Napoleon's medals

Napoleon's medals

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I'm currently part-way through a biography of Napoleon. I'm curious about the medals he had struck to commemorate events such as battlefield victories. How widely were these distributed within the ranks or even the French citizens? How many authentic medals survive today, and which are the hardest to come by?

As Emperor of France, Napoleon established the following medals.

  • The National Order of the Legion of Honour (1802). The Legion of Honour continues to be awarded, and as of last year, 94,807 in total were awarded.

  • Order of Academic Palms (1808)

Napoleon’s Three Greatest Victories

As far as the military history of France goes, there is little that can compete with the greatness of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was one of the greatest military commanders to walk the earth. This does not imply that he was without faults or that he never lost a battle. However, of the 60 battles in which he was involved during his military career, he lost only 8. Though his successes were recorded about 200 years ago, they will continue to be discussed for ages to come.

Napoleon joined the military in 1784 when he was just 15 years old, fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars, where he showed tremendous skill and military expertise. His efforts were crowned with successive promotions that saw the fast rising commander as the Emperor of France by 1804.

The list of great battles that Napoleon engaged in are too numerous to count, and trying to recount them all would be overly cumbersome, for in almost every battle his ingenuity can be easily identified. Going forward, we will limit this discourse to the three most worthy of note.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

The Battle of Austerlitz, 1805

Shortly after the War of the Third Coalition began in 1805, Napoleon, who was now the Emperor of France and King of Italy, knew he had to quell the enemy forces of Austria, Russia and Prussia before they could team up against him. He knew full well that if they did, they would be almost impossible to stop.

The emperors of Russia and Austria were unhappy with the recent elevation of Napoleon’s status. Because Napoleon’s army was poised to invade England, the emperors feared greatly that due to his highly ambitious nature, he would try to conquer their kingdoms as well.

The five nations of Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden signed the convention of St. Petersburg, deciding to team up against the French emperor and subdue him before things got out of hand.

Napoleon with his troops on the eve of battle, questioning local peasants on the movements of the Austro-Russian Army. Painting by Lejeune

After defeating Austrian forces at Ulm, Napoleon played a fast trick on the Russo-Austrian commanders after occupying Vienna. By negotiating peace terms with them, he led England’s allies to believe that his army was in bad shape, so some of the leaders there pushed to attack it.

On December 2, the battle began. Although Napoleon’s troops were considerably fewer in number than those of the allied army, he was expecting reinforcements from Marshal Louis-Nicolas d’Avout’s III Corps of about 18,000 men.

When the allied emperors’ hot-headedness prevailed over the military expertise of Kutuzov, commander in chief of the allied army, Napoleon then led the enemy into thinking that his right flank was weak. As expected, they attacked his forces there. However, with the arrival of d’Avout’s reinforcements, the right flank was able to withstand the assault.

General Mack surrenders his army at Ulm. Napoleon’s strategic encirclement of the Austrians, in conjunction with the Battle of Austerlitz six weeks later, sealed the fate of the Third Coalition.

Napoleon’s troops in the center took the Pratzen Heights and then went on to surround the Russo-Austrian forces attacking his right flank. Meanwhile the left flank of the French army repulsed several attacks from the Russian right flanks, eventually forcing them to retreat.

Capture of a French regiment’s eagle by the cavalry of the Russian guard, by Bogdan Willewalde (1884)

With reinforcements cut off, the enemy troops had no other option but to surrender. The company which attempted to flee across the frozen Satchsen Lake was cut off by an artillery bombardment ordered by Napoleon, and the troops in flight drowned after the ice cracked.

Napoleon and Francis II after the Battle of Austerlitz

The Battle of Friedland, Prussia, 1807

Arriving on the battlefield at 2:00 PM, Napoleon led reinforcements to hold the French positions in the Prussian villages that overlooked the Alle River. After leading the Russians to believe that their army of 60,000 greatly outnumbered the French troops, Napoleon ordered General Jean Lannes with a small portion of the French troops to pursue the retreating Russian army.

Napoleon at the Battle of Friedland (1807). The Emperor is depicted giving instructions to General Nicolas Oudinot. Between them is depicted General Etienne de Nansouty and behind the Emperor, on his right is Marshal Michel Ney.

Fully aware that they would attempt to cross the Alle River into Friedland, Napoleon sought to engage them there. By the morning of June 13, Lannes’ forces occupied Friedland. When the Russians arrived there, they drove back the French to the surrounding villages.

“Charge of the French Cuirassiers at Friedland” on 14 June 1807 by Ernest Meissonier, c. 1875

Unaware of Napoleon’s intentions, the Russians looked to engage this small French faction without fighting the main French army. When Lannes saw that the enemy had taken the bait, he sent word to Napoleon. A large portion of the Russian army was already across the river by June 14, and while they engaged the French forces at Friedland, Napoleon arrived with reinforcements that completely dislodged the Russian assault on the villages of Heinrichsdorf, Posthenen and Sortlak.

Artillery bombardment of Friedland sealed Napoleon’s victory and the Russian army on the other side of the river retreated. This battle effectively ended the War of the Fourth Coalition in Napoleon’s favor.

French 4th Hussar at the Battle of Friedland. “Vive l’Empereur!” by Édouard Detaille, 1891

The Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Prussia, 1806

When the War of the Fourth Coalition began in 1806, Napoleon’s forces were pitched against the Prussian forces of Frederick Louis on October 14. The battle was so named because it occurred in two different locations on the same day, and although the two battles never merged into one, they were both decisive victories for Napoleon’s army.

Battles of Jena and Auerstedt

At the start of the battle, Napoleon was placed in a precarious position when one of his commanders, Marshal Michel Ney, decided to act alone and attack the Prussian lines. Although he was successful at first, Ney and his troops soon became surrounded by Prussian forces. Napoleon, however, managed to curtail the impact of the strategic blunder by sending General Jean Lannes’ division to Ney’s aid.

The Battle of Jena.

After rescuing Ney’s troops, Napoleon launched a successful assault on the Prussian lines while they awaited reinforcements from Weimer. By the time the reinforcements arrived, the main Prussian army had been taken apart and the little faction that remained was under pursuit from French cavalry.

Marshal Joachim Murat, the most famous of many daring and charismatic French cavalry commanders of the era, leads a charge during the battle.

The Prussian forces only managed to hold Napoleon’s forces at the town of Kapellendorf before they too were crushed, securing Napoleon’s victory at Jena. Meanwhile, another division of Napoleon’s army under the command of Marshal Louis d’Avout was blockaded on its way to provide support to the main army.

