In 1789, the original Gardes De Consuls were formed to protect the delegates to the National Assembly as body guards. This core group would eventually become the Imperial Guard. In 1804, the Grenadiers and other formations were decreed, to compose the expanded Imperial Guard, act as Napoleon’s personal bodyguard and become his trusted reserve formation.
The Old Guard was a prestigious unit kept as a final reserve force, loyal to le Emporeur, a source of national pride and a recruitment tool. While the young guard were heavily engaged in the many battles leading up to Waterloo, it was the final desperate commitment and defeat of the Old Guard, that sounded the end of Napoleon’s imperial France.
French Officer, Drummer and two Grenadiers. This depiction is full dress uniform for campaign, Or Grande Tenue de Service, marching in column at Waterloo.
What a spectacle they must have been, thousands of men from the Imperial Guard in full uniform charging the allies in a last desperate all, or nothing assault straight into the center of the enemy lines, drummers pounding out the cadence, each break ending with the shout from an entire army: “Vive le Emporeur!”