Last six months of the year 1804.
From June to the end of December (messidor year XII, to nivose year XIII)
DECREE OF ORGANIZATION.
One could today compare the old Imperial Guard with these splendid monuments of the Middle Ages, which acquire as growing old new titles from the admiration of men. Thirty years have hardly passed since this heroic phalanx ceased to exist any more, and yet, it is still present before our eyes and in our memories with all its glory and all its fame, with its flags burned by the fires of the sun and grapeshot, with its eagles of gold and its scintillating stars.
Some historians claimed that Napoleon, as of his accession to the empire, had thought of creating companies of bodyguards, especially attached to guard his person. This is an error: he never conceived such an idea; he would have fears, with reason, that the institution would be far too like these privileged corps of monarchs not to wound the hearts of his faithful Consular Guard, susceptible like a mistress, and to which he returned its rightful pompous title of Imperial Guard.
(DECREE—THE CONSULAR GUARD WILL TAKE IN THE FUTURE THE TITLE OF THE IMPERIAL GUARD)
Indeed, this metamorphosis did not take long; it took place naturally by means of a decree of thermidor 10 year XII (July 29, 1804), in which it was stated textually as: “The Consular Guard will take in the future the title of Imperial Guard; it will continue to be especially attached to the service of my person, and will receive the new following organization, i.e.:”
“ART. 1st. The Imperial Guard will be made up for year XII and year XIII in the following way:
To each regiment of infantry
will be attached a battalion of vélites, and to that of the Horse Chasseurs
a company of Mamelucks.
There also will be a company of Veterans of the Guard.”
“ART. 2. The staff will be composed of four colonels-généraux, who will command:
The colonels-généraux will receive their orders directly from the Emperor.”
“ART. 3. Each regiment of
infantry will be composed of a staff, two battalions of grenadiers and
chasseurs, and one battalion of vélites for each one of these regiments.
“ART. 4. The staff of an infantry regiment will be made up in the following way, namely:
“ART. 5. Each foot grenadier or chasseur company will be made up of:
(Officer Flag Bearer of the Foot Grenadiers, and a Foot Grenadier, in dress uniform.)
“ART. 6. Each company of vélites will be made up in the following way, i.e.:
“ART. 7. The officers and
non-commissioned officers of the vélites companies will be provided
by the regiments of grenadiers and chasseurs to which they are attached;
they will be used by it, for duty, for one year, except those taken
to the staff, and the sergeant majors and quartermasters of the companies
who will remain there indefinitely.
“ART. 8. The Emperor will regulate the number of the masters of reading, arithmetic, drawing and military training (gymnastics) which he considers suitable to attach to each battalion of vélites, as well as the treatment that these masters will enjoy.
Each body of vélites will have a riding school; a company will be commanded by officers of cavalry.”
“ART. 9. Each regiment of horse grenadiers and chasseurs will be composed of a staff and four squadrons of two companies each.”
“ART. 10. The staff of a cavalry regiment of grenadiers or chasseurs will be made up in the following way, namely:
“ART. 11. Each company of horse grenadiers or chasseurs will be made up thus, i.e.:
The colonels of each regiment of foot or horse could
be brigadier generals, and, in this case, they will enjoy the salaries
assigned to their rank.
(Foot Chasseur, winter dress uniform, and an officer of the Foot Grenadiers in walking out dress.)
“ART. 12. The company of Mamelucks will be attached to the regiment of the Horse chasseurs, and will be composed as follows, namely:
“ART. 13. The old men, women and children of the same nation that have taken refuge along with this company will receive and be granted, on the review of the inspector, the help due to them, and the list of items will be decreed by the Emperor.”
“ART. 14. The corps of artillery will be composed of a staff, of one light artillery squadron, one section of workmen (ouvriers), and four companies of train.”
“ART. 15. Staff of the artillery:
“ART. 16. Each artillery company will be made up in the following way, i.e.:
“ART. 17. The section of artillery workmen (ouvriers) will be composed of:
“ART. 18. There will be nine employees of the park.