Napoleon after the Battle of Jena.

D’Avout engaged the Prussian army, which was under the command of the Duke of Brunswick and Frederick William III, and won a decisive victory for the French empire. This victory by the French thus placed the Prussian empire under French rule.

Napoleon's medals - History

No.248 of a limited edition of 1000 copies. By Richard A. Todd, 2008. HB Blue cloth. 210 x 280mm. 224 pages, illustrated in colour throughout, with many enlargements. ISBN 9780752449999. D/j bumped and scuffed, otherwise internally as new.

Dust jacket blurb reads:
During his time in power, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned hundreds of medals to be struck to mark the course of his reign from conquests, successful treaties and marriage, to the introduction of the smallpox vaccination and an unsuccessful attempt on his own life. "Napoleon's Medals" sheds light on this neglected artistic achievement how Napoleon's artists displayed the stolen art from his Italian campaign on the medals to glorify his conquests, and used classical models to clothe him with heroic attributes. No previous publication has combined both detailed commentary and colour illustration in addressing this fascinating topic. Richard A. Todd provides a history of Napoleon's reign through the medallions themselves, aided by insights from Napoleon's letters, those of his artistic director Vivant Denon, and "Le Moniteur", the newspaper of the day. Complete with over 280 colour photographs, "Napoleon's Medals" is a lavish pictorial history of Bonaparte's vision of immortality.

Fancy dress

In November 1799, Napoleon became the First Consul of France through a coup d’état. The position was considered a civil, not a military one. One of the early decrees of the consulate mandated the creation of uniforms for consuls and ministers. English visitor John Lemaistre, admitted to an audience at the Tuileries Palace in March 1802, wrote:

Here, in a splendid salon, stood Bonaparte, between Cambacères, the second consul, and le Brun the third. They were all three dressed in their grand costume of scarlet velvet, richly embroidered with gold. (3)

Napoleon as First Consul, by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1802

In 1804, Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of the French. His coronation costume, designed by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, included white silk breeches and stockings white slippers with gold embroidery a long white silk tunic embroidered with gold and ornamented at the hem with a gold fringe a crimson velvet mantle, with lining, border and shoulder cape of Russian ermine, and embroidered with golden bees and interlaced olive, laurel and oak sprigs surrounding the letter N white gold-embroidered gloves a lace cravat an open gold crown shaped like laurel leaves, and a sword with a gold handle, studded with diamonds, attached to a white sash worn around the waist and decorated with gold. (4)

Napoleon in his coronation robes by François Gérard, 1805

Napoleon had another luxurious costume made for his coronation as King of Italy in 1805, this time in green. He established detailed and extravagant dress codes for his court and his army. “[H]e introduced elaborate new uniforms, using embroidery, lace, plumes, breastplates, dolmans, towering helmets, bear and tiger skins, more lavishly than the royal army ever had.” (5)

Napoleon wore elaborate clothing for banquets, receptions and ceremonial occasions, including his marriage to Marie Louise in 1810. However, for day-to-day activities, and while on his military campaigns, he preferred relatively plain clothes.

16 Most Remarkable Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) was the Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815. He is hailed as one of the greatest military commanders and rulers in history.

Napoleon paved his own path to success. Starting as a second lieutenant, he used his military genius to ultimately take a position that no one had occupied prior to him. When he came to power, Napoleon tried to correct the harm done during the reign of terror.

Here are 16 Napoleon Bonaparte quotes to help you build a stronger character.

Ability is nothing without opportunity.

Courage is like love it must have hope for nourishment.

You become strong by defying defeat and by turning loss and failure into success.

Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.

There are only two forces that unite men – fear and interest.

If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.

Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go.

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly.

A leader is a dealer in hope.

Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them.

History is a set of lies agreed upon.

The fool has one great advantage over a man of sense he is always satisfied with himself

You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.

The Importance of Bees to Napoleon Bonaparte

The importance of bees to Napoleon Bonaparte became obvious when he decided to adopt this ancient symbol older than the fleur-de-lys. Supposedly, when Napoleon thought about wearing the imperial purple, he decided to adopt the bee based on the following story:

“It was a custom in France, during its early and barbarous ages, that whenever a monarch died, his horse and page were killed and buried with their master, that they might be in ready attendance upon him in the next world. In the year 1658, the tomb of Childeric, the father of Clovis, was discovered [by the archeologist Jean-Jacques Chifflet*], and within it were found the skeleton of a man that of a horse, and part of the skeleton of a youth, concluded to be the remains of Childeric and his companions … a gold signet ring was taken from the finger of the large skeleton upon it appeared an engraved head, having long hair flowing over the shoulders, and around it the words, ‘Childerici Regis’ several buckles, massy gold bracelets and a gold head of an ox, supposed to be an image of the idolatrous worship of the deceased. … [In addition,] on further search in the tomb were found a purse, containing a hundred pieces of gold and two hundred pieces of silver, bearing the heads of different emperors of France a crystal ball or orb, a pike, a battleaxe, the hand, mounting, and blade of a sword gold tablets and style the bit and part of the harness of a horse fragments of a dress or robe and more than three hundred little bees of the purest gold, their wings behind inlaid with a red stone like cornelian.”[1]

Childeric’s bee. Courtesy of Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

When Childeric’s tomb was discovered in 1653, Louis XIV received the treasure, but he wasn’t impressed and stored it at what later became the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. When Napoleon came to power, his advisor, Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, suggested he adopt the bee as his personal symbol and mentioned the treasure of Childeric. Napoleon took his advisor’s advice after learning that Childeric had lived between 437 and 481 and that he founded the Merovingian dynasty. Moreover, Napoleon learned that Childeric’s symbol of the bee preceded the fleur-de-lis adopted by his son Clovis.

Besides being associated with the Merovingians, Napoleon also wanted to be associated with the Carolingians, a dynasty that reached its peak in AD 800 with the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Emperor of Romans. The spread eagle that Napoleon used on his shield came from the Carolingian founder Charlemagne and was suggested for use by by the Council Commission, made up from members of the Council of State, whose job was to oversee the coronation of Napoleon and his Empress, Josephine. They soon determined:

“Even if the arms of Charlemagne were not accurately known, it could still be pointed out … that in the time of Louis le Débonnaire, and doubtless earlier, ‘an eagle of metal was placed in the western portion of the Imperial palace at Aix, and it was always the custom of those who got possession of the palace, first of all to seize upon this eagle.’”[2]

Charlemagne. Public domain.

