NAPOLEON CROSSING THE ALPS
The full title is Napoleon (1769 – 1821) Crossing the Alps at the St. Bernard Pass, 20th May 1800 c1800-1
It is a piece of propaganda, for it shows Napoleon in an attitude of triumph, his fist raised, his horse in the half-rear stance known to nineteenth century equestrians as the pesade. The storm clouds behind are in stark contrast to the vibrant red of Napoleon’s cloak, the rocks and the glimpse of artillery in the background hinting at the struggle he had overcome. On the other hand, it has been suggested that those tiny figures represent the army following in Napoleon’s wake, small through distance but also to show their insignificance in the presence of their great leader. Whatever the truth of David’s intent, the viewer’s eye is taken straight to the horse and rider and held there in awe by the commanding combination of muscle and determination.
The portrait was painted after Napoleon’s victory at Marengo in June 1800 – the battle which gave the horse his name. The horse in the painting is believed to be Marengo, although the conception of the work is slightly from the realms of fantasy. Napoleon did cross the Alps at the St. Bernard Pass, but it was going towards Italy for his second campaign there, and he rode upon a mule! David also ignored the true nature of the landscape and used artistic licence to place his idol in a setting he considered of sufficient grandeur.
David would have been the perfect ‘spin doctor’, for he also used that same rose-tinted perspective on Napoleon himself. The General is depicted in heroic form; a lithe, athletic figure in the uniform he wore at Marengo and (at Napoleon’s insistence) on a perfect likeness of his favourite horse. It is almost like an author having a ghost writer, or hiring an actor to be their stand-in at public functions, for Napoleon was not a tall man, but here he dwarfs his charger.
The horse, too, is shown as a powerful, imposing creature, a king of his species despite his lack of stature. Indeed, the portrayal of Marengo is probably far more accurate than that of his master. Although standing a mere 14.1 hands (a hand is four inches, measured from the ground to the withers, at the base of the horse’s neck where it joins the back), Marengo was an Arab stallion, a breed renowned for their courage, endurance and fire, the latter yet tempered with a calm, steady nature in most individuals. Marengo was imported from Egypt in 1799, when he was aged about six. He may well have been bred at the celebrated El Naseri stud. He carried Napoleon safely through the Battle of Marengo and the Emperor was so impressed with his new charger’s prowess, he named him after the successful conflict.
Napoleon’s chargers were always superb Arab or Barb horses, mostly cream or grey and schooled at the Imperial Stud. They had to remain calm but ready for action on the battlefield and move with a smooth, even pace for the Emperor’s comfort on long-distance marches. Marengo was no exception. He carried his master at the conflicts at Austerlitz, Jena and Wagram, survived the disastrous Russian expedition of 1812 and is thought to have stayed at the Imperial Stud during Napoleon’s exile on Elba, before arriving at Waterloo at the grand old age of twenty-two.
In the painting, Marengo is performing the half-rear or pesade at Napoleon’s instruction. A movement which is now obsolete, having been replaced by the levade, the pesade was the early introduction for the horse to the ‘airs above the ground’. In the pesade, the horse must engage his hocks (bend them underneath him to support his body) and hold his forequarters off the ground, his body at an angle of forty-five degrees. In the levade, the angle is thirty-six degrees. It takes a great deal of skill and strength from both horse and rider to perform this exercise – particularly if the horse is to be trained not to rear at will. That this is a pesade and not the rear of a frightened or resisting horse, can be determined by observing the rider. He is sitting upright, to keep his weight back and thus enabling the horse to raise his front legs rather than leaning forwards to push his mount back on to all fours; his lower leg is drawn back, the spur lightly asking the horse to lift, not correcting bad behaviour and finally, the horse’s hocks are flexed to a ninety-degree angle, thus demonstrating their engagement.
Marengo, therefore, is showing by his posture that he is a noble steed worthy of a master who is a supreme horseman and king of all he surveys. Captured by the British at Waterloo, Marengo was well cared for and lived until the grand old age of thirty-eight, dying in 1831. His skeleton is now on display at the National Army Museum in London.
“June 18, 1815 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armée was definitively routed by the ragtag band of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington's Allied Army in a little Belgian town called Waterloo. The cost in men's lives was high—22,000 dead or wounded for the Allied Army and 24,000 for the French. But the war with Napoleon that had dragged on for a dozen years was over for good, and the British people once more felt secure on their island shores.” Susana Ellis
Website and Facebook Page Rafflecopter (ends April 18th)
Amazon.com: Kobo: iBooks: Nook: Amazon.uk: Amazon.ca: Amazon.au:
Copenhagen’s Last Charge by Heather King
When Meg Lacy encounters a broodingly handsome Light Dragoon at the Duchess of Richmond’s grand ball, she little expects that in the hours following the Battle of Waterloo she will be accompanying him around the streets of Brussels. Romance is the last thing on her mind as they seek a lost and valuable item belonging to the Duke of Wellington himself.