“ART. 19. The 4 companies of the train will be commanded by a captain-commander, and each company will be made up in the following way, namely:
LEGION OF ELITE GENDARMERIE.
“ART. 20. The corps of gendarmes will be made up as it is prescribed by the decree of 28 ventose year X (19 March 1802), of a staff, two squadrons each one of two companies, and a half battalion made of two companies.”
“ART. 21. The staff of the legion of elites will be made up in the following manner, i.e.:
“ART. 22. Each corps will be composed of:
“ART. 23. Each company of foot gendarmes will be made up of:
(Drum major and drummer of the Foot Grenadiers)
“ART. 24. The battalion of seamen (marins) will include a staff and five crews.”
“ART. 25. The staff will be composed of:
“ART. 26. Each crew of sailors will be composed of:
“ART. 27. A depot for the
seamen will be formed in Paris, intended to constantly hold five complete
crews of sailors.
“ART. 28. The seamen of the Guard will be picked up in the various districts of the classes, but in major part, for the first formation, those in the South of France and on the island of Corsica.”
“ART. 29. The officers, mariners and sailors composing the depot, will be subjected to the same discipline, and will enjoy the same privileges as those of the crews of the battalion of the seamen of the Guard.”
“ART. 30. Each individual who is a part of the battalion of sailors will be allocated, 12 francs per man per annum, for his maintenance allowance.”
“ART. 31. Each crew will have an officer attached, moreover, these are taken from among the lieutenants.”
“ART. 32. The battalion of the sailors will have:
“ART. 33. The officers composing the battalion of the seamen will receive the same housing allowance as that granted to the other officers of the Guard.”
* For the various changes brought successively in the corps of the sailors see the special article entitled The Sailors of the Guard, placed at the beginning of BOOK VIII of our work.
“ART. 34. A veterans company will be made up of officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of all arms of the Guard, as their seniority, their wounds or their infirmities place them in a state unable to return to continue active service to their corps; however only the men who, being in this condition, that have already served at least five years, either in the Consular Guard, or in the Imperial Guard will be admitted to this company.”
“ART. 35. The composition of the company of veterans will be the same one as that of a company of Foot Grenadiers, at the head of which there will be a battalion head, who will provide an accounting directly to the colonel commanding the Foot Grenadiers.”
“ART. 36. The pay and the allowances will be the same as those of the Foot Grenadier Regiment; the administration of this company will be made by the council of the aforesaid regiment.”
HOSPITAL OF THE GUARD.
“ART. 37. The Hospital of Gros-Caillou will continue to be especially made up for the corps of the Imperial Guard, under the monitoring of the colonels-généraux, and more particularly under that of the Commissioner of Wars; they will regulate the administration of the aforesaid hospital in the most suitable way for the well being of the patients, and the interest of the allowances intended for this service.”
“ART. 38. The number of the medical officers will remain the same one as that fixed by the decree of the 17 ventose year X (8 March, 1802).”
The Emperor named all the medical officers to their positions
in the Guard, based upon the nomination of the colonels-généraux
of the army, and the medical officers of the hospital, on the nomination
of the four colonels-généraux.
Each regiment of infantry, cavalry, foot and horse artillery
of an arm, and each battalion of the train, prepared a list of six non-commissioned
officers or soldiers likely to be called upon to belong to the Guard,
having met the measurements of the needs of that Corps.
For the battalions of the train, same time in service, and height of one meter 678 millimeters at least (5 feet 2 inches).
The subjects were constantly to be distinguished by their moral and military conduct.
The formation of these lists was the responsibility of the corps chiefs; their choice was to encompass all the men who were present in the corps or whom were detached from it.
“No corps head,” said the decree, “can refuse to place non-commissioned officers on this list, under pretext that while entering the Guard, they are obliged to give up their rank, because, if these non-commissioned officers are in that case to make a temporary sacrifice, they will soon attain an advance which will compensate them in this elite troop, if they are led well.”
