Napoleon’s Last Horse Being Restored

Napoleon I's horse Le Vizir, at St. Helena, on display at the Musée de l'Armée in Paris, France. Source: BrokenSphere

Napoleon Bonaparte’s last horse, one of his favorites, was an Arabian stallion named “Le Vizir”. It was a gift from the Ottoman prime minister.

Le Vizir lived five years longer than Napoleon. When he died in 1826, he was stuffed on orders of Léon de Chanlaire, an officer of the imperial stables.

With the French Revolution bringing unrest to the country, Chanlaire was concerned that the “sans-culottes” would destroy the horse, so he sold it to an Englishman, William Clark, who was living in France.

Clark removed the horse’s stuffing so that it could be hidden in a trunk to avoid being noticed by customs officers. The horse was then smuggled into England and re-stuffed.

Le Vizir was placed on display in the Manchester Natural History Society in 1843.

When Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III, came to power in 1868, the horse was returned to France. “Everything linked to Napoleon I was welcome again then,” said Gregory Spourdos, a deputy curator at the Army Museum of Paris.

When Napoleon III was deposed by the Prussians in 1870, Le Vizir was put into storage in the Louvre. He spent about 30 years there before the Army Museum took him.

Now, nearly 200 years after his death, Le Vizir is being re-stuffed and restored by two expert taxidermists at the Army Museum.

About the only indignity Le Vizir was spared in his life and death was carrying Napoleon to his defeat in Waterloo – by then Le Vizir had been put to pasture.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE