Today (as well as in the next episode of French Voices), Frenchman Alain Collas will tell you about his passion for the Consulate and Napoleonic eras.
In the early 19th century, Napoleon led some important battles in my hometown (Montmirail) and its vicinity. When I last went to France to visit my family, I set up to find a passionate person to take you back in time. When I was a child, I loved to go see the historical reenactments of the hussars during the “Journées du Patrimoine”, a yearly event in France held in September. I therefore contacted Alain Collas as he is part of the local association “Les Hussards de Lasale” to learn more about them.
Originally Hungarian, the word “hussar” (“hussard” in French) also describes soldiers in light cavalry regiments in Napoleon army. I’ll actually let Alain Collas explain to you in more details what hussars were and the different components of a Napoleonic army, but I can already tell you it was fascinating to get to understand the different types of soldiers! Depending on their roles and position on the field, their mobility, speed and equipment would differ. They would ride horses meeting these needs, for instance quick thoroughbreds for the light cavalry and scouts, robust horses for the heavy cavalry. During the historical reenactments, Alain Collas actually plays the role of a cuirassier, one of the components of the heavy cavalry – the equivalent of modern war tanks. Because of the weight of his breast plate and equipment, his horse is stocky and short so that he can mount it more easily. However, because of their outfit and reduced mobility, a cuirassier fallen from his horse would for sure lose his life.
In this first episode, we’ll also discuss what makes Napoleon so famous worldwide. We’ll talk about his legacy, both on the civil and military points of view. Did you know that the very prestigious order of merit called “la Légion d’Honneur” (= Legion of Honour) was established by Napoleon himself?
armure (nf) = armour
ascenseur social (nm) = social mobility
baïonnette (nf) = bayonet
briquet (nm) = lighter; cigaret lighter
carabine (nf) = rifle
casque (nm) = helmet
cuirassier (nm) = cuirassier
étrier (nm) = stirrup
fantassin (nm) = infantryman, foot soldier
garrot (nm) = withers
gilet pare-balle (nm) = billetproof vest
hussard (nm) = hussar
infanterie (nf) = infantry, foot soldiers
légion d’honneur (nf) = Legion of Honour
pur-sang (nm) = thoroughbred
reconstitution (nf) = historical reenactment
sabre (nm) = sabre, saber
trapu,e = stocky, thickset; squat, low-built
- What makes Alain Collas particularly interested in the Napoleonic era?
- What is the 3rd most visited monument in France?
- What year did Napoleon become Emperor?
- It’s a very important transition time in history, with big changes in society, social mobility and also at a military level.
- The tomb of Napoleon in the Invalides (Paris)
- December 2nd, 1804
Links & Resources
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