In accordance with the intentions of the Emperor, these lists were presented to the Inspector-Generals of arms, and, in their absence, the Generals commanding the departments, who were charged to pass in review the designated men, and to approve definitively the lists to which they were responsible, while certifying, in the report of the heads, for the candidates who belonged to the detached battalions or squadrons, that they had all the necessary qualities.
[Foot Grenadier (non-commissioned officer), summer walking out dress.—Foot Grenadier musician, parade dress.]
These lists were formed in duplicate; they indicated
the last and first names of the subjects, their rank, age, size, birthplace
and the department; the residence and the profession which they were
in before entering to the service, and finally the profession of their
parents: these lists contained, moreover, the details of the service
and campaigns of the candidates.
UNIFORMS AND ARMAMENTS.
Various corps of the Imperial Guard.
“Being at Tilsit with Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia,” said Napoleon at Sainte-Helena, “I was most ignorant of facts about military uniforms. These two sovereigns, the King of Prussia especially, were perfectly aware of the details of the number of buttons, which a coat was to have, in front, and behind; how the turnbacks, the facings and the collar were to be cut. Not a tailor of the army knew better than King William how much cloth one needed to make a great coat (capote) or a pair of gaiters. Finally,” he said while laughing, “I added that I could not compete with them. They continuously tormented me with questions of which I did not understand a word, though not to offend anybody, I answered as seriously as if the fate of an army had depended on the cut of a jacket. The first time that I went to see the King of Prussia, I found in his chamber, instead of a library, a large room, with the aspect of an arsenal, furnished with shelves and wall hooks to which fifty or sixty uniforms in various ways were hung, it was his guard’s robes; each day, he changed costume and put on a different dress from that of the day before. He appeared to attach so much money to the cut of the dress of a dragoon or a hussar, that he did not have any for the preservation of his kingdom.”
“At Jena, the Prussian army, I must still acknowledge,” the Emperor remarked, “carried out the most brilliant maneuvers in the world; but soon, I made him know the difference that there was between carrying out beautiful maneuvers, wearing rich uniforms and to know how to fight. If,” Napoleon added while finishing, “the French Army had been commanded that day by a tailor, it would certainly have gained a victory; but success usually, in these kinds of businesses, depends on the skill of the General who commands rather, than on the tailor who cuts out the clothes, the Prussian army was completely beaten.”
One would be wrong however to take too literally in this letter of what Napoleon said about the uniforms of his army; but while scoffing at the mania of the King at Prussia, nobody more than the Emperor wanted that the officers of his Guard were distinguished from the other officers of the army by the magnificence from the uniform. Those of the various corps of the Imperial Guard were remarkable not only for the severity and the richness of their ornaments, but also by cleanliness and a variety of nuances hitherto ignored in the French Armies. We will give here a meticulous description of clothing and armament of each regiment of the Guard, by indicating their various dress [like parade (grand) and walking out (petite); winter dress and summer dress), as well as the luxury articles which were assigned to them by the regulations.
With the formation of the Imperial Guard, a bonnet plate
of brass representing in relief a crowned eagle holding thunderbolts
in its talons, with two small grenades in each angle of the bottom of
this plate, replaced that of the Consular Guard that had the Republican
fasces. The brass buttons also carried a crowned eagle.
The cartridge pouch was decorated by a large eagle similar to
that on the bonnet plate, and with a small grenade in each angle of
bottom, with the flame turned toward the inside.
Grenadier coat: on each arm a crossed double axe, embroidered out of gold on red; epaulettes and sword knot of a sergeant, gold shoulder straps and grenades. Bonnet without plate; saber with broad blade, hilt with the head of cock *. Axe with black handle and copper trimming. White apron as was all the remaining leatherwork.
