4

France, Garde du Corps du Roi M1814 Officer’s Helmet, c. 1814.

Black varnished leather body and visors trimmed entirely with silver-plated copped fixtures. The body has two large palm leaf scrolls on each side with their curls forward, and the ends terminating behind a silver band that covers the seam between skull and rear visor. The front visor is edged in silver. A large sun ray plate embossed with crown over intertwined scrolls of palms crossing above the face of a deity, all above clouds with a bannered motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” (”without comparison under the sun”). Screwed to the skull, a crest with feather plume designs on both sides, holds a black chenille of horse hair cropped like a mane and falling forward over the front of the helmet. The ear bosses are sun rays behind the godly face at centre, and hold the scalloped, graduating chinscales to the helmet. The chinstraps fasten at the wearer’s chin with a cloth ribbon tie. On the left side, forward to the ear boss, a silver squared tube plume socket holds a two-tiered tulip cup holding the stem of a white cock feather plume. Interior sweatband of leather only. Green colour under the front visor and black under the rear visor. Say what you will about the Borurbon Restoration, but the excellent taste in uniforms the French possessed continued under them.

The Garde du Corps du Roi were the senior unit in the military branch of the Maison du Roi (King’s Household). It was disbanded in 1816.

Napoleon was capable of compartmentalizing his life, so that one set of concerns never spilled over into another – probably a necessary attribute for any statesman, but one he possessed to an extraordinary degree. ‘Different subjects and different affairs arranged in my head as in a cupboard,’ he once said. 'When I wish to interrupt one train of thought, I shut that drawer and open another. Do I wish to sleep? I simply close all the drawers and I am there – asleep.’ An aide-de-camp wrote of how much his staff 'admired the strength of his mind and the facility with which he could take off or fix the whole force of his attention on whatever he pleased.’ In the middle of this hurricane in his private life and the growing, gnawing realization that the woman he worshipped was at best lukewarm in her affections towards him, Napoleon was putting the finishing touches to a bold campaign plan that would lead to a string of seven more victories on top of the five already won, the capture  of Mantua, the expulsion of Austria from Italy after three centuries of Hapsburg rule.
—  Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts