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Napoleon's Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment (Hardback)

The Infantry

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: Napoleonic Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic Military > Weaponry Photographic Books

By Paul L. Dawson
Frontline Books
Pages: 475
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781526701916
Published: 10th June 2019


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From its origins as the Consular Guard of the French Republic, and as Napoleon’s personal bodyguard, the Imperial Guard developed into a force of all arms numbering almost 100,000 men. Used by Napoleon as his principle tactical reserve, the Guard was engaged only sparingly, being deployed at the crucial moment of battle to turn the tide of victory in favour of the Emperor of the French.

Naturally, the Imperial Guard has been the subject of numerous books over many decades, yet there has never been a publication that has investigated the uniforms and equipment of the infantry of the Imperial Guard in such detail and with such precision. The author has collected copies of almost all the surviving documents relating to the Guard, which includes a vast amount of material regarding the issuing of dress items, even in some instances down to company level.

This information is supported by an unrivalled collection of illustrations, many of which have never been published before, as well as images of original items of equipment held in museums and private collections across the globe. In addition, the renowned military artist, Keith Rocco, has produced a series of unique paintings commissioned exclusively for this book.

This glorious book is, and will remain, unsurpassed as the standard work on the clothing and equipment of the Imperial Guard, and will not only be invaluable to historians, but also reenactors, wargamers and modellers. It is one of the most important publications ever produced on this most famous of military formations.

The first thing that will come to mind when you see this book is "Do we REALLY need yet another book on the Imperial Guard of the First Empire?"

To give a short and succinct answer – “If it is this book then most definitely YES!!!” No matter how many books you might have on the subject I guarantee that you will find information here that you haven’t come across before.

Dawson is unafraid to question and contradict both previous studies on the subject and even the ‘greats’ of uniformology like Boisselier but he does so with unimpeachable research based on contemporary documents. A great many of the things that we think we know about the uniforms of the Guard, especially of the Young Guard, do not actually stand up to close inspection and Dawson gives new ideas of what they actually looked like.

Additionally throughout the book Dawson cites numerous examples of surviving orders, receipts and Arsenal contents, which add to our understanding of the Guard’s Infantry.

Stephen Ede-Borrett, Pike and Shot Society, September 2020

Reviewed alongside Napoleon's Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment: The Cavalry

Dawson diligently researched the Guard’s uniforms and equipment in great depth. His deep dive included efforts to collect copies of as many surviving documents about the subject as possible. They include a mother lode of records detailing the issuing of dress items right down to the company level.

This topic is quite well-trod ground, and yet the team behind these must have books has succeeded in producing authoritative works on the Guard’s dress and gear. These books should be invaluable not only to people involved in our hobby, but also historians, reenactors and wargamers.

Toy Soldier & Model Figure magazine issue 247 – reviewed by Stuart A. Hessney

For re-enactors, Napoleonic historians, wargamers and modellers alike, I think this is the best reference book on this famous group of troops you could wish for, and it deserves a place on your reference bookshelf.

Read the full review here

Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

A Masterpiece hardly to match over the clothing and equipment of Napoleon's Old Guard.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

Full to bursting point with detailed information... a real eye-opener.

Watch the full video review here

The View From The Turret Vlog

All countries maintain elite troops of some form and the Imperial Guard formed Napoleon’s elite troops, directly winning many battles and, at Waterloo, marking his defeat when they were forced back by the British. This book is packed with information and insight. It includes many illustrations and of these many are in full colour – Most Highly Recommended

Read the full review here


From a British perspective Napoleon was made famous by the Battle of Waterloo in
1815. However, the British had been at war with Napoleon for many years prior to this
famous Battle.

Napoleon’s Imperial Guard were his elite soldiers and they were in two main branches
– the infantry and the cavalry. Their uniforms were exquisite and complex – a subject
which these books deal with. Most period records lack colour and clarity and we have
only paintings and the limited surviving artefacts to base any modern-day study upon.

These two wonderful Volumes should really be read in conjunction as they deal with
the main branches of the Imperial Guard. They cover the dress, weapons and
accruements and together they are a most impressive study. These excellent tomes fill
a huge gap in the available literature on the subject and you cannot be unimpressed by
their superb quality.

They are a sought-after addition to the available literature and the author has done a
splendid job by writing these two outstanding volumes. They undoubtedly are the
reference books to have on this subject and there is little I can add to the fact that for
uniform and equipment buffs they are essential reading.

Military Archive Research, Dr Stuart C Blank

This is a fantastic resource for the Napoleonic history buff, and an essential addition to the library of those who, like me, are obsessed with this period of history. I can't wait to see the Cavalry volume!

Read the full review here

A Question Of Scale, Seb Palmer

This brilliant book on Napoleon'e elite force, the Imperial Guard, is lavishly illustrated and absolutely fascinating. Many of the terrific illustrations were commissioned by the author for the book. Superb.

Books Monthly

You can never have too many books about the Imperial Guard, in my opinion(!), but this new tome by Paul Dawson offers new insights as well as a feast for the eyes.

He has combined a detailed study of the archives with extant uniforms and equipment from museums and private collections, as well as documentary evidence from memoirs and period artists’ representations to produce a detailed analysis of the uniforms of the infantry of the Guard.

The piéce de resistance of this book are the photographs of the uniform items from private collections, the Musée de l’armée, the Musée de l’Empéri, Musée municipal de Pontarlier, Borodino museum and National Militair Museum Soesterberg. These are numerous, clear and include separate zoomed photos of the detail of each item, from a range of angles.

In addition there are some 88 plates of paintings of guardsmen and the centre pages—six full-pages plates of paintings by Keith Rocco.

I shall enjoy leafing through and ‘drooling’ over this book again and again.

Read the full review here

James Fisher, Avon Napoleonic Fellowship

A big bonus of this book are the beautiful illustrations of one of the great military painting artists of our time: Keith Rocco. His paintings, which are inspired by the great French military painters like Meissonier or Detaille, are a feast for the eyes and show us members of the Guard in various situations and poses. In the center of the book there are 6 works by this great artist.
I have said a lot about this book, but there is still so much to say, however, I let the readers take it out on their own and appreciate what I think is the definitive book on the French Imperial Guard (Infantry) and its uniforms. This volume will soon be followed by another volume (always written by Dawson) dedicated to the Cavalry units of the Guard.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

Quite simply, a stunning book detailing the history and uniforms of the Guard Infantry. The photographs are excellent as are the illustrations. It is difficult to know how it could be bettered. An invaluable source.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Paul L. Dawson

Paul L. Dawson BSc Hons MA MIFA FINS, is a historian and author, specialising in the French Army of the Napoleonic War. In addition, as a noted equestrian, this allows him to have a greater understanding of what was and what was not possible for cavalry and other troops which utilised horses. Working as a historical tailor producing museum-quality replica clothing gives him a unique insight into construction techniques of the period, as well the knowledge and ability to decipher documents from the period.

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