* The creation of the sappers dates only from the reign of Louis XIV. One finds the first indication of this troop in the lists of regiments of 1674. As in this time the sappers were, in their capacity as ancient soldiers, specially appointed as the camp guard, the handle of their sabers were decorated with a head of a cock, symbolizing vigilance.
The parade (grande) uniform of the drum
major was the grenadier coat, braided on all the seams in gold lace,
with ribbons (lames) and crests (crêtes) of 15 line of width; collar,
reverse and facings edged with the same lace; braided pocket flaps in
the same manner; gold grenades embroidered on white; Brandenburgs, the
buttons of the reverses and those of the pockets of gold gros bouillons;
quartermaster-sergeant stripes on the sleeves.
(Horse Grenadier, soldier, parade dress, and Officer, walking out dress).
“Parade uniform: Grenadier coat; gold lace mixed with red wool of 10 lines, bordering
the collar, turnbacks, facings and linings of Basque; 6 line lace on
the sleeve flaps; gold losange with the folds; gold and red Brandenburgs
on the turnbacks and the turns of pockets; gold grenades.
“Parade uniform: Royal blue, of the same cut as those of the grenadiers; reverses,
straps (pattes), facings, collar, braid and lining crimson; collar,
facings, reverse and sleeve straps of bordered in gold lace of 10 lines,
in a simple diagonal stripe (à baton simple); linings of the tails of
the coat edged in the same way; gold Brandenburgs with simple fringes,
reverses, folds and buttons of pockets.
Gold clover on crimson in place of epaulettes.
“*Among the musicians of Foot Grenadiers of the Guard, we will note among others: MISTERS Guebeaur, Band Leader; Blangie, Assistant Leader; Letopès, First Clarinet; Caussades, idem; Jassinte, Clarinet; Drapeau, idem; Fouquet, Oboe; Waguener, idem; Dubois, Small Flute; Guebeaur (cadet), Bassoon; Féval, idem; Mangin, Trombone; Evrard, First Horn; Mazeau, Horn, etc, etc.
“And among those of the Foot Chasseurs: MISTERS Martin, Band Leader; Petit, Assistant Leader; Pelport, First Clarinet; Bergeret, Clarinet; Cassignol, idem; Michel, idem; Bertolin, idem; Wermann, idem; Tribert, idem; Cechaps, Clarinet; Blanc, idem; Gauthier, First Horn; Mathieu, Horn; Laurent, Oboe; Persillié, idem; Leclaire, Trumpet; Klett, idem; Masconneau, Bassoon, Chérié, idem; Kircoff, Small Flute; Mauclair, Trombone, etc, etc.
“Dress entirely the same as the Foot Grenadiers. White jacket (veste), breeches of white leather,
(Horse Chasseurs (Guides), walking out and parade uniforms)
“Saddle like the dragoon; cover out of royal blue cloth, bordered of a double lace of yellow wool, and decorated with crowns in the rear angles. Holster cover (chaperons) of three parts in same cloth, bordered with the same lace. Bridle of the heavy cavalry and bit with bosses carrying a grenade. Snaffle-bridle of yellow wool. Rosettes of the head and tail in red wool, with tassels of white wire, decorating the fasteners (ferrets). Front piece (frontal) red wool.
Blue cloth cloak roll, having at its ends a grenade surrounded by a double lace of yellow wool.
Parade uniform: Green cloth Dolman furnished with yellow wool braided lace and fringes,
green collar, red facings.
“Saddle like the hussar, furnished with copper at the rear end. Shabraque bottle green cloth, with yellow lace and crowns in the angles. Blanket roll, out of green cloth, with yellow lace at the ends; breast strap bearing a copper heart; bridle decorated with copper and bridle-bit without bosses *.
* All the other regiments of light cavalry of the Guard thereafter the same had the same harnessing which varied only by the color of the cloth or by that of the laces, according to the affected uniform with the unit.
“The uniform of the Mamelucks was a rich Turkish costume.
