The World Spirit as the Emperor’s Horse

Napoléon_blessé_à_RatisbonneNapoleon is often shown riding a white horse. He rode a few white ones for sure, but not into battle —  on the battle-field a white horse would make him an easy target. What we see in the picture is not Napoleon, it is the Hegelian World Spirit about to take off! A typical battle horse would be gray and of a smaller statue; at our Big Stables, such a horse was trained to remain calm in any situation — pages shot pistols above its head, exploded bombs, clashed bayonets with sabers; the animal learned to endure pain and remain under saddle for over forty-eight hours. Belle, Stirie, Aly, Cirus, Epicurien, Fayoume, Gonzalve, Ingénu, Intendant, Jafa, Lutzelberg, Montevideo, Hérodote, Roitelet, Sara, Soliman, Tamerlan, Tauris, Tcherkès, les Turkmènes, Vizir… — the Emperor rode over hundred and eighty horses, loosing on the average twenty a year. The famous Arabian, Marengo, was covered with scars and had a bullet lodged in its tail, yet never threw Bonaparte out of the saddle. We don’t know if Napoleon rode Marengo at Waterloo — too sick that day, he probably never stepped out of his carriage, but it is where the Brits captured the horse to ship it to England as trophy. Today we can still see the famous carcass at the National Army Museum; two of the hooves are missing, one of them becoming a sniffing-tobacco box, the other — an ashtray.


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