It was also pointed out that the fleur de lys would have been inappropriate alongside the Carolingian symbol of the eagle, another reason for selecting the bee. Moreover, some in the Council Commission erroneously suggested that the fleur-de-lys were just badly drawn bees. One twentieth-century historian noted:

“The fleurs de lys which had been sown broadcast on the carpets, hangings, and insignia of the Capetian kings would have been scarcely suitable to match with the eagles. Besides, they belonged to the old order of things which was to be forgotten. It was necessary to choose some plant or animal from the heraldic flora or fauna which could be adopted in the place of the fleur de lys, and was yet known to French historical tradition. As nothing suitable of this kind could be found in the Age of Charlemagne, it was necessary to search farther back. … [It was also] remembered that, during the sitting of the National Convention on the 3 rd of Brumaire of the year IV, Daubermesnil, speaking in the name of the Committee of Public Instruction, had proposed that the emblem of the State should be a hive swarming with bees, and that it should be placed upon the front of every national building. To which Citizen Barallion had indeed objected that ‘bees were cognizance of several Kings of France of the first dynasty, such as Childebert and Chileric. Besides,’ he added, ‘bees can never be the emblem of the Republic, for is it not well known that they all pay court to a queen?’ The convention was struck with this merry quip, and rejected the harmless suggestion of Daubermesnil.”[3]

Napoleon apparently ignored the idea that bees might be related to a queen and found bees an appropriate symbol for his empire. He knew illusion was power and that the bee had greater antiquity than the fleur-de-lis. He also thought because the bees were a symbol of the Merovingian kings, it would give him added legitimacy to rule as Emperor. Thus, when he was crowned, the importance of bees to Napoleon was obvious as he made sure bees appeared prominently on his coronation robes.

To aid in this, he used the best-known miniature painter Jean-Baptiste Isabey, who also happened to be a close friend of the Bonaparte family. Isabey decided the bee found with Childeric’s remains lacked detail and was too small and dense. Therefore, he developed a new larger bee created volant en arrière, or in other words, when viewed from the top its wings were partially opened.

Imperial bee from coronation decorations in Notre-Dame de Paris, 1804, gilt bronze. Courtesy of © Paris – Musée de l’Armée, Dist. RMN. Photo: Pascal Segrette.

Isabey’s bee was the one used to embellish the coronation mantles. Embroidery of the bees on the mantles cost 15,000 francs and were accomplished by Picot, embroiderer to the Emperor and the Empress. One historian gave the details of Napoleon’s mantle, stating:

“The Imperial mantle of purple velvet powdered with golden bees in the embroidery are interlaced branches of olive, laurel and oak surrounding the letter N. The lining, the border, and the tippet are of ermine. The mantle, open on the left side, allows the sword to be seen, which is sustained by a scarf of white satin embroidered and trimmed with a cord of gold the long robe is of white satin embroidered with gold on all the seams, the hem of the robe embroidered with a cord of gold.”[4]

The Empress was also resplendent and likewise had a mantle of purple velvet powdered with golden bees, as did the French princes. Pages wore green coats with shoulder-knots of green silk embroidered with eagles at each end and powdered with bees. Moreover, golden bees also appeared on the square purple velvet cushion that held Charlemagne’s crown. (To see the only known embroidered bee that survives, click here).

The importance of bees to Napoleon is shown in this detail from “Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 December 1804” by Jacques-Louis David. Note the bees on the Emperor’s and Empress’ mantles. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite the importance of bees to Napoleon, he never gave an Order in Council or officially announced the adoption of it. He also never gave a formal explanation for why he chose the bee. He did, however, make sure that the bee was an important symbol at his imperial court after he was crowned. Bees could be found embellishing clothing and fabric and were incorporated into ceramics, furniture, glass, and metalwork. One historian also reported:

“He [Napoleon] sprinkled bees liberally on his ensign as General-in-Chief, he introduced them on the borders of the Army colours, he adorned the upper portion of the escutcheons of the Grand Dignitaries and good towns with them, he powdered them over his own carpets and hangings.”[5]

The bee was so important to Napoleon, it was exclusively reserved for the imperial family, and not even dukes could use it. However, on 19 May 1802, Napoleon established a reward for civil and military merit called the Légion d’Honneur and to indicate the importance of the bee, he used a version in the medal. This was, and is, France’s highest honor, and although there were critics who thought of it as a bauble, Napoleon knew its value, stating, “It is with baubles that men are led.”[6]

After the Treaty of Fontainebleau and his exile to Elba, he designed his own flag for Elba and once again used the bee that he so cherished. Perhaps, he did so because it linked him to the imperial mantle. The flag that floated over the island had a white background with a diagonal red stripe and three golden bees in the stripe. Gloria Peria, director of the Historical Archives of the Communes of the Island of Elba, notes:

“Having chosen to give the Island of Elba three bees meant giving the island a sense of unity under his reign, even though from an administrative point of view it was divided into several Municipalities … Napoleon’s flag of Elba was immediately a great success, so much so that, according to Pons de l’Herault in his Souvenirs et Anecdotes de l’Ile d’Elbe, even the Barbaresque pirates greeted it, because they saw in it the symbol of their war hero, Napoleon, in person, as they sailed the Tyrrhenian Sea.”[7]

A photograph of a flag made during Napoleon’s reign on the island showing the importance of bees to Napoleon. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

When Louis XVIII came to power in 1815, he methodically replaced or destroyed Napoleon’s bee with the fleur-de-lys. Ultimately, few bees from Napoleon’s reign survived Louis’ eradication. The bee seemed to all but disappear until Napoleon’s remains were returned in 1840. One newspaper reported that the car carrying Napoleon’s body was “truly magnificent,” and that on the pedestal, “on both sides hung two velvet imperial mantles, sprinkled with bees.”[8]

The importance of bees to Napoleon are indicated by his funeral cortege which has a mantle of bees. Author’s collection.

*Although Chifflet thought what he discovered was bees, some scholars have suggested they were cicadas, a symbol that meant both death and resurrection to the Merovingians. However, other scholars believe they were flies because flies were found on the coats of arms of families from the territories of Venice and Flanders that were once controlled by the Merovingians. If they were flies, Napoleon’s enemies would have likely got a chuckle thinking he was covered with flies rather than bees.

Units, as well as individuals, could earn inspiring nicknames. Napoleon labelled his grenadiers as the Immortals.

This was a nickname with a long history of heroism behind it. The Immortals were originally an ancient Persian unit described by the Greek historian Herodotus, and renowned as the elite of the Persian fighting forces. The Byzantines re-used this title for their elite soldiers in the 11 th century, hoping to acknowledge the greatness of their men and earn some glory by association.

