pm on 12th January 2015.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 2:51 pm, 12th January 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Government are working with Waterloo 200, a charitable trust, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle. Many activities are planned across the United Kingdom and in Belgium. The Government announced, in June 2013, £1 million of funding to ensure that the famous farmhouse at Hougoumont is restored by 18 June. Activities to commemorate this anniversary and others have benefited from heritage lottery funding.

Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, and delighted to hear that. However, in commemorating a famous victory over Napoleon by the Iron Duke and his European allies, does my noble friend agree that we must never forget the sacrifices made by the peoples of these islands over the past 200 years in defence of peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom in Europe? In this week of all weeks, we must stand together as a United Kingdom with our allies in defending this precious legacy.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I entirely agree with the sentiments that my noble friend expresses. Indeed, Waterloo secured peace in Europe for nearly 50 years. Men and women from all parts of the United Kingdom have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom over the past 200 years. We rightly commemorate them; we are as united now as we have been before in the cause of freedom and tolerance.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

My Lords, for Blücher should we not read Merkel, and recognise that one suitable way of commemorating this is to recognise that we have a national interest in keeping in close touch with our German allies and partners?

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, it is undoubtedly the case that we should be in touch and work with all our partners on current affairs, but it is of interest in relation to Waterloo that a number of Länder are commemorating the Battle of Waterloo. The noble Lord mentioned Germany. Hanover, Brunswick, Berlin, Hamburg and Wiesbaden are all commemorating the battle.

Photo of Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart Conservative

My Lords, I am fortunate to have in my family archives some original maps of the battlefield used by various members of my family who fought at Waterloo. One was aide-de-camp to Wellington and another had three horses shot from under him during the battle. Happily, both survived and went on to become generals like their father, grandfather and great-grandfather. So, naturally I welcome the Government’s donation to help the restoration of Hougoumont. However, can I ask about the overall cost of that project and the overall funding? Presumably, individuals have donated. Have any other countries made donations? Presumably not the French.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as well as the United Kingdom Government’s funding, the Government of Wallonia—part of Belgium—have contributed €900,000; there are also Belgian sponsors and UK sponsors of €1 million and £2 million respectively. The Hougoumont site is hugely important, as is known: it was the battle within the battle.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, this House has within its walls a remarkable commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo in the shape of the Daniel Maclise fresco in the Royal Gallery. It commemorates not only the triumph of Waterloo but also its great tragedy. Will the Minister give the House an up-to-date account of where we are with the restoration of that fresco and its partner?

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I spoke to the curator this morning, rightly anticipating this question. This is a very intricate and complex matter and the University of Cologne is considering all the points that come out of its research. After that careful consideration —because obviously we do not want to do anything at all that could further damage the paintings—this will come before the Works of Art Committee. The options before it will then be considered, and then all of us will hear more.

Photo of Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, picking up on the artistic aspect, does the Minister agree that one of the most effective commemorations of the First World War was “Blood Swept Lands”—the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London? That was a very strong and evocative example of the power of artistic endeavour in bringing people together. I agree with my noble friend Lord Forsyth that Waterloo 200 should similarly emphasise not the triumph but the tragedy of conflict—tragedy that we experienced so starkly last week.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I think that that is why we have all, rightly, used the word “commemoration” and never “celebration”; it precisely encapsulates what we all feel about the sacrifice of these dreadful battles. However, we are grateful that we prevailed.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, I understand that, as part of these celebrations, one of the events will be a re-creation of the dispatch from Brussels to London. It is a very good educational tool. HMS “Peruvian”, which took the dispatch from Ostend, was becalmed off Ostend and the captain and four sailors then rowed 18 miles to Broadstairs. Does the Minister not think that if we are going to re-create that, we need to start training some captains in the Royal Navy now to achieve it?

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the dispatch and delivery of this great news, and the peace that unfolded in Europe, were hugely important; and, indeed —as the noble Lord will confirm—the Battle of Trafalgar ensured that there was peace at sea for a very long time.

Photo of Lord Spicer Lord Spicer Conservative

My Lords, on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo the Duke wrote: “I have no time to write a short letter so I will write a long one”. He was probably referring to a divorce case in which he was unfortunately one of the cited parties. Is it not the case that, had the journalistic practices that prevail today applied in that time, he might never have been supreme commander and we might have lost?