Napoleon's cloak, taken from the defeated Emperor's fleeing baggage train; a chair made from the tree that marked the Duke of Wellington's command post on the battlefield; and one of George IV's most prized possessions a table commissioned by Napoleon to immortalise his reign are among the unique artefacts from the Royal Collection
that will go on display at Windsor Castle to mark the 200th anniversary of the momentous battle.
Waterloo at Windsor: 1815 2015, a special exhibition and themed visit opening at the Castle this Saturday (31 January), brings together contemporary prints, drawings, maps and extraordinary 'souvenirs' from the battle. Many were acquired by George, Prince Regent (the future George IV), and reveal the monarch's fascination with the defeated French Emperor Napoleon. The centrepiece of the visit is the magnificent Waterloo Chamber, commissioned by the Prince as a lasting monument to the battle at the heart of Windsor Castle. Throughout 2015, the visitor route is extended to allow visitors to walk into and around the room for the first time.
Napoleon's striking red cloak, made of felt and embroidered in silk with elaborate scrolls and arabesques around the hood and breast, was removed from the Emperor's baggage train in the aftermath of the allied victory and presented to the Prince Regent by Field Marshal Blücher, who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington. Lined with yellow brocade, it is appliquéd with Napoleon's Imperial Eagle. Napoleon's silver-gilt porringer, a small bowl used for food, was also taken from the Emperor's train.
The Waterloo Chair, made from the elm tree that marked the Duke of Wellington's command post on the Waterloo battlefield, was presented to George IV in 1821. Commissioned by John Children from Thomas Chippendale the Younger, it is carved with a lion trampling the vanquished French standard in the village of Waterloo. A drawing of the elm tree by Children's daughter Anna, made during a visit to the battlefield with her father in 1818, will go on display for the first time.
The Table des Grands Capitaines (Table of the Great Commanders), commissioned by Napoleon to immortalise his reign, is decorated with the profile of Alexander the Great, the supreme military leader of antiquity, and other great commanders and philosophers. It is among the finest works of Sèvres porcelain ever produced, but it never left the factory and instead was presented to George IV by the restored French king, Louis XVIII, in gratitude for the allied victory. The table appears in all of George IV's State portraits, including the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence which hangs in the Waterloo Chamber.
Royal interest in Napoleon Bonaparte continued, and in 1855 George IV's niece, Queen Victoria, visited the tomb of the Emperor in the small chapel of St Jérome at the Church of the Invalides during a State Visit to Paris. Recording the experience in her journal, she wrote, I stood on the arm of Napoleon III:rd, before the coffin of his Uncle, our bitterest foe! I, the granddaughter of that King, who hated Napoleon most
& this very nephew, bearing his name now my nearest and dearest ally! The chapel is shown in Edward Matthew's oil painting The Tomb of Napoleon, 1856. Queen Victoria also acquired a cast of the Duke of Wellington's hands, which will go on display for the first time. Queen Mary (consort to King George V) acquired a number of silver-gilt pieces that had belonged to Napoleon, including a teapot and tea caddy engraved with the Emperor's coat of arms.
Exhibition curator, Kathryn Jones of Royal Collection Trust said, 'These objects, many collected by George IV, still resonate powerfully with their history, even 200 years after the turbulent events of Waterloo. Displayed in context at Windsor Castle, they give us an insight into the character of these two great military leaders Wellington and Napoleon'.