By naming his grenadiers in this way, Napoleon was saying that he considered their courage to be as great as the most famous fighting units in history. It also allowed him to tie their reputation to his talk of immortal glory – even to someone unfamiliar with classical history, the names Immortals implied men of such greatness that their legends would endure forever.

Plebiscite of 8 May 1870: Medal bearing the portraits of Napoleon III and Napoleon Eugène Louis, Prince Imperial

Medal for the plébiscite of 8 May1870, Archives du Sénat © Fondation Napoléon / Rebecca Young

The Napoleonic regime was essentially autocratic and popular, and from the Consulate period onwards, plebiscites or referenda were organised so that civil society could give its opinion on matters of constitutional law, namely:

– on the establishment of the Consulate in 1799 after the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire (plebiscite of 7 February 1800),

– on the consulate for life in 1802 (plebiscite of 2 August 1802)

– on the establishment of the hereditary Empire in 1804 (plebiscite 6 November 1804)

– on agreeing to the Additional Act to the constitutions of the Empire in 1815 (plebiscite 1 June 1815)

– on the delegation to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte of the necessary powers for the drafting of a new constitution shortly after the coup d’état of 2 December 1851 (plebiscite of 20 and 21 December 1851)

– on the restoration of the hereditary Empire (plebiscite of 21 and 22 November 1852).

During the Second Empire, no plebiscites were organised for the next 18 years, with the exception of the plebiscites organised locally when Savoy and Nice were joined to France in April 1860.

A plebiscite on 8 May 1870 to consolidate the Empire, four months before its downfall…

Democratic Caesarism, which challenged the traditional codes of sovereignty of the monarchies based on divine right, was naturally rejected by the Monarchists, nor did it find favour with Republicans who preferred collegial power (see Patrice Pierre, notice “Plebiscite”, in Dictionnaire du Second Empire, Fayard, 1995, p. 1010-1015).

The 1860s saw a succession of international setbacks for France (in 1866, the Prussian victory over Austria at Sadowa in 1867, the ultimate failure of the Mexican expedition, withdrawal of support for Garibaldi’s forces when it appeared that he might actually take Rome) in addition to national political and economic difficulties. The liberal laws concerning not only the press but also the right to hold non-political public meetings spurred the development of varying forms of opposition, notably Socialist, Republican and Anarchist, especially among the developing working-class population. The legislative elections of 24 May and 7 June 1869, although largely favourable to the regime (4.6 million votes), showed an increase in popular support for the Republican opposition (3.3 million votes).

It was in this context that, on 8 May 1870, the government invited the electorate to express either their approval or disapproval of imperial policy during the previous decade, with the motion: “the people approves the constitutional liberal reforms enacted in 1860 and subsequently by the Emperor, with the help of the great bodies of the State, and ratifies the sénatus-consulte of 20 April 1870”. This sénatus-consulte stated that ministers were now responsible to the Legislative Corps. More importantly, adjoined to the decree announcing the plebiscite was a manifesto by Napoleon III – who knew he was very ill – which stated: “[…] by voting yes on your ballot, you will ward off the threat of revolution, you will put freedom on a solid footing, and you will make it easier, in the future, for the crown to pass to my son” (quoted by Jean-Claude Yon, Le Second Empire, Armand Colin, 2004, p. 75).

The “yes” vote prevailed, largely due to the loyalty of the provincial electorate, with more than 7.3 million votes in favour of the motion, vs 1.5 million “no” votes.

But on 19 July, war was declared on Prussia. In less than two months, the Empire was swept away with the defeat and surrender of Napoleon III at Sedan (1-2 September) and the proclamation of the Third French Republic on 4 September.

Description of the medal

► verso: Napoleon III is sitting on his throne with, on his left, a young man leaning on the throne (clearly the Prince Imperial: Napoleon III’s left hand holding a sceptre is posed on the young man’s shoulder, in a gesture of dynastic transmission), to his right stands a woman, representing France, carrying in her left hand the tables of the Constitution, and in her right hand an urn upon which is inscribed “OUI 7350000”, around the edge is inscribed “PLEBISCITE MDCCCLXX VIII MAI”, and at the top is the number 𔄟.350 000”. Underneath is an imperial eagle, and to the lower right the signature of Oudiné.

► Recto: the profile portrait of Napoleon III crowned by laurels is in front to the right of the portrait of Eugène (born in 1856), with the caption “NAPOLEON EUGENE LOUIS PRINCE IMPERIAL NAPOLEON III EMPEREUR DES FRANCAIS [EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH]”, and Oudiné’s signature.

Medal for the plebiscite of 8 May 1870: obverse and reverse, Archives du Sénat © Fondation Napoléon / Rebecca Young

Eugène-André Oudiné (1810-1887), an important engraver

Eugène-André Oudiné (1810-1887), sculptor and medal engraver, was the former pupil of the painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and the sculptor Louis Petitot, and winner of the Grand Prix de Rome in 1837 for his engraving in medal and fine stone Œdipe expliquant l’énigme du sphinx [Oedipus explaining the enigma of the sphinx]. (see his portrait here). For more than forty years he worked for the Monnaie de Paris [the Paris Mint] and for the French Ministry of Finance.

His representation of the French Republic via the profile of Ceres (the Roman goddess of Harvest and Agriculture) is found on many French coins, including the 5 franc coin of 1849.

5 franc coin, 1849, designed by Eugène-André Oudiné
BnF Gallica (username ark:/12148/btv1b77004036)


Reward Medal of 1792 for Services to the Austrian Army in Belgium

Founded by Emperor Francis II to reward Dutch citizens who joined or rendered good service to the Austrian army fighting the French Republic. Issued in silver and gold as an eight sided medal with ball and ring suspension.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 33 mm
Obverse: head of the Emperor facing right with a circumference inscription: "FRANCOIS II. IMP DES ROM ROI DE HONG ET DE BOH" .
Reverse:Inside a laurel wreath, tied at the stem, are six lines of type: "POVR / SERVICES / RENDVES / AUX / ARMEES / MDCCXCII".

Belgium Reward Medal Reissue for 1793-94

Honor Medal "LEGE ET FIDE" of 1792

Founded by the Emperor on the occasion of his coronation as German Emperor at Frankfort am den Main. Issued as large, medium and small gold and large and small silver medals. However, none of the small silver medals has ever been found. (The official Austrain statutes frequently mention medal size distinctions that were never issued.) It was given to members of the Emperor's suite according to their rank. The large gold medal could be awarded with a linked mail chain of gold of the weight of the medal as an extra honor. Many Austrian medals could be so awarded with an extra gold chain suspension. Normally suspended from a soldered ring.

