Napoleon’s snuff-box

This month, Assistant Curator, Steve Erskine, has chosen an extremely rare snuff-box, made for Napoleon, which found its way into the hands of a Green Howard, and then into our museum…

Snuff box_web“The snuff-box was made by Parisian goldsmith Pierre-Andre Montauban in 1797, with the portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David.

Of the five given as gifts by Napoleon, this is one of only two surviving examples.

It was taken from Marshal Ney’s carriage after the Battle of Waterloo by Colonel William Cameron of the Grenadier Guards.

Marshal Ney was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon, and was one of his most trusted commanders.

The snuff-box was subsequently passed to Cameron’s son, Abney, an officer in the 2nd Battalion of the Green Howards.

In itself the snuff box is a beautiful work of art but it’s the physical connection to Napoleon and Ney that excites me.Steve and snuff box_web

When I was about six I went on a school trip to Hadrian’s Wall.

I remember being mesmerised at touching the wall, something a Roman had touched all those years before.

That sense of ‘touching history’ has never left me so, to hold the snuff box, which may have been held by Napoleon and Ney and could have been in the baggage train on the field of Waterloo is just amazing.