It varied in the uniform dress, according to the taste and the
whim of their commander. The mamelucks usually wore a blue turban surrounding
a red cap surmounted with a brass crescent; the sky blue jacket (veste)
was cut in an Eastern style with black olives, laces and trimmings.
The waistcoat (gilet) was red without trimming, and the belt
similar to that of the horse chasseurs. Red trousers extremely broad (baggy) called
in the style of the mameluck, and yellow boots.
(Elite Gendarme and Sapper of the Foot Grenadiers)
The standard was of a Turkish form: a black horsetail, surmounted by a gilded copper ball.
For the officers, the ornaments and embroideries were out of gold and the boots of blue morocco.
“The same cut of coat (habit) as that of the horse grenadiers,
royal blue; reverses, facings and turnbacks red; pockets configured
transversely; white grenades on the turnbacks; white buttons. Jacket (veste) and breeches yellow leather;
riding boots. Clover and aiguillettes
on the left, white.
“The uniform of the foot grenadiers, with reverses and
collar blue edged in red.
HORSE ARTILLERY, called light artillery.
“Same cut of uniform as the horse chasseurs. Dolman, pelisse and tight trousers of royal
blue cloth, decorated with lace, cording, braiding and olives of red
wool. Dolman with red facings. Blue waistcoat (gilet), red laces and braids.
“Dress coat (habit veste), out of sky blue cloth; collar,
reverses right and square, facings round; sleeve cuffs three pointed,
out of royal blue cloth, red edging; Basque lining of royal blue cloth;
red edging; braid of the pockets configured out of scarlet cloth, turnbacks
furnished with scarlet cloth grenades; small white buttons with the
eagle. Epaulettes and sword knots red.
(Officer, standard-bearer of the Mamelucks and trumpeter of the Horse Chasseurs)
“Jacket (veste) of blue cloth decorated with braids
of yellow wool, blue collar, red cloth facings. Red cloth waistcoat (gilet). Broad
blue cloth trousers with a yellow wool lace on the seams, and a braided
Hungarian knot on the front. The
blue cloth overcoat (capote). Brass
(Foot Cannoneer and Officer of the Light Artillery)
Near the end of the Consulate some innovative bald people of the Grand General Staff had tried to persuade the First Consul that nothing was more disparate to the eye than the braids and queues of the infantry and cavalry of the line; while the infantry and cavalry of the Consular Guard wore their hair comparatively short. Napoleon, who, usually, did not bring great attention to the often-puerile observations of these Messrs, finally however, responded with a languid indifference to their tendency to always repeat the same thing, or conviction, by being of their opinion.
At some after this (in the month July 1804, being then an Emperor), Napoleon passed in review at the court of Tuileries all of the Paris garrison. This day, which was a Sunday, the heat had been extreme and a violent stormy shower had occurred during the operations. On returning to the palace, and while the heads of corps who had accompanied him circled around him in the room of the marshals:
— Definitely, Messrs, Napoleon tells them, I do not want more troops with hair covered in hats. In whatever manner that it is positioned on the head, there is always a horn, which makes a gutter. They are as disgraceful to the sight as harmful to health of the soldier. And this then isn't the only ridiculous thing to see, one day of rain or a hot summer day, as we had today both at the same time, finds a soldier with the collar of his coat covered with a whitish paste, his hair badly contained in an ambiguous ribbon, a face with cheeks streaming with a milky water, and all that covered with a skimpy felt, badly cocked sides, which saves the face from neither the rain nor of sun? It was in Italy and Egypt that it failed to save those poor devils! In truth I suffered for them.
—Sire, what should we make of that? One of the heads of corps objected, it is the ordinance.
—The ordinance! The ordinance! Retorted Napoleon, it is not those, which upsets me, but the dress, and still more the health of the soldier. Nothing is easier to keep clean than close cropped hair; nothing is more advantageous than a shako or a grenadiers’ bonnet even for the cavalry; but what embarrasses me most, is not to adopt a uniform hairstyle for the remainder of the army as for my Guard, it is not to cut off all these useless braids and all these queues.
