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In “The interior of the Oplotheca in Brook St. Bond
St. being the finest Collection of Ancient Armour in Europe, now open for public inspection” from 1816 drawn by William Marshall and viewable on-line at
the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the case containing these arms can be seen in the back right. The guns
are below the scale armor (no. 16 in the catalog) attributed as worn by Napoleon under his clothes to protect himself from assassination. The value of one thousand Louis reported to have been paid to Boutet would be the equivalent of 20,000 francs, a tremendous sum. Following the exhibition at the Oplotheca, the garniture was put on display at the Gothic Hall and the Royal Armoury before being sold in 1833 as “Napoleon’s case of fire arms, etc.”The garniture was purchased by Robert Dillon, 3rd Lord Clonbrock (1807-1893), and remained with his descendants until sold in 1976 at Christies in London. The original case for the garniture was later replaced with a display case and has since been lost to time.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) needs little introduction as he remains arguably the most famous individual in French history and is one of the most well-known figures in European and world history. He was born in Corsica but was later educated in France including in Brienne at the military college and at the military academy in Paris where he graduated rather low in his class (42 out of 58), but in actual military service he excelled and rose through the ranks. In 1793, he took command of the National Convention’s artillery and was promoted to major in September and then adjutant general just a month later. He was wounded by a bayonet in December but was able to help drive the British troops supporting the French monarchy from Toulon and was promoted to brigadier general. His leadership caught the attention of Robespierre, and in February 1794, Napoleon was made commandant of the French artillery in Italy.
The French Revolution was full of dramatic rises and falls of various significant figures, and shifting political alliances all too often led to tragic consequences. When Robespierre was arrested and guillotined, Napoleon was also arrested and charged with conspiracy and treason due to his connection to the former French revolutionary leader. Unlike Robespierre, he was released with his neck intact shortly thereafter. After
a period out of the military, he was made second in command under Paul Barras and put down rebels opposing the National Convention in the fall of
1795. He was then made commander of the Army
of the Interior under the Directory led government established in November 1795 and then commander
in chief of the Army of Italy in March of 1796. His subsequent actions are what are said to have led to
the presentation of this incredibly array of arms by
the Directory in 1797. Napoleon led the Army of Italy against the Austrians and Sardinians. He first succeeded in defeating the Sardinians leading to a peace treaty with King Victor Amadeus III that was favorable to the French Republic, including the annexation of Nice
and Savoy. He then pressed on against the Austrians leading to armistices with the Duke of Parma, Duke of
Modena, and Pope Pius VI. He defeated four attacks
by the Austrians, culminating in his victory at Rivoli in January 1797 and the fall of Mantua. He then marched his army towards Vienna forcing the Austrians to sign
government. Given the importance of this action to the Directory in 1797, it may have been part of the genesis for the presentation of the garniture, as this action plus the signing of the Treaty of Camp Formio with Austria
potential rise to authority by this time and were all too happy to send him far from Paris. However, Napoleon’s string of victories, including the capture of Malta, Alexandria, and the Nile delta threatened not only
the British Empire’s fortunes but also the Directory’s political power as his fame continued to grow. However, the defeat of the French fleet by Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of the Nile threatened to destroy Napoleon’s army and thus his reputation and source of power. He was trapped on land, and now also opposed by the Ottomans who declared war on France. Napoleon struck out into Syria and besieged Acre but was forced to retreat back to Egypt in defeat after suffering heavy losses.
With Napoleon’s fortunes in decline and thus those of the French Republic, the British, Austrians, Russians, and Ottomans united in the War of the Second Coalition and initially retook much of the territory Napoleon had previously helped secure. At the same time, the French government was again in turmoil. Fearing domination from outsiders and a restoration
of the monarchy that the revolutionaries had spilled
so much blood to destroy, the Directory now sought the return of Napoleon. He arrived in Paris on October 14, 1799. Per the catalog description, Napoleon wore the sword in this garniture in the Council of Five Hundred (lower house of the French legislature) during their violent reaction to the declaration of the end of the Directory led government, and his troops were brought in to remove the deputies in the Coup of 18-19 Brumaire. The government was replaced with the Consulate under the pretext of bringing peace
and stability to the republic which had been through successive waves of political unrest and bloodshed. The consuls consisted of Napoleon and former directors and Napoleon allies Emanuel Sieyes and Pierre-Roger Ducos. Though technically sharing power with Sieyes and Ducos, Napoleon as First Consul was essentially
in control of the republic and another step closer to becoming emperor of the French.
In addition to civil reforms, First Consul Bonaparte reorganized the armies in preparation for a campaign against the Austrians. The Russians had already withdrawn from the Second Coalition, and the British Isles remained out of his reach. He led one of the armies to victory at the Battle of Marengo on June
14, 1800. In conjunction with other French victories, this led to the Austrians again agreeing to peace and the signing of the Treaty of Luneville in February. This treaty secured for the French Republic the historic borders of Gaul from the days of Julius Caesar, and left only the British in opposition. Without allies, the British also soon agreed to peace. Thus, Napoleon had once again been victorious over multiple other European powers, expanded the borders of the French Republic, and secured peace in Europe. Naturally, his prestige
in France was at an all-time high. By referendum, the French voted to make Napoleon consul for life and gave him the power to designate a successor, another strong step towards becoming emperor.
Napoleon in the Coup of 18-19 Brumarie St. Cloud by François Bouchot, 1840
"The Sword is the One Bonaparte Carried in His Hand When He Drove the Council of Five Hundred Out of St. Cloud and Became First Consul"
-Original 1816 London Exhibition Brochure, Object No. 17
an armistice favorable to the French Republic giving it control of portions of the Netherlands and recognition of the republic in Lombardy.
As Napoleon was leading his army in a string of victories to the east, tensions were again fomenting in France. Napoleon called for the Directory to oppose the royalists and counterrevolutionaries by force and sent General Pierre-Francois-Charles Augereau and others to Paris to support the coup and remove them from the
led to greater prestige for Napoleon and continued
to push him further along his path to emperor. The Directory tasked him with preparing the French Army to invade the United Kingdom, but he advised the Directory that an invasion would not be possible without French control of the seas which remained dominated by the British Royal Navy. Instead, Napoleon suggested one of his most famous moves: an invasion of British controlled Egypt. As a popular and powerful general, the Directory certainly feared Napoleon’s

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