Napolean photo © Jacques-Louis David.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the famed Battle of Waterloo, which took place in 1815 in what is today Belgium. In that battle, French commander Napoleon — one of the greatest military masterminds of all time — was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, which was led by the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard von Blucher. (The Seventh Coalition was a group of Anglo and Prussian states that banned together to oppose Napoleon). The defeat at Waterloo ended Napoleon’s reign as Emperor of France.
Nonetheless, Napoleon Bonaparte was both a feared and revered leader for two decades in France. During that time, he amassed great wealth and had a love of all things beautiful, including furniture, jewelry, silverware and watches. He and his first wife, Josephine, were renowned for always displaying the newest and finest uniforms and gowns, weaponry and tableware, books and gems.
Abraham-Louis BRÉGUET Swiss 1747–1823 Touch watch belonging to Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia 1809
Among the watches believed to have been worn by Napoleon, his family or his wife — and can be viewed in museums today — is an impressive Breguet pocket watch. The watch is said to have belonged to Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome, and is encrusted in diamonds to indicate the hour, and pearls for the half-hour. An ornate arrow on the outer case turns to indicate time without the wearer needing to open the case. He also had a good number of objects of art from other known brands, including snuff boxes, bird singing boxes and more.
Young woman and child next to an urn marked Remembrance, automaton watch (c. 1810)
It is interesting to note that Sean Bean, the Games of Thrones actor, recently put together a special two-hour documentary on the Battle of Waterloo for History (formerly The History Channel). The show will air on the 200th anniversary of the battle in June 2015. Bean, who also recently starred in Sharpe as a fictional British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, worked with a team of soldiers and experts in testing the weapons of the history battle.
Joseph COTEAU (enameller) French 1740–1801 Skeleton clock c.1793-95 gilt and enamel, bronze, marble
(All product photos courtesy of Foundation of Napoleon.)