Tuesday, 14 March 2017

History Has It,

that when Napoleon crossed the Alps,

he was mounted on a mule, which did not sit well with the impression of a conqueror, 

painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David between 1801 and 1805, the painting above was initially commissioned by the King of Spain, the composition shows a strongly idealised view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May 1800, and Bonaparte asked David to portray him "calm, mounted on a fiery steed" (Calme sur un cheval fougueux), but this brings two towns into modern day conflict, the question being where did the horse that Napoleon rode into battle and the one depicted in the painting come from?
it is known that it’s name was Merengo, the skeleton of which, a magnificent white stallion, will go on exhibit this spring at the National Army Museum in London, Mderengo's claim to fame is that he was Napoleon's charger that he rode in several campaigns, the one pictured in Jacques-Louis David’s painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps." The official story from the time was that Merengo was captured from the Egyptians after the Battle of Abukir, but the Irish know that the horse was purchased in County Cork for the French army, that's where the horse is causing some argument. The small villages of Buttevant and Bartlemy both lay claim to Merengo, from the article,

'According to Bernard Moynihan, a local councillor, the skeleton ought to be in Buttevant, where the horse that became Marengo was sold many midsummers ago at the Cahirmee Horse Fair. He calls Cahirmee “the oldest horse fair in the world”; it continues to this day, held every July. “There’s a strong oral tradition in these parts, and the story of how the horse was sold to one of Napoleon’s officers – it’s well known,” he told me. Along with several other councillors, Moynihan has sent a letter to the National Army Museum, elaborating their claim. “We’ve recently had a round of archaeological excavations in Buttevant, and found a huge amount of historical artefacts. We’re hoping they can all go into a new museum, with Marengo as the centrepiece.”

John Arnold, a farmer and a historian of Bartlemy, will have none of that. Marengo was sold, he’s convinced, at the Bartlemy Horse Fair. “When you talk of evidence, it all begins to sound like a court case,” Arnold told me, with a laugh. “But I do have a couple of things that strongly suggest this. Buttevant don’t have a leg to stand on.” As far back as the 1830s, a village pub named Fitzgerald’s displayed a lithograph. “It was of a white horse, and the caption read: ‘Marengo, Napoleon’s famous horse, Bartlemy Fair, Middleton, County Cork,’” Arnold says. “That pub closed down, but the lithograph is still here in the village. Now, it’s possible that an entrepreneurial printer ran this lithograph off for many local fairs. But so far no other town has claimed to own a copy of it.”'

so who will finally have the claim to Merengo? the battle lines have been drawn, so will it be Buttevant or Bartlemy that meet their Waterloo?

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