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Waterloo? What’s that ABBA song about?

SCANDINAVIAN TELEVISION CONTINUES to makes its presence felt in the UK with 1864, a history drama based on the Danes’s unsuccessful war with the Prussians, who were starting to throw their weight about and getting in some practice so they could eventually give the French a good kicking (repeatedly).

Like most people in Britain I had no idea what was important about the date but luckily, having had an old-fashioned grammar school education, all became a bit clearer when I recalled “the Schleswig-Holstein question”. Mind you, all I could actually remember was the name, something to do with Kiel, and Palmerston, who said “The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.” It was a quote the writer of 1864 duly included.

It was both heartening and amusing to see the Danes portray themselves at that period in their history as wonderfully deluded about their own importance in the world. It was a delusion that tragically informed their military strategy, and resulted in a savage and humiliating crushing.


Name this man.

I DON’T KNOW if the Danes still have this view of themselves and if this series, with its tie-in to  the Danish contribution to the war in Afghanistan, is a continuation of it — or, alternatively, an implicit criticism. Even portraying one’s nation’s military history, heroic failures or not, is pretty infra dig in these days of sensitivity and privileging your enemy over yourself; and the Scandinavians lead the world in politically correct self-loathing.

Britain’s not far behind, of course, which probably explains why there’s almost nothing on our screens about Waterloo despite the fact that this June sees its two hundredth anniversary. Harking back to memories of my schooldays, the last couple of years I studied history we seemed to focus only on Europe in the nineteenth century — with a constant return to the French Revolution, the fountainhead of nearly all tyrannies that were to follow. That must explain my knowledge of the Schleswig-Holstein question, the unification of both Germany and Italy and the warm pleasure of the constant defeat of the French in the Peninsular War at the hands of Wellington, and the ravages of Nelson on their navy at Aboukir Bay and Trafalgar.

I would have thought that one of the most important battles fought in Europe would receive some acknowledgement beyond the occasional article in the newspapers, but no.

I would have thought that one of the most important battles fought in Europe would receive some acknowledgement beyond the occasional article in the newspapers, but no. There’s nothing in the offing on our viewing schedules (although, thank God, there has been a series about the Spanish Armada). Under Wellington a combined force of British, Prussian and Dutch troops finally put paid to Napoleon’s tyranny. For Britain it meant a century of not having to go to war on the Continent. Unfortunately it merely postponed the establishment of a different tyranny by the two swaggerers France and Germany in the guise of the European Union.

As we’ve already seen, the British political and educational establishment, stuffed with invertebrate quislings, is eager to jettison every trace of patriotism and doesn’t want to make a fuss. That won’t be difficult, given that nobody teaches our schoolchildren anything about it. The French don’t want to be reminded of their defeat and the Brits are too spineless to make sure they don’t forget. Napoleon for the French will always remain their national hero. But British heroes are out. Wellington and Nelson are forgotten men.

Well, not in this house. Come June the eighteenth we’ll be celebrating with an extra bottle of champagne and looking forward to another English victory — Agincourt — on the twenty-fifth of October. Which also happens to be another victory over our esteemed colleagues, the French.

Michael Blackburn.

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