[Napoleon Bonaparte]

Chair Purportedly Used by Napoleon En Route to Waterloo

Chair Purportedly Used by Napoleon En Route to Waterloo


Chair purportedly used by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in the days leading up to the Battle of Waterloo. Accompanied by extensive provenance information, based on oral history and historical records, indicating that Napoleon used the chair while staying at a Belgian farmhouse in June 1815.


Provenance information consists of two French-language affidavits signed and notarized in Fontaine l’Evêque, Wallonia, Belgium in the 1920s; a prayer card belonging to a past owner of the chair; and a period souvenir postcard of the chair taken by a significant Namur, Belgium photographer. An analysis of these records, bolstered by additional genealogical research, strongly suggests that Napoleon used this chair en route to Waterloo.


The side chair was fashioned from a hardwood, possibly maple, ca. 1800. It is a vernacular interpretation of the Empire furniture style then in vogue on the Continent, as evidenced by its rectilinear lines and geometric motifs. An elegant fanned backrest comprised of tapering spindles unites the stepped top and bottom rails. Rustic country touches include the straight stiles terminating in acorn finials, and the caned seat. The chair has elaborately turned front stretchers demonstrating both ball and faceted six-sided turning. The front legs are partly tapered and terminate in toupie feet, while the back legs are straight. In very good to near fine condition. Expected surface wear includes minor checking and past insect damage, especially to the left bottom stretcher and top rail. One backrest spindle is missing, and a second is detached and broken but included. The topmost front box stretcher appears to be missing. Measures approximately 17.25" w. x 35" h. x 14.25 at deepest.


The outlawed ex-emperor Napoleon escaped from the island of Elba in February 1815. Determined to orchestrate one last-ditch effort to conquer Europe, Napoleon left Paris with approximately 100,000 troops on June 12, 1815. Three days later, his forces crossed the Sambre River near the city of Charleroi. Napoleon's armies marched with incredible speed through the Netherlandish countryside (today, central Belgium) on their way to Waterloo. Napoleon secured his last victory at the Plains of Fleurus near Ligny on June 16th. Two days later, his forces were annihilated by allied British, German, and Dutch armies at Waterloo.




Two affidavits dated May 5, 1921 and March 11, 1924 testify that a local woman named Pauline Joseph Cambier (1817-1868), whose father had owned the chair, often recounted that it was once used by Napoleon.  The first affidavit was co-signed by Elise Nève and L. Wattier, and the second was signed by Marie Lebrée aka Sister Marie-Josepha, who was Mother Superior at the Fontaine l’Evêque Hospital established in 1900.


First affidavit translated in part:


"The undersigned, in perfect lucidity, states and certifies that he very often, and for many years, heard Pauline Cambier, Joseph Lequeux’s wife, say that she had come from Courcelles bringing with her a chair that had been given to her by her father, on which Napoleon had rested while staying at his home in 1815 on his way to the battle of Waterloo. She always kept it with greatest care.


The said chair is presently owned by Mr. Henry Hecq-André at Fontaine l’Evêque.


[Signed] Elise Nève        [Signed] Wattier J


Fontaine l’Evêque, 5 May 1921."


The second affidavit translated in part:


"The undersigned, Marie Lebrée, in religion Sr Mie Josepha, Mother Superior at Fontaine l’Evêque Hospital, states that Mr. Isidore Wattier of this city has signed an attestation stating that Mr. Henri Heck André from the same area is in possession of a chair which Napoleon I used at Courcelles while passing through on his way to the battle of Waterloo in 1815.


Fontaine l’Evêque, March 11, 1924.


[Signed] Sr Mie Josepha

Mie Lebrée."


According to genealogical records, Pauline Cambier's father, Jean-Francois Cambier (1788-1843) was registered as a flour seller in 1812 and a miller in 1814. By 1822, he is listed in the records as a publican. Courcelles is located just 5 miles northwest of Charleroi, where Napoleon and his forces crossed the Sambre River on June 15th. It is more than possible that, on his way to Waterloo, Napoleon stayed at Pauline Cambier's father's farmhouse or tavern. [Photocopies of these records are also included in French.]


Pauline Joseph Cambier (1817-1868) was Jean-Francois's second oldest daughter. She married a much younger man named Joseph Alexis Lequeux (born 1835) in Fontaine l’Evêque on April 11, 1871, but her prayer card indicates that she died less than ten years later.


The early twentieth-century postcard photograph of the chair is printed "A. Gilles-Ledoux, rude la Croix, 8, Namur. Teleph. : 2163" verso. "A. Gilles-Ledoux" referred to Armand Gilles (1913-1987), the successor of his family's multigenerational photographic studio in Namur, Belgium. The Gilles-Ledoux studio had been established in 1863 by Francois Gilles (1829-1893), this postcard photographer's great-uncle. It passed from Armand's grandfather Armand Gilles (1844-1889), to his widowed grandmother Josephine Ledoux, and finally to his father Fernand Gilles (1878-1933). The studio closed in 1974, and almost thirty years later, the Gilles-Ledoux Family donated their archives, negatives, and photos to the Archives Photographiques Namuroises, a city museum and repository. The APN's Gilles-Ledoux photographic collection contains 50,000+ negatives on glass, of which this photograph of Napoleon's chair could be one.


A stylish chair, fit for an Emperor, with an incredible paper trail!



Item: 65403

Price: $30,000.00
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