On This Day in Napoleonic History – 6 September 1812

6Napoleon receives a painting of his son

Napoleon was on the field of battle at Borodino when the portrait arrived, painted by François Gérard and depicting the King of Rome, Napoleon II in his cradle. ‘Napoleon received the painting with an emotion that he could hardly contain and set it up on a chair outside his tent, so that his men could admire their future Emperor,’ reminisced one of the officers.

Napoleon was a doting father and incredibly proud of his son. ‘Gentlemen,’ he told everyone who would listen, ‘if my son was 15, believe me he would be here in place of that painting.’ The next day he said, ‘Take it away, keep it safe. He’s too young to see a battlefield.’ Napoleon II was indeed only 18 months old. The painting was lost on the retreat from Moscow but Gérard had made copies.

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