© Saumur Cavalry Museum

Officer of cuirassiers, painting by Georges Scott 1873-1943), dated 1914

The Imperial Guard of Napoleon III is certainly the most beautiful French troop of the second half of the 19th century. Besides the quality and elegance of the uniforms, mounted horses have a beautiful appearance and are higher in size, thanks to English and Arabic blood. These horses will prove less resilient and less enduring than those of the first Empire during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The captain of the 2nd Cuirassiers Guard (1856-1865) exemplifies the triumph of elegance at the expense of the efficiency necessary in wartime.