French Imperial Eagles
the Roman legions centuries before them, Napoleon Bonaparte's armies
carried eagles proudly at their head.
in 1804, the eagles sat atop blue regimental flagpoles, were sculpted
out of bronze and weighed 1.85 kilograms (about four pounds).
were made from six separately cast pieces designed along Roman lines
and, when assembled, measured 310mm in height and 255mm in width.
On the base would be the regiment's number or, in the case of the
Guard, Guarde Imperiale.
lose an eagle would bring shame to a fighting unit, which had pledged
upon the symbol's receipt to defend it to the death.
of the most celebrated losses of an eagle came at Waterloo, where
Sergeant Charles Ewart of the Scots' Greys captured the cuckoo,
as it was nicknamed, of the 45th Line Regiment. For his bravery
- he killed at least three defenders - he was given a commission
units - particularly dragoons, line and light infantry, were ordered
to return their eagles before setting out on a campaign. Many disobeyed
are legendary tales of those guarding the eagles to have suffered
numerous wounds - including mortal ones - in defending their precious
Bonaparte's fall, the restored monarchy of Louis XVIII ordered all
eagles to be destroyed and only a very small number escaped the
the former emperor returned to power in 1815 he immediately had
more eagles produced, although the quality did not match the originals.
The workmanship was of a lesser quality and the main distinguishing
changes had the new models with closed beaks and they were set in
a more crouched posture.
Waterloo, many eagles were again destroyed - almost 100 of them
- but today there are a little over 130 in existence.