French Old Guard Grenadier Eagle Badge, Premier Empire, 1804
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Height 10.7 cm, width 10.6 cm.
Embossed copper uncrowned French imperial eagle clutching Jupiter's spindle in its talons, as borne of the cartridge box or ‘giberne’ of a Grenadier-à-Pied de la Garde Impériale following Napoleon’s post-coronation decree of 29 July 1804, converting the Consular Guard into the Imperial Guard and bolstering its numbers with picked men from the infantry of the Line.
The present badge is loaded with Napoleonic symbolism drawn from ancient Rome. Jupiter, god of the sky and thunder, was the chief deity of Roman state religion. The eagle was the symbol of Jupiter’s authority, and as such would be set free during the consecration of an emperor in a ritual that culminated in the emperor's apotheosis. By flying into the air, the eagle was believed to carry the soul of the deified emperor to heaven, thus securing him a place among the gods.
Original fixing lugs to the reverse have been removed.