Friday, January 4, 2019

DAY 18: The Art of Revenge

French topaz, rock crystal, and gold walking stick head;
Christies Auction House, 2012

We've glanced at the art of a lady's parasol handle.

Naturally, men--who control so much of the universe--had equally compelling heads to their walking sticks and sword-sticks (yes, those were actually a thing, not a joke. More later.)

Here's my absolute favorite: A rock crystal figure of Napoleon Bonaparte, held in a gilded cage.

For Napoleonic history buffs, this immediately calls to mind a pivotal moment in the spring of 1815--when Marechal Michel Ney, the "bravest of the brave" of Napoleon's field marshals, swore to Louis XVIII that he would lead French troops south from Paris to intercept and capture the deposed Emperor at his escape from Elba.

"I shall bring him back in an Iron Cage," Ney vowed.

Fatally, however, Ney's troops--and perhaps Ney's heart--deserted to Napoleon at their first sight of the former ruler of France; and Ney ended up at Napoleon's side in the Battle of Waterloo one hundred days later. Arrested as a traitor after Napoleon's defeat, he was thrown up against a wall and summarily shot in the heated summer months of 1815. 

Killing Ney satisfied those in France who needed someone to blame for the horrific loss at Waterloo. The British, who captured Napoleon, debated a trial and execution for the nearly 40,000 casualties of battle. But in their excruciatingly exact wisdom, the Government decided that banishing the former Emperor of Europe to a remote and tiny island was the ultimate revenge. (A fun link to Atlantic magazine's take on the Coldest Act of Revenge of All Time, here.)

I like to think this remarkable walking-stick head belonged to an English survivor of Waterloo. Because, yes! Holding Napoleon caged, in the palm of your hand, is the best revenge...

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel.   

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