Boney’s horse ‘an impostor’


Marengo may have never carried Napoleon into battle

From The Sunday Times, 19th April 2015

NAPOLEON’S light grey Arab charger, Marengo, captured from the battlefield at Waterloo 200 years ago and whose skeleton has long been on display, has been exposed as a fake.

The horse became a public sensation when first paraded in London: it was said to have carried the emperor into battle for 16 years, surviving eight wounds and the retreat from Moscow. But now the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London, is facing demands to explain its provenance after it emerged that Napoleon never owned or rode a horse called Marengo.

Gareth Glover, treasurer of the Waterloo Association, concludes in his book, Waterloo in 100 Objects, published this month: “No horse listed in the Imperial stable books ( there are 1,732 entries) [is] called Marengo. It is very unlikely that a horse born in 1792-3 as claimed could have survived until 1832. All in all it would seem that Marengo is probably a fake to fleece a credulous public with a manufactured name and history.’

Jill, Duchess of Hamilton, who researched its origins for Marengo, the Myth of Napoleon’s Horse, said the museum should now explain its provenance.

David Bownes, the museum’s assistant director, collections, said although it ‘continues to believe that the horse was ridden by Napoleon at Water,oo’ it could not ‘offer a definitive statement about the provenance of the skeleton’ before further research.

Desmond Clarke, whose great-great grandfather Lieutenant Henry Petre brought the horse back to Britain, said he had saved it from looters. ‘He would have had no concept of the celebrity status that Marengo was to attract many years later. Perhaps the myths surrounding Marengo honour all the horses that played such a crucial part in Napoleon’s remarkable story.’

Le Vizir, another of Napoleon’s horses is at the Musee de L’Armee in Paris.

BBC NEWS …From what may be flogging a dead horse, to a literally dead horse, with the shock news on a potential fake inside the National Army Museum.

Generations of pub quiz goers have been able to confidently state that Napoleon rode a light grey stallion called Marengo, at the Battle of Waterloo.

However the Sunday Times says researchers have challenged the very existence of Marengo, whose bones – or those of another horse – are preserved at the NAM in Chelsea, London.

They point out that not only is it extremely unlikely that a battle horse would have lived from 1792 to 1832, when the museum’s horse died, but there is no record of a horse named Marengo in French military stable rolls of the time.

Historian Gareth Glover says, “All in all it would seem that Marengo is probably a fake, produced to fleece a credulous public with a manufactured name and history.”

The museum says it is doing more research into the provenance of its equine skeleton.

Unlike Marengo, this story might run and run.