Sculpture: Eduard Pérez
Painting: Fernando Ruiz
Number of parts of the kit: 9
When Napoleon Bonaparte entered Warsaw in December 1806, he was so impressed by the uniform and attitude of the guard of honor of Polish noblemen that were detached as his escort that he immediately decided to incorporate a regiment of poles into the Imperial Guard.
The 1st Polish Light Cavalry Regiment of the Imperial Guard was created on 1807. After some intense training in order to shape them into a unit worthy of joining the ranks of the Guard, they saw action for the first time in late November of 1808 at the Battle of Somosierra, Spain, where they bravely charged against a huge contingent of Spanish infantry and artillery, making them flee and capturing the guns. If we take into account that the charge was conducted by only 150 cavalrymen and led to the fleeing of around 9000 infantry troopers, is possible to understand why Napoleon itself decorated the commanding officer, Jan Kozietulski, along with 18 of the surviving troopers with the Legion of Honour right there, as soon as the battle was over.
Another heroic episode of the regiment would also mean an important change for it. In 1809, at the Battle of Wagram, the poles charged against the Austrian Uhlans, first with their sabers and later with the own Uhlans’ lances. That led to the decision of converting them into a lancer regiment, the best known characteristic of these troops.
They took part in all the major campaigns for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars, back in Spain, later on Germany and of course as part of the Grande Armee that almost perished in Russia. The remnants of the regiment fought also on the 1814 campaign in France and at the “Hundred Days” campaign, combined with the 2nd regiment of Red Lancers. Together they conducted their last glorious charge at Waterloo.
Our bust is quite inspired on Edouard Detaille’s famous painting “A Polish Lancer”, and depicts a brigadier of the regiment in 1810, after the lance adoption. It includes iconic elements as the “kurtka” (jacket) and the famous “shapska”, the typical headdress of Polish origin that these troops used. With small modifications, it can be transformed to portray a member from the 2nd or 3rd regiment of Lancers (Dutch and Lithuanian lancers) or a Berg Lancer.