Marengo: The Myth of Napoleon's Horse
wondered why a thin and energetic Napoleon Bonaparte suddenly
put on lots of weight despite maintaining his physical work rate?
according to Jill Hamilton, Bonaparte was almost killed in a carriage
accident at St Cloud and badly damaged his pituitary gland. This
led to the early onset of Frohlich's disease, a condition that
causes weight gain, a loss of hair and lethargy.
is only one of dozens of interesting pieces of information and
ideas contained within Hamilton's book Marengo: The Myth of
book explores many aspects of the French commander's dealings
with horses, his love for them, interest in their well-being (other
than on a battlefield) and joy in riding them.
however, was not a classical European rider and preferred to ride
in the style he had grown up with on Corsica - one hand holding
the reins with his left dangling at his side and heels high. He
often slouched in the saddle, but his deportment belied his ability
regularly rode 20 or 30 kilometres a day at breakneck pace and
had more than his fair share of thrills and spills.
choice of mount was usually Arabian - they being small and able
to stop suddenly - and they had the added advantage of making
him appear bigger than his five-foot six-inch body. However, larger
mounts were used if he felt the need to impress people.
paid a great deal of attention to horses and their care and even
introduced racing to improve the bloodlines of French animals.
the fact he was usually shown on a white Arab - known to history
as Marengo - Bonaparte had and rode many horses and Hamilton explores
how that horse became more famous than others such as Ali, Vizir,
or Roitelet (I and II).
from Bonaparte's own mounts, the author explores how he built
the French army's marvellous cavalry wing and set about organising
The Myth of Napoleon's Horse is an interesting work that examines
how horses were used and misused during the Napoleonic Era.
is not, however, just for horse lovers because as well as showing
another side to the Ogre of Europe, it contains good general information
on the period.