Vintage photos of veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, 1858

These remarkable photographs provide perhaps the only surviving images of Grand Army and Guard veterans actually wearing their original uniforms and insignia, although some of the uniforms are apparently designed by tailors from the 1850s.

All men - this time in their 70s and 80s - are wearing the St. Helena Medal, issued in August 1857 to all veterans of the Revolution and the War of the Empire.

The men were older when the pictures were taken, and some apparently struggled to stay still for the length of the camera's exposure (hence the blurriness on some pictures). But they all look impressive in their uniforms with epaulets, medallions, sashes and plumes.

The date of the event – ​​May 5, 1858 – explains the reason why these men were in Paris because it was the anniversary of Napoleon's death and veterans gathered in the capital every year on that date, as in May 1855 in the Times of London Noted: "The pillar base and railing of the Place Vendme appear to this day ornamented with annual offerings in memory of the man whose statue adorns the summit. The display of the garland of the immortals, and other such tributes, There is more than usual ... The old soldiers of the Empire paid their usual tribute at the same place yesterday. ”

On the same day, Prince Jerome and other dignitaries held a funeral service in the chapel of the participating Invalides. All the personnel of the Invalides and the soldiers of the First Empire were also present.

Napoleon's armies conquered much of Europe but French dominance rapidly collapsed after the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. The wars revolutionized European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, largely due to the application of modern mass recruitment.

The Napoleonic Wars resulted in the disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire and sowed the seeds of nationalism that led to the unification of Germany and Italy later in the century.

The global Spanish Empire began to unravel as the French occupation of Spain weakened Spain's hold on the Spanish colonies, leading to an opening for nationalist revolutions in Spanish America.

As a result of the Napoleonic Wars and the loss of other great powers, the British Empire became the most dominant world power for the next century.

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