Grenadiers à Cheval de la Garde Impériale (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #19)

I take my hat off to HaT, I think the manufacturer produced an excellent set with these Horse Grenadiers. A few more poses for both horse and riders alike wouldn’t have gone amiss, but the sculpting is excellent. The choice of subject should also be praised too; I know of no other 1/72 set produced on this iconic French regiment.

I decided to base them in snowy conditions partly for some variety, but mostly because I thought it a nice homage to the regiment’s notable engagement in the Battle of Eylau in 1807 where they rode in similarly wintry conditions (see below).

With no dramas in varnishing this time, I can honestly say that I greatly enjoyed painting this regiment. It was an interesting and rewarding subject to tackle. Now they take their place in my display cases (yes – I do have them) alongside the other regiments in the project, and I’m already turning my attention to what will be the 20th Regiment. All I will say at this stage is that this regiment are already primed and ready to go!

Pics and the usual brief biography below.

Biography: Grenadiers à Cheval de la Garde Impériale [France]

Originally a light horse regiment during the period of the Directory in France, they became ‘Grenadiers’ in 1797. Nicknamed the Giants, they subsequently formed a part of the newly created Consular Guard, and in 1804 was integrated into Napoleon’s newly created Imperial Guard to be brigaded with the Empress Dragoons.

Bessières, Guyot and Lepic numbered amongst their noble commanders. The Grenadiers à Cheval initially found fame with their actions against the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo. The charge by the Consular Guard late in the day helped turn defeat into victory and, in Napoleon’s own words, the regiment had “covered itself with glory“.

Years later, the regiment fought fiercely at the great Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. In this engagement, the Grenadiers à Cheval successfully charged the Russian Chevalier Guards, forcing them to flight and inflicting heavy casualties for minimal loss.

In 1807, at the Battle of Eylau, the regiment was called upon at a critical moment, smashing through the Russian lines. The survivors were surrounded and were called upon to surrender. Their commander (Lepic) extravagantly and defiantly refused, leading the regiment in a charge right back to French lines. Despite heavy losses the Grenadiers retrieved the situation successfully and Napoleon would achieve his costly victory.

A couple of tours of duty in the Peninsula campaign and engagements at the battles of Aspern-Essling and Wagram against the Austrians were to follow. The invasion of Russia by the Grande Armee saw the regiment uncommitted by a cautious Napoleon at Borodino but later employed in Moscow as police! The long retreat and its privations took its toll on the Grenadiers but 500 returned still mounted with hundreds of others on foot.

In 1813, the Battle of Leipzig and the retreat to France would cost the lives of the regiment’s commanders Bessières and his successor Walther. Desperate and brave actions at the battles of La Rothière, Château-Thierry and Montmirail, saw the Grenadiers break many Coalition squares, annihilate brigades, capture artillery batteries and later help rout Blücher at the Battle of Vauchamps.

Their final engagement was with Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. By now widely considered amongst the best cavalry in Europe, they bravely but uselessly charged Wellington’s Allied squares for the cost of many lives including their commander the Marquis de Bermuy. They were subsequently disbanded after the Bourbon restoration later that year.

Notable battles: Marengo, Austerlitz, Eylau, Aspern-Essling, Wagram, Leipzig, La Rothière, Château-Thierry, Montmirail, Vauchamps, Waterloo.

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