A variation with the Bohemian lion on the reverse may have been issued for the Bohemian coronation of Francis (v. Heyden 1058-9).

Ribbon: Red.
Size: Large, 49 mm medium 43 mm small 36 mm.
Obverse: Head of Francis II facing right with a laurel wreath in his hair. Circumference inscription: "IMP. CAES. FRANCICVS. II P. FG. AUG.". Signed by the designer at the base "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: An Imperial Crown above crossed scepter, sword and orb. At the top: "LEGE ET FIDE".

Honor Medal for Bravery 1792-1805

Like the bravery medal of Joseph II of 1789-92, but bearing the head of Francis II, and awarded in gold and silver.

Ribbon: White side stripes (5 mm), rose stripes (5 mm) separated by a central white and rose ladder stripe pattern (1 mm stripes) -- that came to be known as the "bravery ribbon". The rose color later became red.
Size: 40 mm
Obverse: Head of Francis II, crowned with laurel, facing right. Above "FRANZ II" and underneath the designers name "I.N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: A tied laurel wreath with flags showing Austrian arms, within the wreath is the inscription "DER / TAPFERKEIT".

Medal for the Battle of Neerwinden, 1793

Issued in silver by the Prince Friederich Josaias of Saxe-Coberg, the Imperial fieldmarshall in Belgium. The medal was granted by Francis II after the defeat of the French under General Dumouriez on 18 March 1793. Suspension was by a soldered ring.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 47mm
Obverse: Bust of Prince friederich facing right with a circumference inscription: "FRIDERIC. JOSIAS. PINC. SAXO. COB. S. R. J. SUPR. BELLI. DUX." . At the bottom is "Baldenbach", the die cutter's name.
Reverse: Roman soldiers in a ritual scene with the circumferance inscription: "RESTUTITORI. BELGII. AUSPICE. AUGUSTO." above, and below on three lines and smaller: "GALLIS MENSE. MARTIO / MDCCXCIII. UTROQUE / BELGIO EXATIS." .

Medal of Honor for the battle of Villiers-en-Couche, 1794

Issued in gold by Francis II to eight English officers of the Fifteenth Light Dragoons who personally attended and protected him during the battle of Villiers-en-Couche on 24 April 1794. The medals, although not officially established by written proclamation, were given with a letter of praise on 1 May 1798. All of the medals were also given with a golden chain of equal weight (280 grams). By some accounts the dragoons saved Francis from capture by the French. The Emperor wished to give them the Military Order of Maria Theresa, but the regulations of the order made that impossible. Later the regulations of the Order were changed and the MMTO was awarded to several Russians. The British government made repeated requests to obtain the MMTO for the dragoon officers, and it was finally granted on 7 November 1800. The medal was no longer to be worn once the MMTO was awarded, but could be kept.

Only one genuine pair of awards is known, which was in the collection of Mr. E. Hyde Greg of London as early as 1897. The pair was sold by Spink & Son in 1966 when it was purchased by Dr. Fattovich of Venice, Italy. The medal is unnamed as issued. (This interesting information is from von Falkenstien.)
Size: 60 mm
Obverse: Head of Francis with a laurel wreath facing right. Circumference inscription: "IMP. CAES. FRANCISCUS. II. P. F. AUG." . Signed by die cutter below and very small: "I. N. WIRT. F." .
Reverse: Above small crossed laurels on four lines: "FORTI. BRITANNO. / IN. EXERCITV. FOED. / AD CAMERACVM. / XXIV. APR. MDCCXCIV." .

Tyrolian Mobilization Medal of 1796

Issued by Emperor Francis to all Tyrolians who took up arms in the mobilization call of 12 August 1796. Given in large silver to officers and small silver to non-commissioned officers and soldiers. The ribbon is hung through a flat ring eye.

Ribbon: Multicolored green, white, black and red.
Size: Large, 40 mm small 35 mm.
Obverse: Porfile head of Emperor Francis with a laurel wreath facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS. II. D. G. R. IMP. S. A. H. B. R. COMES. TYROLIS." with the smaller designers name below: "I. N. WIRT. F." .
Reverse: Circular laurel wreath, tied at the bottom. Inside the inscription: "PRO. FIDE. / PRINCIPE. / ET. / FORTITER. / PUGNANTI." (To the heroic fighter for faith, prince and country). Around the circumference: "TIROLIS. AB. HOSTE. GALLO. VNDIQUE. PETITA." on the top, and below: "MDCCXCIV.".

Medal for the Volunteers of Olmutz, 1796

Given by the civil board of the town of Olmutz to those who volunteered in the mobilization call of 12 August 1796 and formed a fully armed volunteer corps for service with the Emperor. Issued in gold plated silver, hung through a circular ring soldered on at right angles to the medal.

Ribbon: Yellow with black edges.
Size: 45 mm
Obverse: The laurel crowned head of the Emperor facing right. Beneath the bust is: "F II / R. I. S. A." (Franciscus II Rex Imperator Semper Augustus), and around the circumference inside a pearled border: "Milito Electo Caesarem et Patriam Defendenti".
Reverse: The checkered eagle of the town arms, and on its breast shield "FMT". Around the circumference: "SENATUS POPULUSQUE OLOMUCENSIS Ao: 1796" within a pearled edge.

Tyrolian Mobilization Medal of 1797

Founded by Emperor Francis in 1797 for those members of the Tyrolian volunteer contingent who served in the keeping the Tyrol free from the French army. Given in large gold, for highest officers, gold for officers and silver for soldiers. The large gold are very rare and the gold ones rare. Suspended from a ribbon through a circular eye. The silver medal is much commoner than that of 1796 so many more Tyrolians must have responded to the mobilization call.

Ribbon: Three black and two gold equal stripes with thin gold edging.
Size: Large gold and silver, 39 mm small gold 35mm.
Obverse: Profile bust of Francis wearing a laurel wreath and facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANZ II R. K. ERZH. ZU OEST. GEG. GRAF VON TYROL", and below and smaller the designers name "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: Within a laurel wreath tied at the bottom, on six lines: "DEN / TAPFERN VERTHEIDIGERN / DES / VATERLANDS / MDCCXCVII".

