This is the golden snuffbox of Marshal Michel Ney, who was one of the French commanders at the Battle of Waterloo. This snuffbox was presented to Marshal Ney by Napoleon as a mark of affection. It was plundered from Ney’s baggage at the end of the battle, probably by a British soldier. It was later presented to Captain William Cameron of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards.
Napoleon liked to award expensive gifts to favoured courtiers, diplomats and soldiers. Snuffboxes and bonbonnières were popular awards.
The snuff box is 85mm x 57mm and 20mm deep. It is made of 20.5 carat gold and was made in Paris by Pierre-Andre Montauban. The side of the box is decorated with a floral design on a peacock blue background, interspersed with bees. Napoleon’s personal symbol was the bee. The base is decorated in the same style but with stars, not bees.
The painting is in the style of Jacque-Louis David, though not by him. It shows Napoleon in the undress uniform of the Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Garde. He is wearing the cross of the Legion of Honour and the Order of the Iron Crown of Italy as well as the Grand Eagle Cross of the Legion of Honour. These date the box to between 1808 and 1814.
Ney commanded the French Army at Quatre Bras and was the battlefield commander at Waterloo. He unfortunately promised Louis XVIII to bring Napoleon back to Paris ‘in an iron cage’ before setting out to arrest him in March 1815. Captivated once more by his former emperor, he changed sides. He was called, ‘the bravest of the brave’ by Napoleon. By 1815 he was mentally drained and no longer capable of dealing with the pressure of high command. Returning to Paris, he refused to flee, was arrested, tried and shot for treason.
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This object is in the collection of Green Howards Regimental Museum