—How! Sire, said the same officer, Your Majesty would like to shear everyone indistinctly!
—Yes, Sir, like sheep.
—Sire, Your Majesty, would even make the senior officers cut off these beautiful braids that go so well with their faces?
—It is precisely with them that I want to start.
—Perhaps he is an officer who did not agree to it, not to mention an old colonel who dates from the Republic, and whose queue was of a monstrous volume.
—I would like to see that, colonel gentleman! Napoleon exclaimed by throwing a fiery glance on this last. I would like to see that the men who only owe to me what they are today, that my soldiers, in a word, to perceive them to hesitate in the least! It is enough that I want it! Was my Guard seen to utter a word when I required all of them to cut their hair?
And Napoleon, promptly passing a hand over his head added:
—Do I carry a queue, on me! Do I not have close-cropped hair?
With these words, Junot, who hitherto had abstained from delivering his opinion, was caught saying merrily:
—The soldiers of the Guard, Sire, don’t call Your Majesty the Little-Sheared (Petite-Tondu) for nothing.
In this observation of his aide-de-camp, Napoleon smiled in spite of himself.
—Ah well! Reason enough! He began again; a soldier must always follow the example of his leader. I know well that some fops (godelureaux), some Adonis of the staff will not be very-satisfied; but then those who will not be content...
And without completing his sentence, Napoleon crossed the hands behind his back and started to walk in the midst of the circle of officers, who surrounded him. After a silence that no one dared to interrupt, he began again:
—Moreover I will speak about it to Bessières and Murat. I will start by requiring of Murat the sacrifice of his head of hair in the style of Louis XIV, which is only ridiculous with our practices and military costume. It is for the heads of the army to show the example of obedience: I want neither braids, neither tails, neither powder, nor pomade. Thanks to God, we are no longer in the time when the soldiers carried clubs (catogan) and Marshals of France wore wigs.
Having spoken, Napoleon dismissed all those who were present.
The evening of the same day, Murat, who had attended the review of the morning, came in the evening to the palace, in his capacity as governor of Paris, to take the orders of the Emperor.
—Sire, he said, may I dare ask Your Majesty if he was content with the procession of the cavalry, he honored me by placing me at the head?
—Very-content, my dear marshal; but, Napoleon added by intentionally stopping with glances on the long hair and curls of his brother-in-law, if you had made me cut off all the braids and queues of your riders, I would have been even more satisfied.
Murat judging that the Emperor was not as content as he wanted not to say it openly, and knowing better than anyone that there was nothing to reply, bowed and was lost in the crowd of the General officers who started to encumber the large gallery of the palace. With his ordinary tact, he had understood that the reign of the queues was going to pass without return and that Napoleon had just erased forever from the Empire the military style, that illustrated at one time both by the hussars of Berchini and the Constitutional Guard of Louis XVI, of which even he had formerly belonged. At the end of the gallery, he met Marshal Bessières, one of the Colonel-Generals of the Guard, whose formidable queue had grown popular in the army.
—Ah well! My dear, he said by approaching him in the both a sad and joking tone at the same time, you heard the words of the Emperor a few moments ago: no more queues!... Accept in advance my compliments of condolence on the approaching downfall of yours.
—My dear, the young marshal answered coldly, the root of the queue is similar to me as the one that goes to the heart, and the Emperor, with all his power, could not come to reach a point to cut it. I wish, added Bessières while supporting these words, that our old comrades of Italy and Egypt be less recalcitrant than me on this subject.
