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In June 1815 at Waterloo a French general born in Nantes (1770) made a name for himself. Not that this general had not already proved himself, he fought brilliantly under the French revolution against the royalist forces in the Vendée, was a faithful of Napoleon, and followed him in his first exile to Elba. But soon he was going to stay in the memory of the people of France and Nantes.

At the battle of Waterloo, after it was clear that Napoleon was defeated, some of the last men standing included General Cambronne and his guards. Asked by his opponents to surrender, he first replied “The guard dies, but does not surrender”. Asked again to surrender he is known to have replied “Merde!” (shit). This is now how everybody in France remembers him, and “Merde” is also known as Cambronne’s word. Cambronne later denied having said Merde, but it’s nicer to believe he said it. Oh and he didn’t surrender (I know he is French, so he is meant to surrender), he ended up with terrible injuries and was captured half dead, but survived.

As this man lived and died in Nantes it was only appropriate for a statue to be built in his honour here. It is right in the centre of town next to Place Graslin, in a place called cour Cambronne. It used to be called cour Napoleon, but the people of Nantes preferred to use the name cour Cambronne instead, so this is how it is known now.

If you come to Nantes visit the cour, which is a lovely place to have a sandwich or picnic and bask in the sun, come say hello to the general who said “merde”, and made it a respectable word to quote.

Merde alors!!!

To come back to Waterloo and make my small cheese remark of the day. I would like to add that the Brits with their classic sense of humour produce a Brie type cheese called Waterloo, a nice creamy cheese. The name comes from the fact that some of the cows which produce the milk used to make that cheese graze on land that used to belong to the Duke of Wellington, the main British General of the battle of Waterloo. Selling a Brie type cheese under the name Waterloo — that is, using a French food symbol and naming it after one of the most crushing military defeats of France — is it not a bit like saying “Merde” to France???

Ah Cambronne, they have no respect for your word.

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