Book taken from Napoleon's carriage at Waterloo on show at National Library
A book taken from Napoleon Bonaparte's carriage as he fled in defeat from Waterloo will be put on display at the National Library of Scotland to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle.
It will provide visitors with a direct connection to one of the most famous battles in history which is to be remembered at a national memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral on Thursday.
The book 'Mémoires de Madame la marquise de la Rochejaquelein' is a presentation copy given to the French King Louis XVIII in 1814 by its author. Some of the annotations in the book are said to be in the King's handwriting. Napoleon acquired the book when he reoccupied the Tuileries Palace in Paris in 1815, sending Louis into exile.
The book became part of the Library's collections in 1951, being bequeathed by the Marquess of Lothian whose family had taken ownership of it in the 19th century.
Napoleon was a voracious reader who had a personal librarian and always travelled with books. He took this and other volumes with him on the Belgian campaign which culminated in the defeat at Waterloo.
When the final French assault at Waterloo failed, Napoleon, on horseback, joined the general retreat. 'The whole army was in the most appalling disorder,' recalled Geneneral Jean-Martin Petit. 'Infantry, cavalry, artillery — everybody was fleeing in all directions.'
At Genappe, about four miles south of Waterloo, a detachment of Prussian fusiliers caught up with Napoleon's carriage. There are conflicting accounts about Napoleon's whereabouts at this time but, while he escaped capture, the contents of the carriage fell into Prussian hands.
This included the sword Napoleon had worn at the battle of Austerlitz, his mantle, telescope and other belongings, including the book. The sword was given to the King of Prussia and the mantle presented to the British Prince Regent, where it now forms part of the royal collection at Windsor Castle.
The book was presented to Sir Henry Hardinge, who was then acting as British liaison officer with the Prussian allies. Hardinge later sent it to Lady Emma Sophia Edgcumbe who, in turn, bequeathed it to the family of her cousin, the 7th Marquess of Lothian. After her death in 1872, the book was transferred to the Lothian family home at Newbattle Abbey, the library of which became part of collection at the National Library.
Rare books curator Graham Hogg said: 'Books can have a history all of their own as this one amply demonstrates. It has been owned by a King and an Emperor before finally finding its way into the ownership of the people of Scotland through the National Library. It is a privilege to be able to show it to mark this very important anniversary.'
The book will be on display in the foyer of the National Library's main building on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh from 4pm-8.30pm on Wednesday 17 June and 9.30am-noon on Thursday 18 June.
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17 June 2015