Napoleon and His Stuffed Horse


During the Russian campaign la Grande Armée lost 50 000 horses. This meant that Napoleon had to figure out how to fight without cavalry. He could still win battles, yet could no longer decisively pursue the fleeing enemy. The Battle of Waterloo showed why this did not work: day one —  the French sent the Prussians fleeing, day two — the Prussians re-grouped to hit the French in the back. Was there a solution? There was still the horse population of Bretagne, but that province practiced castration of their stallions, and Napoleon, who during his marriage with Josephine was convinced of his sterility, could not stand the idea of using those animals.

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Now meet Visir, the present of the Turkish Sultan, which traveled with the Emperor to Saint Helena, and by 1868 repatriated from England, already stuffed. From gallop to a complete stop, for fifteen years Visir carried his rider, often bringing him to the destination hours ahead of the Imperial escort. What was the question the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Stuffed Horse? “Are you real?” That silly rabbit.

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