14th July 1870
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak
Victor Hugo spent 15 years exiled in Guernsey, and only returned to France after Napoleon III’s fall from power in 1870. While living on the island, he planted an acorn in the grounds of his home, Hauteville House, and declared that by the time it had become a mature oak we would be living in a United States of Europe. He declared that the continent’s various nations would have been brought together with a single currency.
Despite the fact that France and Britain were still frequently at loggerheads at the time – and two world wars would be fought within the following century – Hugo’s belief was remarkably prescient. In many ways, it is the euro that has brought the various countries of Europe together, by making it easier to trade and travel, and giving many of them a common point of reference.
The oak flourished and, almost a century and a half later, it’s still growing in the grounds of his one-time home.
Guernsey Post Office issued a stamp bearing an image of the oak on 6 June 1975 – a little over a century after it had been planted. With a face value of 8p, the stamp was captioned “United Europe Oak (Hauteville)”, and showed the tree in full leaf on a green background. It had been designed and printed by Courvoisier, and is commonly found on auction sites where it usually sells for a few pence.