Lower Austrian Mobilization Medal of 1797

Given to those able bodied men who answered the national emergency mobilization call of Count Saurau in Lower Austria. These troops were formed into free corps called Landesstande. The medal was, on paper, awarded in five types: gold for highest officers, largest silver for officers, large silver for underofficers, silver for soldiers and black cast iron for non-combattants. The iron medal has never been seen and the soldier's silver medal is also unknown and probably not issued. The gold medal, given to Count Saurau, the Duke of Wurttemburg (as commander of the troops) and high district and government officials is very rare. Almost all medals known are the largest and the large silver. Suspended by a ribbon from a circular eye.

Ribbon: Half dark rose half white.
Size: Gold and silver 37 mm, largest silver 41 mm, Large silver and black iron 39mm.
Obverse: Bust of Francis wearing a laurel wreath and facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANZ II. ROM. KAI. ERZHERZOG ZU OESTERREICH" and smaller on the bottom edge: "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: Within an oak wreath tied at the bottom, on eight lines: "DEN / BIEDEREN / SOEHNEN / OESTERREICHS / DES / LANESVATERS / DANK / MDCCXCVII".

The Ecclesiastical Cross of Merit "Pius Meritus"

Austrian military chaplains were active during campaigns and frequently awarded the Honor Medals for bravery. At the suggestion of the Apostolic Field Vicar Count Hohenwerth, and supported by a report of Archduke Charles, the ecclesiastical cross of merit was established in 1801 by Emperor Francis. Initially given in two grades -- gold and silver -- with a third added in 1860. It was to be given for outstanding performance of duty in administering to the spiritual requirements of the troops during war when under fire or in a battle area.

More like an order than a medal, the crosses had cloverleaf ends on the arms and the bottom arm was longer. The arms had a deep cut border and a flat suspension eye soldered onto the top. The central medallion in blue enamel had the words "PIIS / MERITIS" on two lines.

Ribbon: Four white and three red stripes.
Size: 53 mm high, 44 mm wide, 20 mm center medallion.

Dalmatian Service Medal of 1801

Founded by Francis in 1801 for administrative and civil merit in the Kingdom of Dalmatia which had been awarded Austria by the Peace of Campo Formio. Issued in silver and suspended from a ribbon through a soldered eye.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 43 mm.
Obverse: Laurel crowned bust of Francis facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS. II. ROM. IMP. DALMATIE. REX.". Below, in smaller letters: "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse" In two lines: "DALAMTIAE / BENEMERENTI", and smaller at the bottom "MDCCCI".

Civil Medal of Honor "JUSTITIA . . ." 1804-35

Founded on 11 August 1804 along with the next item (Honor Medal "Honori") following the change in Francis' title from German Emperor to Austrian Emperor. This medal was for persons without special rank (i.e. lower ranking non-nobles) and was largely given for service at the court. Suspended by a ribbon from a coined, vertically holed and tailed eye with a large circular ribbon ring. Issued in large gold, gold, large silver and silver.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: Large 43 mm, small 36 mm.
Obverse: Bust of Francis in profile, crowned with a laurel wreath and facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS AVST. IMP. HVN. BOH. GAL. LOD. REX. A. A.", but on the small medals FRANCISCVS is shortened to "FRANC.". On the bottom and smaller is "I. N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: Under an Imperial Crown a crossed sceptre and staff of Mercury with the scales of justice below. All connected by a flowing ribbon in a bow. Around the upper circumference: "IVSTITIA REGNORVM FVNDAMENTORVM" (Justice is the foundation of the Empire).

Civil Medal of Honor "HONORI" 1804-13

Founded by Emperor francis soon after he became Emperor of Austria so that non-nobles who could not receive the Imperial orders could be rewarded for their service. Issued in gold and silver and the gold medal could be awarded with a gold chain of the weight of the medal. One of the best known recipients of this medal, in gold with the chain, was Andreas Hofer who led the Tyrol revolt of 1809 against the French and Bavarians. Whereas the Honor Medal "JUSTITIA" was primarily awarded to members of the Emperor's entourage, this medal was for more general presentation.

Ribbon: Red.
Size: 50 mm.
Obverse: Profile bust of the Emperor with laurel wreath facing right. Circumference inscription: "FRANCISCVS AVSTRIAE IMPERATOR", and smaller at the bottom "I. N. Wirt. F.".
Reverse: A classic temple with six columns, with an enthroned Austrian coat of arms in the middle. On a rectangular box on the temple plinth is found "HONORI". Around the top is the circumference inscription: "AVSTRIA AD IMPERII DIGNITATUM EVECTA", and across the bottom is the date. Von Falkenstein states that the date is "1813", but since the medal was given from 1804 that seems very unlikely. Just how often the date was changed is unknown.

Medal for the Country's Defenders of 1808

Medal for the Tyrol and Voralburg Defenders of 1809

Issued for service in the Tyrol by volunteer citizens in 1809. Issued in bronze.

Ribbon: Half green and half white.
Size: 49 mm.
Obverse" Within a laurel wreath on seven lines: "ZUM / ANDENKEN / DER TYROL UND / VORALBERGER / LAND- / VERTHEIDIGER / 1809" (In memory the Tyrol and Voralberg land defenders 1809).
Reverse: On the left, Andreas Hofer, his left hand on the Austrian flag and his right hand raised as in oath taking. Opposite him a Tyrolian and Voralberger in local costume with their right hands raised . At the bottom the small inscription "O. STEINBOCK INV. ET F.".

Bravery Medal of Francis I of 1809

With the change in 1805 of the Emperor's title from Francis II of Germany to Francis I of Austria new medals were required. Seemingly only issued for the war of 1809 (until 16 October 1809). No changes from the 1792 issue except for the obverse inscription. Regulations were also changed to prohibit continued wearing of the silver medal if the gold was also won. Issued in gold and silver.

Ribbon: Rose edge stripes with a white and rose ladder center.
Obverse: Head of Francis II, crowned with laurel, facing right. Above around the circumference "FRANZ KAISER VON OESTERREICH" and underneath the designers name "I.N. WIRT. F.".
Reverse: A tied laurel wreath with flags showing Austrian arms, within the wreath is the inscription "DER / TAPFERKEIT".

Bravery Medal of Francis I of 1812-14

Civil Honor Medal "Honori" 1813-1835

Bronze Canon Cross of 1813-14

Authorized by Emperor Francis in 1814 for award to his soldiers in memory of their participation in the Befreiungskrieg of 1813-14 to free Germany and Europe from the domination of Napoleon. It was not actually awarded until 1815. Usually called the "Canon Cross" because it was made from captured bronze canon, and sometimes wrongly called the "Leipzig Cross" after that decisive battle in 1813. It is significant in that it is the first award given equally to all serving soldiers irrespective of rank. There originally were plans for three sizes of cross, and some specimens do exist, but in the end only one type, the small bronze with green varnish background, was made and distributed. One large gilded cross with a laurel leaf decorated wearing ring was made for FM. Prince Schwarzenberg as commander in chief, and it was intended to be worn from a ribbon around the neck. This unique piece is in the Army Museum in Vienna.

