|The capture of Napoleon's carriage after the Battle of Waterloo
from Ackermann's Repository (1816)
The splendid carriage taken at the battle of Waterloo which was fitted up in a most magnificent style, for Buonaparte, was taken while waiting for the Ex-Emperor: the driver was killed by a Prussian general and Major. It was sent as a present to the Prince Regent, with the four horses which were attached to it, and a French driver accompanied it.2
It was taken by the Prussians, sold to Government, and re-sold,—lent to Mr Bullock as a Prussian trophy. Mr Bullock’s room constantly filled with company, and at least a hundred thousand persons have already gratified themselves by sitting in the very chariot which once held Napoleon le Grand.3
|Mr Bullock's London Museum, Piccadilly
from Ackermann's Repository (1815)
The popularity of the exhibition at Bullock’s Museum was caricatured in Rowlandson’s print, shown below.
|Exhibition at Bullocks Museum of Bonepartes Carriage
taken at Waterloo by Thomas Rowlandson, published by
R Ackermann (1816) © The Trustees of the British Museum
There was a detailed description of the carriage included with the print shown at the top of this post which appeared in Ackermann’s Repository (1816):
The exterior of the carriage is, in many respects, very like the modern English travelling chariots. The colour is a dark blue, with a handsome bordure ornament in gold; but the Imperial arms are emblazoned on the pannels of the doors. It has a lamp at each corner of the roof, and there is one lamp fixed at the back which can throw a strong light into the interior.1It claimed that “the pannels of the carriage are bullet-proof” and stated that “the under-carriage and wheels are painted in vermillion, edged with the colour of the body, and heightened with gold.”
On the outside of the front windows is a roller-blind made of strong painted canvass: when pulled down, this will exclude rain and snow, and therefore secure the windows and blinds from being blocked up, as well as prevent the damp from penetrating.1
The interior deserves particular attention; for it is adapted to the various purposes of a kitchen, a bed-room, a dressing-room, an office, and an eating-room.
Among the gold articles are a tea-pot, coffee-pot, sugar-bason, cream-ewer, coffee-cup and saucer, slop-bason, candle-sticks, wash-hand-bason, plates for breakfast, &c. Each article is superbly embossed with the Imperial arms, and engraved with his favourite N.; and by the aid of the lamp, any thing could be heated in the carriage.
Beneath the coachman’s seat is a small box about two feet and a half long, and about four inches square; this contains a bedstead of polished steel, which could be fitted up within one or two minutes.
After the tour, the carriage and its contents were sold by auction and bought by someone who wanted to exhibit them in America. Unable to realise his intentions, it was sold again and then taken by a coach maker as part payment of a bad debt! In 1842, this company sold it to Madame Tussaud and Sons where it formed part of a special exhibition about Napoleon.
An advertisement in The Times (1843) stated:
Napoleon’s celebrated military carriage, taken at Waterloo, room magnificently fitted to show the decorations of his period, engravings of his history, splendid bust by Canova, the cloak he wore at Marenge, the sword of Egypt, the standard given to his guards, his watch, gold snuff box, ring, one of this teeth, the instrument that drew it, tooth-brush, Madras worn in exile, dessert service used by him at St Helens, counterpane stained with his blood: the greater part late the property of Prince Lucien – Madame Tussaud and Son’s Exhibition, Bazaar, Baker-Street: open from 11 till dusk, and from 7 till 10. Great room, 1s; Napoleon relics and chamber of horrors, 6d.4
|Napoleon from The Life
of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke
of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1852)
The carriage was exhibited at Madame Tussaud's until 18 March 1925 when fire swept through the waxworks. A report in The Times declared that:
Madame Tussaud’s, the famous waxworks exhibition, which for generations has had a great fascination for visitors from every land, is no more.
Of the most treasured possessions of the exhibition, the Napoleonic relics, only scrap iron remains to suggest the coach in which the Emperor rode at Waterloo.
You cannot put a price on the Napoleonic relics…which cannot be replaced. I consider many of the most valuable things in the collection have been destroyed. They include Napoleon’s three coaches—the Waterloo coach, the carriage he used at St Helena, and the coach he is said to have used on the occasion of his coronation at Milan.5And so Napoleon’s carriage met a sad end, consumed by flames, 110 years after the Battle of Waterloo at which it was captured.
Fortunately, some of the items captured from Napoleon’s baggage train did survive and a number of them were on display at Windsor Castle in the Waterloo at Windsor 1815-2015 exhibition.
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