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Friday, May 5, 2017

hoof of famous horse Marengo found after almost 2 centuries !!

It had been languishing in a plastic bag at the back of a kitchen drawer in a Somerset farmhouse once owned by the wealthy family  and dates back to  1815 !!  Curious !!!

Horses have always attracted me – be it the horse that precedes the Temple procession at Thiruvallikkeni, or the majestic police horses of Mounted police or the race horses.  Decades ago, read with interest Balakumaran’s novel ‘Irumbukuthiraigal (iron horses)’ – though it was not on horses, it was more on horse-power – that of tractors.Horse  is one of two extant subspecies of Equusferus. It is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. Humans domesticated horses and needed them to perform a variety of duties. There is an extensive, specialized vocabulary used to describe equine-related concepts, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colours,markings, breeds, locomotion, and behavior.

The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy. Near the end of the day, the French overcame General Michael von Melas's surprise attack, driving the Austrians out of Italy, and enhancing Napoleon's political position in Paris as First Consul of France in the wake of his coup d’état the previous November.

Marengo (c. 1793–1831) was the famous war mount of Napoleon I of France. Named after the Battle of Marengo, through which he carried his rider safely, Marengo had been  imported to France from Egypt in 1799 as a six-year-old. Marengo was wounded eight times in his career, and carried the Emperor in the Battle of Austerlitz, Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Battle of Wagram, and Battle of Waterloo. He also was frequently used in the 80-mile gallops from Valladolid to Burgos, which he often completed in 5 hours. As one of 52 horses in Napoleon's personal stud, Marengo fled with these horses when it was raided by Russians in 1812, surviving the retreat from Moscow; however, the stallion was captured in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo by William Henry Francis Petre, 11th Baron Petre.

Petre brought the horse back to the United Kingdom and sold him on to Lieutenant-Colonel Angerstein of the Grenadier Guards. Marengo stood at stud (unsuccessfully) at New Barnes, near Ely, at the age of 27. He eventually died at the old age of 38, and his skeleton (minus two hooves) was preserved and later passed to the Royal United Services Institute and is now on display at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London. One of the remaining hooves was given to the officers of the Brigade of Guards by John Julius Angerstein as a snuff box. The fourth hoof was mounted as a silver inkwell and retained by the family; it is still owned by the family but is now on loan to the Household Cavalry Museum. The Duke of Wellington was asked to disinter his own horse, Copenhagen, to be exhibited alongside Marengo, but refused to do so. Coincidentally, one of Copenhagen's hooves was also later used as an ornament.

After capture by the British armu, the stallion changed hands and was brought to a farmhouse in Somerset. When Marengo died in 1831, the family had his two front hooves mounted in silver and kept them as keepsakes.One of those silver-plated front hooves went to the officers’ mess at St. James’s Palace, where it still resides today. The other, though, was lost.But recently a descendant of Marengo’s original British owners re-discovered the hoof. It was in a plastic bag, The Times reports, “at the back of a kitchen drawer in a Somerset farmhouse once one by the wealthy family who bought Marengo.” It’s now on loan to the Household Cavalry Museum in London, still separated from the horse’s skeleton but found at last.

So the famous horse of Napoleon or rather its hooves are still making news ! – centuries later.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th May 2o17.

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