While wandering through the Louvre on a blisteringly cold winter day, I happened upon this curious object: Napoleon’s Nécessaire. The emperor would bring this mahogany box containing over one hundred useful items (including a silver tea set, a ruler, compass, almond powder, mirror, ear picker, and shaving brush) with him on all of his military campaigns. One little gold box apparently contained licorice (one of the Emperors preferred treats). I couldn’t help but marvel at the opulence and practicality of the nécessaire, nor could I help but wonder what the little objects would say if they could speak. What would his mother of pearl handled penknife tell us about the “glorious” Egyptian Campaign, the brutal march through Russia, exile on Elba, and the humiliating defeat at Waterloo?
The fate of the nécessaire: Napoleon’s Travel Box was one of the items captured and seized by the allied troops at Waterloo. I do not believe it was returned to him before his final exile on St. Helena.
Some Fun Reads on Napoelon:
The Letters of Napoleon to Josephine
Napoleon's Privates: 2500 Years of History Uncovered
Napoleon: HIs Wives and Women