History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
The St. Helena carriage-Napoleon alarms the ladies—Certificates of authenticity.
THIS is the last carriage in which Napoleon is known to have ridden. On his first arrival at St. Helena he took much exercise in the saddle, but during and after the year 1818, until he ceased venturing beyond the precincts of Long-wood, he made constant use of this vehicle.
The following extract from Mr. Norwood Young's very valuable contribution to our Napoleonic literature, Napoleon in Exile at St. Helena, gives us an insight to the manner in which it was used :
After the dictation and the reading, Napoleon, in the afternoon, generally went for a drive, one of the ladies, with Bertrand or Las Cases, being taken in the carriage. The two Archambauds at first used six horses, afterwards reduced to four, which they drove, as postilions, at a great pace. The round of the wood, done at high speed, was soon covered, and the course would then be repeated. Madame de Montholon declared that they went so fast that it was difficult to breathe. At this rate the wood was so often driven round that, in spite of the excitement of dodging the trees, there came a staleness in the sport. In the early days the outing would be varied by a visit to the Bertrands at Hutt's Gate, and all the ladies became much alarmed as the vehicle dashed round the corners, with the terrible precipice on one side. It was indeed dangerous, for there were no barriers, and a little carelessness might have sent the whole party down the abyss. There is now in most places a low earth bank, a railing made of gas-pipes, and a plantation of flax at the edge, which at least conceals the danger.
When the Bertrands had moved from Hutt's Gate the drives never went beyond the Longwood estate, which has a circuit of about four miles.
Who built the carriage and how it came to be trans-ported to St. Helena, we know not. In type it is what was then—and for the matter of that is still—known as a "barouche."
Yellow and green are the prevailing colours in which the body has been enamelled, the former pre-dominating to a considerable extent.
Ponderously built throughout, as indeed were all travelling carriages of this period, the body is swung so that its full weight is cast upon the hind-wheels.
The under-carriage is strong and cumbersome, like that of the Waterloo carriage, standing by its side. Its heavy cee springs are overlaid by strong leather straps upon which the body is comfortably slung. The carriage is lined throughout with heavy green superfine cloth.
So far as its general appearance is concerned, it might well be designated as unexceptional. It has no mark or devices upon it to indicate that it constituted the equipage of a royal household, and the axle-caps have not even the maker's name upon them.
The following quotations from an old Catalogue published at the time when the conveyance was first installed in our collection of Napoleonic relics remove any doubt as to its authenticity :
237. CARRIAGE used by the Emperor Napoleon, during six years of his exile at St. Helena, and the last he ever entered. Certified by the Counts Montholon and Las Cases. The following is the letter, with description, from Mr. Blofeld, of whom it was purchased :
"In accordance with your request I send you the following brief particulars of the carriage used by the Emperor Napoleon at St. Helena. I purchased it in 1848, at that island, of Major Charles Sampson, an officer who had lived highly respected there for more than fifty years, and who gave me the following certificate :
" `Received from Mr. John Blofeld, for Bonaparte's old carriage, the first used by him on the Island of St. Helena. (Here follows the mount paid.)—(MAJOR) C. SAMPSON.'
"In 185o I went to Paris, where I showed it to General Count Montholon and Count Emanuel de las Cases; those gentlemen immediately recognised it, and both said they had frequently rode in it with the Emperor, and they most kindly gave me the following certificates, which, as you purchased the carriage, I en-close. General Montholon informed me that the Emperor always used it, drawn by four horses, ridden by two postilions, with the head of the carriage down.
("I hereby certify that the carriage shown to me at Paris by Mr. John Blofeld is the actual carriage used by the Emperor Napoleon at the Island of St. Helena.
" `I hereby certify that the carriage shown to me by Mr. John Blofeld, and purchased by him of Major C. Sampson, of St. Helena, is the actual carriage used by the Emperor Napoleon at that island.—EMANUEL
DE LAS CASES.'
"I remain, Dear Sirs,
"JOHN BLOFELD. "Messrs. Joseph and Francis Tussaud,
"London, Jan. 8, 1851."