Napoleon's Dormeuse

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    invisible officer

    Some will remember the article from the old Warlord Forum. Recycling 😉

    The model Warlord made is a Berline. A Berline was a coach with a high positioned cab front, so that the front wheels could be bigger (and so more comfortable) and still be turned under the cab. Invented by a Berlin coach maker in late 17th century, Philip de Chiese. He was a Huguenot refugee and served the Kurfürst as Architect and military quarter master general.

    The cab was hanging on wooden or steel feathers. There are two (coupé) and four seated versions.
    The type became very popular as travelling coaches. At the end of the 18th century the Landau became more popular, it had a folding roof that could be opened completely, not just the back. .

    Normally a Berline had two horses but rich men used four. In fact Napoleon’s coach was often drawn by six, due to the bad roads. Harnessed “ en poste” in any case the riders led the 4 – 6 horses.

    The warlord model is no classic Berline coupé but a Berline dormeuse or Dormeuse. It was a light two seater with an extra box extension in front of the cab. A contemporary description by Baron de Odeleben is very detailed. (He was a Saxon officer attached to the staff as expert for the local topography in the Saxon campaign) In that car Napoleon could sleep like in a bed. The right part of the front box was for the feet with pillows, others are on the back floor. The left part of the box was storage room. The cab had many drawers for papers and maps and a list of relais stations was fixed opposite the seat. At the bullet proof door Boutet made pistols are holstered. The round structure at back is often said to be a sword compartment but a similar one on the surviving Landau is just 65 cm long, too short for that use. The dormeuse also contained an iron folding bed for external use.

    Four lanterns gave light to the street, another one was placed in mid of back of cabin to light the inside. That is missing in the kit. On the coach front seat / box was the place the Mameluck servant / bodyguard. (Until 1814 the famous Roustan / Roustam Raza was no member of the Mamluk cavalry unit, in 1814 he refused to go with Napoleon to Elba)
    The second seat inside was occupied by Berthier, Murat, Duroc or Coulaincourt.

    Obviously the main question for the modeller / gamer is the colour. I did Napoleon and the Chasseur some time ago, but was not sure about the coach colour. Warlords page showed it in a red / brown colour. I guess the painter based it on the Landau coach that is shown in the exhibition at Malmaison.

    Napoleon’s transport group for his cabinet consisted of the light Dormeuse and an additional heavy ( 4 seated) Berline or Landau for himself, three light coaches for officers, a map wagon, a long (Polish Britska type) and two short cooking stuff wagons , two wagons with tableware and replacement saddles, a field forge, another britzka with stuff for a silver smith and two other craftsmen , a medical coach, a saddlers wagon and extra wagon for tents.

    A second identical transport group existed as reserve. And many other coaches are part of the imperial household.. Not to forget those used as first consul before.

    Odeleben and others tell that the light coach (~ Dormeuse) was painted green. Boxes and cases of the imperial household being mahogany or leather covered. The sources agree that the cabinet’s coaches are painted green.
    To make things more complicated, the Dormeuse captured at Waterloo was: Blue. Unfortunately it was destroyed in a fire at Madame Tussaud’s 1925, an axle is all that is left today.

    Napoleon had three nearly identical Dormeuses made by coachmaker Gatting between 1812 and 1815. No. 300 (Imperial new stable number from 1813 on, I give only the new ones) was delivered in march 1812 and was taken by the Empress to Vienna.
    No 336 was delivered march 1813 and taken to Elba, Napoleon travelled in it back to Paris. It was taken at Grasse march 1815. No. 389 was finished in 1815 in great haste. 18 June 1815 , it was taken by Prussian Major Eugen von Keller IR 15 and sold to the British government, together with the four horses. Brown ones. It soon decided to sale it into private hands. From 1842 it was with Madame Tussaud.

    The story of Napoleon leaping out and mounting horse was a nice invention by Keller. In fact he was on horse in the retreat. Jean Hornn, a postillon with the coach was badly wounded by Uhlans and left for dead. He survived and told how he tried to go away with the empty dormeuse but there was no way through the broken vehicles on the street and trying to go over a field the coach stuck. The ”mamluk” Ali ( a Frenchman that was assistant to Roustan until 1814, born Louis-Etienne Saint-Denis ) was with Napoleon.

    But why was the Keller captured 389 not green? It was blue. May be it was on order for the Bourbon king and nobody bothered to repaint it in 1815. The imperial order for it is from April and delivery was the 30th of same month, not enough time for the building if there was no nearly complete base.

    The reddish brown coach on exhibition was perhaps in that colour in time of getting captured. It was retired following the first abdication and may have got new paint, changing Napoleonic green into another colour for political reasons in Bourbon time. Numbered 301 it was ordered in January 1812. It was given to Blücher (again by Keller) and he sent it to his wife.. Blücher stated in a letter to her that it was badly damaged by looting troops. It was used for a long time by the new owners. Anyway, it is no dormeuse. And it was not used by Napoleon to flee, it was occupied by Napoleon’s valet Marchand. In 1975 it was given by the Blücher family to the museum at Malmaison.

    So I decided to do my example in green as 300 or 336 with white horses as described in the 1812/13 campaigns. I may add the missing lantern later.

    Charge The Guns

    Beautifully painted coaches, IO, really lovely job!

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