Following the French defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Bonaparte’s carriage was taken as one of the spoils of war. Once in England, it was displayed around the length and breadth of Britain attracting huge crowds.
In her Perthshire Diary (April 19th 1818) Miss Wright wrote:
“Sat in it a while. Had such an odd feeling in doing so, to think that I was in the very seat of one that almost ruled the world. The jewels and plate very beautiful and everything so compact and neat. The Major (her friend’s dog) in it too, forsooth. Barked at such a rate. It came early this morning. Goes off at five tomorrow.” Next day “While we were at breakfast, Bonaparte’s carriage passed down on its way to Stirling, the four brown horses and the same driver he had at Waterloo.”
Imagine being allowed to take one’s dog into such a treasure!
In 1842, the carriage was acquired by Madame Tussaud's where it remained until 1925 when on 18 March, a disastrous fire swept through the waxworks, destroying not only the carriage but also the Napoleon Room. All that remained was a single twisted axle.
Recently, sculptor/artist Lewis Colburn rebuilt an exact replica of this magnificent vehicle and included it in his mixed media installation – Interregnum (1815-1969).
In the exhibit the carriage is presented as having crashed onto the lunar surface.
For me, the project appears to bridge the void, loosely linking the aspirations of past and latter day travellers striving but not always succeeding to conquer vaste new territories.
Interregnum is currently on exhibition at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY
Note: Interregnum is literally the period during which a state has no normal ruler.
Interregnum Image: Courtesy of Lewis Colburn
The group of Italian re-enactment soldiers adds to the atmosphere. (Photo: Hugo Munoz)