Marengo The Myth of Napoleon’s Horse

The moving story of Marengo, ‘Bonaparte’s personal charger’ and ‘favourite horse’, whose career spanned the whole of the Napoleonic Wars.

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With a bullet lodged in his tail and the imperial cipher of a crowned letter ‘N’ burnt on his left flank, a diminutive Arab stallion drew crowds to Pall Mall, London, in 1823. Sightseers came to gaze at the horse advertised as ‘Bonaparte’s personal charger’, whose career had spanned the whole of the Napoleonic Wars, who, to the sound of marching songs, drums, pipes and gunfire, had trotted, cantered and galloped from the Mediterranean to Paris, Italy, Germany and Austria, and at the age of nineteen, had walked three thousand miles to Moscow and back.

Since then, both dead and alive, this horse with the same sonorous name as Napoleon’s great victory, Marengo, has been a star exhibit in Britain, At London’s earliest military museum his articulated skeleton was seen by Queen Victoria and displayed as the horse that had carried his master at Austerlitz in 1805, at Jena in 1806, at Wagram in 1809, in the Russian campaign of 1812, and at Waterloo in 1815. For over 150 years one of his hooves has stood on a gleaming sideboard in the Officers’ mess at Saint James’s Palace. Today his skeleton, described as ‘Napoleon’s favourite horse’, is the sole equine exhibit in the vast Waterloo Gallery at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London.

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