It is seen that Bessières knew well the type of idolatry and childish tenderness that the old soldiers carried for their queue. In the end, this attachment that the soldiers then showed for their hair was not a new thing. Tacitus, in its History of the Germans, and Julius Caesar, in his Commentaries, teach us that warlike trappings from long hair and wearing moustaches; and that none of these warriors had survived the shame of seeing themselves by cutting the one, or shaving the other. But Napoleon had foreseen all the good which was to result from such a measure: he still spoke about it the following day with Murat who, inwardly, was of the same opinion as Bessières, but who did not dare or did not want to express a contrary feeling with that of the Master. The Emperor said to him extremely laconically:
—My Guard alone will wear the queue; still it must not be more than two inches: such will be the ordinance. *
* Indeed, a regulation dated from
the Pont-de-Brique (Boulogne), of the 8 fructidor year XII (26 August
1804), addressed to the heads of corps, said that the six corps of the
Imperial Guard, indicated as follows, would wear only the queue, namely: The veterans, the mamelucks and the sailors, although also forming part
of the Guard, were to have short hair.
The veterans, the mamelucks and the sailors, although also forming part
of the Guard, were to have short hair.
The majority of the young General officers adopted with enthusiasm the project of Napoleon and posted, in the quarters and barracks, an agenda in which, after having emphasized the advantages to wearing short hair, it was announced that the soldiers of the Guard would like to cut their queues to the measurement of the new ordinance and removing their braids would be a useful thing for themselves and pleasing to their colonel; but the name of the Emperor did not appear in any manner in this piece. The very same day of this publication, the wig makers of the Military Academy, of the Bonaparte district, of Célestins, of Vincennes, of Coubevoie and of Ruel, where the different regiments, of infantry and cavalry of the Guard were quartered, cut off more than two thousand queues, but in the same evening there were more than twenty duels, and that because a soldier who drank in a cabaret of the barrier with a comrade who had been sheared in the morning, had called him a poodle. The comrade had answered him:
—I would still rather resemble a poodle than have a head with a wig like you.
From these words, they passed from there to menaces. The two soldiers had fought, the comrades had taken up the case for one and the other: this quarrel of the cabaret would have degenerated into an affair of the corps if the leaders had not hastened to intervene.
Napoleon was informed of this collision by the particular reports, which were addressed to him in Aix-la-Chapelle where he was then. He wrote to Marshal Bessières, while saying to him among other things, in a letter, dated from the 23 fructidor year XII (September 10, 1804): “that it had to be made so that nobody mutinied, and for that, it was not absolutely necessary to convict.” He also engaged him to say to the corps chiefs that: “They did not employ what they called the Prussian ways;” and finished by this sentence: “Persuade your men, nothing must be tried by force.” Marshal Bessières addressed to the Emperor the detailed facts of their after actions, while pointing out to him that in a garrison as large as that of Paris, it was impossible to hope, while thinking of the spirit of corps which animated all the regiments of the Guard, that such a complete change in the usual dress of the soldiers could suddenly took place and without opposition. “It is still happy, he added, that the ordered reform did not cause more disorder.” Finally the Marshal finished his report by saying that he could carry out this measure only gradually, but that moreover, he answered to its whole execution.
Indeed, to arrive at this goal, the brave marshal, although he was by no means in favor of the measure (and this is so true, that he kept his queue until the last day of his life) *, did not neglect anything, and went himself to the Military Academy, spoke to the non-commissioned officers who displayed the most fervor to push back the change of hairstyle; because these are always the swells (faraude) of the regiments. However, at the beginning of the Empire, the swells’ costume consisted mainly in a queue well tied up, pomaded, powered and decorated with a black ribbon, which formed a type of bouillonnée rosette. The more colossal this queue was, the more the infantryman proudly showed this natural ornament; as for the rider (Chasseurs of the Guard especially, in other words the guides), it was displayed by knitted braids of a width of three fingers and falling perpendicularly down to the chest, by means of small lead strips, attached at the ends. However, little by little the queues and the braids of the most recalcitrant fell under the scissors of the wig makers of the regiments, and soon after, the latecomers were the first to praise the excellence of the new hairstyle.
* In BOOK XIII of our work, i.e. the year 1808, we will speak of the death of this famous marshal.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2005
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