Perhaps some 200,000 crosses were issued but only a few thousand at most remain today. Suspension was by an elongated and groved suspension ring for the ribbon, and the dies were by J. Harnisch. Aging and repairs have led to many variations from type, and the ribbon color comes in various hues from yellow to gold.Illustrated is the normal issued cross with groved suspension ring and a modern ribbon.

Ribbon: A golden yellow stripe between two black ones, all equal width.
Size: The issued small broze cross was 27 mm. The unissued large cross was 45 mm and the medium one 39 mm.
Obverse: On a bronze cross pate with a circular gilded wreath between the arms is the following inscription: "GRATI / PRINCEPS ET PATRIA / FRANC. / IMP. AUG.".

Proposed Cross by J. Harnisch 1813

Officers Canon Cross 1813-14


Civil Honor Cross for 1813-14

Established by Emperor Francis in 1814 to reward high state officials who distinguished themselves during the Befreiungskrieg of 1813-14. The award was finalized on 26 May 1815 when it was awarded. The dies were also made by Harnisch and the cross was issued in gold and silver.The Civil Cross is identical to the Canon Cross except it lacks the laurel wreath. Only 38 gold and 149 silver crosses were issued, and Gottschalk lists all recipients. As it is so rare one must be careful to avoid Canon Crosses without wreaths that have been silver or gold plated.

As a parallel to the large gold cross of FM. Schwarzenberg, a great gold cross was given to Prince Metternich, minister of foreign affairs at this time. It too was to be worn around the neck and is said to have been twice the size of the other crosses and similar in details to that of FM. Schwarzenberg. It is seen in prints and paintings of the period but its current location is unknown. It was likely taken away by Prince Metternich when he fled Vienna during the Revolution of 1848, but could either have been destroyed in the fire that later burned the family schloss on the Rhine or it could be in the possession of one of his modern heirs.On the left is an engraving of Prince Metternich wearing his special large Civil Honor Cross. On the right is a gilt museum replica of the Metternich Cross. Note that, as in the engraving, Metternich's Cross has the normal, grooved ribbon ring and not the elaborate laurel leaf ring as on Schwartzenberg's large Cross in the Army Museum in Vienna.

Ribbon: Gold/black/gold, the reverse of the Canon Cross.
Size: Accounts are confused, some saying exactly the same 27mm of the Canon Cross and others 10% larger at 30 mm. Obviously few genuine examples are around to be measured. Von Falkenstien says both, that it was the same size and also 30 mm!

Gold Cross for the Guard of Bohemian Nobles in 1814

Established by Emperor Francis toward the end of 1814 as a sign of thanks for the 38 members of the Bohemian nobility who had accompanied him in the field in 1813-14. Of these medals only 22 can be traced and 21 are in museums.

Ribbon: White, red, white stripes of equal width.
Size: 30 mm.
Obverse: A red enamelled gold cross with a center circle containing the heraldic lion of Bohemia in silver.
Reverse: The cross enamelled red with the central medallion in white enamel bearing the seven line inscription: "NOBILIBUS BOHEMIS BELLO GALLICA FIDES CORPORIS CUSTODIBUS FRANCISCUS AUGUSTUS MDCCCXIV".

Military Service Medal "Pro Virtute Militari" of 1816

Although the Coronne de Fer was for military or civil merit this replacement medal for non-noble members was for military service only. It is very rare since so few members of the Coronne de Fer were willing to exchange it for this unassuming (even dull) silver medal. It was issued in silver but is (unofficially) also known in gold and bronze gilt. Although the Austrian Order of the Iron Crown changed its ribbon from green and gold to blue and gold, this medal for lesser members retained the French green and gold ribbon. Suspended through a soldered ring.

Ribbon: Golden yellow with two thinner sides stripes in green.
Size: 37 mm
Obverse: An upright antique sword.
Reverse: Inscription: "PRO / VIRTUTE / MILITARI".

Small Reward Medal "ZUR BELOHNUNG"

Small reward medal for service to the Emperor and state. Von Falkenstien says it was issued in silver with a red ribbon, but I have an example in bronze gilt on an original ribbon of equal red and white stripes with original stitching intact (illustrated at the left).

Ribbon: Red, or possibly red and white.
Size: 22 mm.
Obverse: The laurel crowned Emperors bust in profile facing right. The circumference inscription reads: "FRANZ DER ERST KAISER VON OESTERREICH".
Reverse: A garland of flowers around the circumference, and in the center, on two lines: "ZUR / BELOHNUNG".


Gottschalck, F. Almanach der Ritterorden, 3 vols., Leipzig 1817-19.
Contemporary with this period, Gottschalck's book is a goldmine of information on the ancient orders. Very scarce, although some modern reprints exist.

Gritzner, M., Handbuch der Ritter und Verdienstorden Aller Kulturstaaten der Welt, Leipzig, 1893.

Michetschlager, H., Das Ordesbuch der gewesenen Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna, 1918-19.

Spada, Antonio, Onori e Glorie, Vol. 3, Brescia, 1983.
One of the finest illustrated books on orders ever produced, this publication displays Dr. Spada's incomparable collection. Austrian orders and some medals of the Napoleonic period are well illustrated.

Steiner, Jörg C., Orden und Ehrenzeichen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna, 1991.
Not complete and the prices are now out of date, although relative values are still useful. Nevertheless this is the only current listing of Austrian material and we can hope for an improved new edition.

von Falkenstien, J., Imperial Austrian Medals and Decorations, Tucson, 1972.
The only thorough discussion and catalog of Austrian medals in English (orders are not included). Uneven and has many errors but is essential for English readers.

von Hessenthal, W. and Schreiber, G., Die Tragbaren Ehrenzeichen Des Deutschen Reiches, Berlin, 1940.

von Heyden, H., Ehren-Zeichen der Erlbschenen und Bluhenden Staaten Deutschlands und Österreich-Ungarns, Meiningen, 1897-1910 editions.

von Rosenfeld, F.H., Die Orden und Ehrenzeichen der K. und K. Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, Vienna, 1889 and 1899 editions.

von Wrede, A., K. und K. Wehrmacht, Vienna, 1901.
A complete official history of the K. und K. army. Lists awards of orders and bravery medals to officers, sometimes with details of service.

