Belgian King Philippe is leading royalty and dignitaries in the commemoration of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, a watershed in European history that marked the end of Napoleon and French domination and the beginning of the British century.

Under overcast skies, hundreds of invited guests and thousands of re-enactors gathered under the Lion's Mount monument exactly 200 years after the half-day battle killed more than 10,000 soldiers in a closely fought encounter between French troops and an international coalition led by Britain's Duke of Wellington.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said that "the enemies of yesterday have become staunch allies" after descendants of the top military leaders of the battle shook hands on Wednesday on the very grounds where their ancestors had pointed guns and cannons at one another.