Lieutenant James Cooper is surly and unhelpful, but Meg senses the Dragoon will need her help if they are to succeed. As they bicker their way around the narrow streets, a strange empathy begins to develop as gradually glimpses of the man beneath start to be revealed. Meg finds herself drawn to that person, but when they finally recover and then return the item to the Duke, Cooper makes a grave error of judgement which jeopardizes their budding friendship…
Standing beside her father as he discussed cavalry tactics with General Lord Edward Somerset, Meg had the opportunity to observe the milling crowd ‒ the flushed cheeks of the young ladies as they danced by with equally youthful, dashing officers; the happy smiles and carefree pursuit of pleasure, all as though the French were not gathering to Bonaparte’s banner with the intention of destroying them all. Although the beau monde of Brussels was partying as if the escaped Emperor were but a fly to be swatted, Meg took a more realistic view. During the crossing to the Continent, she had become acquainted with a young man, Godfrey Winterton, who was seeking his elder brother. Their father was ill, not expected to live beyond a few weeks and the boy – for he could barely own more than seventeen years – was desperate to find his sibling, the heir to the family estates, before the unthinkable occurred. Unthinkable it might be, but to Meg it was not something to be ignored, swept beneath a rug until someone fell over the ensuing lump.
She was glad when the music stopped and Georgy came to claim her attention from her maudlin thoughts. In her tempestuous wake, Georgy dragged her brother, the Earl of March. He was a handsome young man of four-and-twenty, a few years senior to both Meg and his sister. He was already Aide-de-Camp to the Prince of Orange and bidding fair to enjoy an illustrious military career.
He bowed deeply as Georgy presented them and begged the honour of the next dance. A quadrille was forming and feeling her cheeks heat at the honour he did her, when there were several beauties of higher rank present whom could be said to have greater claim, Meg curtsied.
“I should be pleased, my lord.” The words had barely formed on her lips when Georgy nudged her arm.
“Who do you suppose that could be?”
Meg followed the line of her friend’s gaze to observe a tall, leanly built officer in the blue coat and white facings of a cavalry regiment, who was leaning casually against a pillar near the French windows, which had been opened to admit the warm night air. In his hand he held his red silk embellished dress helmet, as though he had little intention of remaining.
“I cannot conjecture,” she replied with a smile. “Recollect I have but recently arrived and know hardly anyone.”
“Oh, tush!” Georgy tapped the precious fan on Meg’s arm. “He is very fine, do you not agree?” She chuckled. “And with a mien almost as brooding as Lord Byron!” Turning abruptly to her brother, she said, “March, do be a dear and go discover who he is!”
About the Author
Heather King has made up stories since she was a small child. History lessons at school were rarely dull and the discovery of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels in her early teens set her on a lifelong love of that era. A confessed romantic and bookworm, writing gives her a chance to indulge all these passions – and call it work!
She has her own voice, but likes to follow traditional Regency precepts and pen uplifting stories with witty dialogue, engaging characters and bags of emotion. Her debut novel was 'A Sense of the Ridiculous'.
Visiting her Dark Side as Vandalia Black, she writes Vampire and Paranormal romance. She is the author of 'Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories' which includes a novella set in the English Civil War.
When not looking after her two hairy ponies, three cats and boisterous Staffie X, or frowning over keypad or notebook, she likes nothing better than to curl up with a good book.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I04PYPE
Heather's Other Books
A Sense of the Ridiculous – not currently available, but will be again before long.
Waking up at a strange inn with no memory, headstrong Jocasta Stanyon finds the landlady’s son, Richard Cowley, is more than a match for her lively personality, but their stations in life are far apart and despite prolonging her stay by devious means, the idyll cannot last. She hopes to persuade her father of Richard’s qualities, but then she is summoned to receive the addresses of a fashionable stranger...
An Improper Marriage
Marriage to dull ironmaster Jeremiah Knight would be awful enough, but when Eleanor Honeybourne discovers an injured man at a ball, she uncovers a web of intrigue that puts her own and her stepfather’s lives at risk. Meeting again her childhood hero, Charles Ribblesford, she is forced into a situation which could well spell her ruin, unless they can solve the mystery and unmask the villain.
The Middle Of The Day
Lottie Morgan loves all things Regency, but would she like to live in the early nineteenth century, married to a baron? A strange thing happens while she is visiting Berrington Hall; she finds herself confronting George, Lord Rodney and she is a newly-wed!
Writing as Vandalia Black:
Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee And Other Stories
This collection of fourteen tales brings together irresistible heroes and memorable heroines who battle against demons, muggers, lost loves, loneliness and unholy thirst to find their true loves. Tortured and honourable vampire heroes and one lady for whom the search for her mortal love has lasted centuries, will sweep you away into a paranormal world where eternal love means exactly that.