Even though some of the uniforms have been recut by tailors of the 1850s, these remarkable photographs provide what are possibly the only images that have survived of veterans of the Grande Armée and the Guard wearing their original uniforms and insignia.
All the men, now in their 70s and 80s, are adorned with Saint Helena medals, distributed in August 1857 to all veterans of battles fought during the Revolutionary War and the Empire.
Someone recorded the faces of the soldiers in 1858 using the newfangled technology known as photography. The men were all well into their later years when the photographs were taken. It was evident that some were having difficulty remaining still for the entirety of the camera’s exposure. However, they all appear to have a commanding presence when they are all outfitted in their uniforms, complete with epaulettes, medals, sashes, and plumes. You can look at a few pictures exhibited there for convenience. Any of them can be enlarged by simply pressing on them.
When the photographs were taken, the men were all well into their later years, and it was obvious that some of them were having a hard time remaining still for the duration of the camera’s exposure (hence the blurring on some of the pictures). However, they all appear very impressive when dressed in their uniforms, complete with epaulettes, medals, sashes, and plumes.
The event date, May 5, 1858, explains why these men were in Paris. That was the anniversary of Napoleon’s death. Every year on that date, veterans gathered in the capital, according to the Times of London in May 1855, which noted, The base and railings of the column of the Place Vendôme appear this day decked out with the annual offerings to the memory of the man whose statue adorns the summit. This was the reason why these men were in Paris. The presentation of garlands of immortelles and other tributes of the same kind is more extensive than is typical… the old warriors of the Empire paid their customary respects yesterday at the same place.
Monsieur Maire of the 7th Hussars circa 1809-1815.
A funeral service was conducted on the same day in the chapel of the Invalides, and Prince Jerome and other dignitaries were in attendance. All of the Invalides’ staff members and warriors from the First Empire were present.
Napoleon’s troops controlled most of Europe, but French dominion fell apart almost immediately after the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Because of the widespread implementation of contemporary mass conscription, the wars brought about a sea change in the militaries of Europe. They took place on a scale that had never been seen before.
The Napoleonic wars led to the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. They planted the seeds of nationalism that, later in the century, contributed to the unification of Germany and Italy.
The French occupation of Spain weakened Spain’s control over its colonies, opening nationalist revolutions in Spanish America. This led to the beginning of the collapse of the Spanish Empire on a global scale.
As a direct consequence of the battles fought during the Napoleonic era and the setbacks the other great powers suffered, the British Empire became the dominant world power for the following century.
Monsieur Loria of the 24th Mounted Chasseur Regiment and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour appear to have lost his right eye.
Quartermaster Sergeant Delignon in the uniform of a Mounted Chasseur of the Guard.
Sergeant Taria in the Grenadiere de la Garde uniform of 1809-1815.
Monsieur Ducel, a Mameluke de la Garde.
Monsieur Mauban of the 8th Dragoon Regiment of 1815.
Monsieur Lefebre, a sergeant in the 2nd Regiment of Engineers in 1815.
Pictured in his grand hussar uniform is Monsieur Moret of the 2nd Regiment, 1814-1815.
Monsiuer Dreuse of the 2nd Light Horse Lancers of the Guard.
Monsieur. Verlinde of the 2nd Lancers.
Monsieur Vitry of the Departmental Guard.
Monsieur Dupont who was fourier for the 1st Hussar.
Quartermaster Fabry of the 1st Hussars.
Monsieur Schmit of the 2nd Mounted Chasseur Regiment.
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