Sales Catalogs
Much useful information is also to be found in the auction and sales catalogs of the better dealers in this material such as those of Graf Klenau and Andreas Thies. Of particular value is:
The Art of Chivalry: Orden und Ehrenzeichen der Deutschen Befreiungskriege, Thies and others, Nörtingen, 1991.
Austrtian orders and decorations for sale can often be found at:
Stephen Herold Historical Objects

3 Did He Send A Lookalike To Exile?

In 1815, Napoleon was exiled to live on the island of St. Helena, around 1,600 kilometers (1,000 mi) off the coast of Angola in southwestern Africa. According to history, this is where he remained for the rest of his life, dying there in 1821. But in 1911, a gentleman from France named M. Omersa claimed to have proof that Napoleon had never gone to St. Helena in the first place.

Omersa asserted that a man named Francois Eugene Robeaut, who was known for his strong physical resemblance to Napoleon, was sent in the emperor&rsquos place. Napoleon himself grew a long beard and went to Verona, Italy, where he had a small shop that sold spectacles to British travelers. The true Napoleon died in 1823 while trying to sneak into the Imperial Palace, where his son sat as king. Being unwilling to identify or explain himself to the sentry that caught him, he was shot on the spot.

While intriguing, the story requires a conspiracy that involves the very warden of Napoleon himself, an unlikely prospect. It&rsquos also unlikely that a soldier who just happened to look like Napoleon was able to convincingly&mdashand willingly&mdashplay the part for the last six years of his life.

History Prizes 2003


Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL, Talleyrand, le prince immobile, Paris, Fayard
Using many previously unpublished sources, Emmanuel de Waresquiel here gives a careful view of Talleyrand, stripping away the ‘black legend’, but not denying that politician’s skill at manipulation. Talleyrand was a man born into the Ancien Régime, and it was here that he learnt his life’s most important lesson, namely the art of appearing in society (whilst at the same time developing a taste for secrecy and game playing). He was pugnaciously tenacious in his political and economic beliefs, whilst remaining pliant enough to be able to bend his action, rather than his ideas, to events.

Sumptuously illustrated, this is THE biography of Talleyrand, and the benchmark for all those to come.

Previously of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, doctor in history, researcher at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Emmanuel de Waresquiel is the author of the biography Duc de Richelieu, un sentimental en politique (Perrin, 1991) and of Histoire de la Restauration (in collaboration with Benoît Yvert Perrin, 1996). He was also editor of the following publications: Dictionnaire des politiques culturelles en France depuis 1959 – Une exception française (Larousse, 2001), with Sophie de Sivry: Mémoires du monde – Cinq siècles d’histoires inédites et secrètes au Quai d’Orsay (Ed. de l’Iconoclaste, 2001), and Un siècle rebelle. Dictionnaire de la contestation au XXe siècle (Larousse, 1999)


Nicolas STOSKOPF (ed.), Banquiers et Financiers parisiens, Paris, Éditions Picard
This biography of about one hundred entrepreneurs who, for the most part, worked during the Second Empire in the zone between Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin and Rue du Faubourg-Poisonnières, plunges the reader into the heart of French 19th-century capitalism. It moves from beginnings during the Restoration, with the initial successes of James de Rothschild in Paris, to the foundation of the Caisse d’épargne and the insurance companies, state loans issued by a powerful bank in the making, continuing up to the bank crashes of the 1880s, which sealed the fate of the multi-function bank in France. The book also discusses the construction of the railways in France, the revolution in banking, the transformation of the urban landscape, the investments in mining and steel-making, and international trade, ranging wide in its geographical spread as far as the US, Russia, the Maghreb, Egypt, and Ottoman Turkey.

Edited by Nicolas Stoskopf, this study is the seventh volume in the collection entitled Les patrons du Second Empire (general editor Dominique Barjot) and the first in a series dedicated to Parisian entrepreneurs. It forms part of the vast programme of research launched by the Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine (IHMC) of the CNRS.


Lisa et Joachim ZEITZ, Napoleons Medaillen, Michael Imhof Verlag
“The art of the medal is perhaps the most monumental of all the arts”… wrote Vivant Denon to Napoleon in November 1810.

Napoleon was very fond of medals and early on recognized their power to spread a message, and he was to make them a central pillar of his public relations campaign, immortalising his successes with a whole series of them.

In 1815, just before the end of Napoleon’s reign, Vivant Denon, director of the Musée Napoléon and of the medal mint, published a collection of 141 medals constituting the Emperor’s “histoire métallique.” This “history in metal” documents and glorifies not only Napoleon’s military career – from Italy to Hamburg, from Egypt to Madrid -, but also his civil accomplishments, ranging from the introduction of public vaccination to the building of transalpine roads. The best artists of the time were employed to create symbolic images for the medals. So as to enable collectors of napoleonica from far and near to order the medals Denon also published lists of them – arranged in chronological order of the event commemorated, with the title, size and metal of the pieces. One such extant list (a facsimile of which is given in the book) shows how a certain Mr. Palmer from London purchased an entire set in bronze as early as 16 August, 1815. This set, with its original custom made leather casing with eight drawers, subsequently found its way into the collection of Dr. Lothar Hardt, and it was using this collection that the expert coin photographer, Manfred Czastka, provided the excellent colour images for the book, which show the medals not only in their original size but also in threefold enlargement.

As Vivant Denon continued in his above-cited letter “Only medals bear witness to glory throughout the centuries.” As if in confirmation of this, it is remarkable to note that the Paris medal mint, housed on the bank of the Seine, is still striking Napoleon’s medals today.

The book was researched and written by a father/daughter team: Dr. Lisa Zeitz is an art correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in New York. Dr. Joachim Zeitz is an orthopaedic doctor in Bad Homburg and author of two books on medals from his native region, the former Grand Duchy of Baden.


Antoines DE CAUNES, Monsieur N.
1815. After the Hundred Days and his brief return to power, Napoleon, defeated, asked the British for asylum. But they treated him as a prisoner of war and sent him to Saint Helena, in the company of a group of followers, some faithful, others cynical. How could Napoleon, the man of all battles, the genius of military and political strategy, bear to accept this imprisonment on the high seas? What system of defence – or rather attack – would he adopt to escape the grasp of his jailers?
On Saint Helena, on an unreachable island chosen by his enemies, Napoleon fought a mysterious battle, his last and most important. The battle that history had never told…

Watch the video: The Napoleonic Wars PARTS 1-6