The Boots of Napoleon


pieds nues de Napoleon

Napoleon had very sensitive feet. He could never put on a pair of brand-new boots without having his valet, Constant, break them in first; so, first Constant, then Napoleon would wear the same pair of boots. It is rare to see the Emperor represented wearing anything else. This gives the wrong impression. The Emperor only put those on when riding, for riding meant wearing spurs, spurs made clucking noise, caught upon the carpets, and ruined the parquet floors; so, unless he was about to hop into saddle, Napoleon would wear gold-buckle shoes or even a pair of slippers; boots were a part of his famous colonel uniform and were reserved for military campaigns. When Napoleon died, they dressed him in his uniform — hat, boots, spurs…, and this presented a problem. That is at first he was lying there like that on his bed — dressed up to the nines, but when they were transferring the body from the bed to the coffin, the problem occurred: How do you keep him on his back with the spurs on? The Devil has set up an ambush, and his ambush is always in detail! In 1840 the general public became aware of this detail, because of complete lack of decorum: Someone had removed the Emperor’s new boots with spurs… and forgot to replace them with slippers!

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