Thursday, September 28, 2017

I have been to... Hotel des Invalids and Napoleon's Tomb

Just back from three or four days in Paris with the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer, and as my feet have only just about recovered now (five days later  ...they were absolutely battered) it's time to put up some pictures....

Apart from the 'usuals' (most of which we saw), high on my list of places to go for a long visit was the Hotel des Invalids which is (in my opinion) one of the finest war/military museums in the world...  no hand wringing, vaguely apologetic, warm and fuzzy here..  it's a museum about war, and the French understand that means guns, uniforms, flags and weaponry in abundance...

Built by Louis XIV for his wounded veterans, this is basically the French equivalent of the Chelsea Hospital - the dome in the distance stands over the location of Napoleon's tomb and was a slightly later addition, but the whole lot was finished by 1700.. stopped being primarily a residence for veterans in the early 20th Century (after the Napoleonic wars the French army became largely conscript so there weren't enough soldiers meeting the 20 year service criteria) but there are still apparently about a 100 veterans living or taking advantage of the services offered here..  the site is huge and now houses a number of museums..

..once through the main gate (above) this is the old parade courtyard which is surrounded by artillery pieces..

..looking back to the main entrance - Musée de L'armée entrance is on the right of the picture..

This (next) gives you an idea of the size of the place - the parade courtyard is top left..

The Musée de L'armée is on the left of the courtyard as you come in and was our first visit - this museum is HUGE - it is primarily 17th/18th Century - but there are also additional temporary exhibitions - while we were there, there was one on Charles de Gaulle's life (which was very good)

First up the steps, after the basement de Gaulle exhibition, was this room showing scale versions of artillery pieces...  absolutely stunning..   mostly 1/10th scale..

Next floor up and they have an incomparable exhibition of early model soldiers.. simply superb...  flats, paper, semi-rounds, Britains, they have it...  what a wargame room this would make!!



...wooden I think - and based on movement trays - a childs? Used for military planning? French in Egypt campaign I think...

Very colourful still - card figures..


..with spring loaded cannon's!

I wanted this one on my loft wall - 7YW I think?

...and then on to the main gallery in the museum...  apologies in advance - I took pictures of things that were of specific interest to me... 

Cuirassier armour - Thirty Years War era...


Honest to goodness standard of one of the Wild Geese regiments! Berwick in this case...

Captains uniform - Napoleonic Wars 1800
Mameluk horse armour... poor horse was all I could think!

French in Egypt period - Camel Corps or more correctly "Regiment Dromedaire"..  1799..

..a selection of original Napoleonic headwear - stunning condition!

...uniform details - this one is worth clicking and then clicking again on...

Loved this picture for the background detail - specifically the guy sitting on the ground with a scarf over his head - apologies for the reflection.. by the painter Edouard Detaille (who we shall see more of below)....

Charleville musket - lock mechanism...  as shiny and clean as the day it came from the foundry...

Mouth watering...  relief map of the Battle of Lodi in 1796 - water effect is stunning...

Close up of the man himself....

More detail (next) from a larger picture - what caught my eye was, one, the plaits (cadenettes), and two the look in his eye ("come on, come on, get a leg on, I have a cold bottle of wine and warm girl waiting..." )

...the Ogre himself ...  modelling the "Sun Emperor"?

More uniforms  - Legere this time...

Imperial Guard...  horse grenadier from memory....

Love this picture - Detaille again...  not sure about the musket - bit long for a carbine? Dragoon scouting...

An 'old grumber' - foot grenadier Imperial Guard..  why on earth would any old solider not want to welcome the Emperor back when he gave them uniforms like that??

Sole representative of  L'Angleterre...  83rd Foot, the "Royal Irish" - shako missing the top know to indicate which platoon

More from Edouard Detaille - this one is called "Before the Charge, October 18th 1812", the Carabiniers at the Battle of Winkowo (or Vinkovo, or Tarutino) - magnificent...

..another favourite ever since my Airfix French cuirassier days....

...and then we left the Musee de L'Armee and on the top floor of the building is a small exhibition of models featuring various cities and forts in France - this one was absolutely stunning - Mon St Michel of course...

..from what I could tell they were all made for Louis XIV - presumably for planning purposes... 

...leaving the Museum block we then passed on through the museum for the site of the tomb, and to pay our regards....

...and here he is - Russian doll style I believe there are about 6 coffins in there - the side galleries on the upper floor hold other French notable generals...

Ceiling detail...

Leaving there it was time for lunch, and then the final stop which was a separate exhinbition of arms and armour...  absolutely gob smacking'ly good... again - the pictures following were primarily of area's of interest - in the case of the first two pictures early to mid 17th C

Curiassier armour..  probably too early for ECW, more 30 Years War...

..matched pair of wheelocks with flintlock for back up (or converted??)

..I didn't remember this from my first trip (next) but what a find - a superb display of Japanese armour - it had to be seen to be believed...

...what about that for a display!

...and on the way out they have turned the museum workshop into it's own display...  look at all that armour!

... note the shelves behind - shel after shelf of component parts waiting to be joined together in full suits as the relevant parts are sourced..

...more cuirassier armour..  I have a thing about Haselrig's Lobsters...

...pikeman's suit - one on the left would be ideal for Edgehill as they started to drop armour as the war continued....

...either Parthian catephract, or more likely, later Ottoman - perhaps from the Egypt campaign??

...this little Renault FT17 was on display as we went out...

....what a fantastic day - reckon we were there at least five or six hours...  hugely recommended I rate it 10 out of 10...

..over the next few days we also visited a few other places, so by way of a military taster....

Musee D'Orsay

Detaille again...  French conscripts sleeping during the Siege of Paris (1870) and dreaming of past Imperial glories

Imperial Guard horse artillery in the Crimea

"Battle of Eylau" by François Flameng

Meissonier - Campagne de France (Napoleon and his staff returning from Soissons after the Battle)

...details that catch the eye... look at the eyes on the guy on the right....

....and that's it...   a superb trip and hugely recommended...  but expensive!!


  1. Incredible! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Mark - well worth the visit - and as one of the other guys said it has to be on any wargamers bucket list...

  2. What a post - brilliant!

    1. Stryker - thanks - all I did was point the camera at a tiny part of the exhibits..

  3. Thanks for posting about your visit , very jealous ! , excellent museum

    1. Svek - get on a train or a plane - best 9 euro's (!) I ever spent....

  4. They've moved the FT17, once upon a long time ago it used to be tucked under the main staircase!

    1. Mike - it's on one corner of the first courtyard now... love those early war French tanks...

  5. What a day out. One more for the bucket list!

    1. Matt - I could go back tomorrow and still not be bored... the funny thing is TravelAdviser says most people spend an average of 45 minutes there - what are they doing - just going to the toilet?! Five times that more likely - or even a good day...

  6. Looks so much better than when I visited it over 40 years ago. The fort models were all in a dusty attic and there were no model soldiers on display. Just reinforces my desire to visit again.

    1. Will - I reckon the last time I went was about 30-40 years ago... the fort models are now in a bespoke room of their own - totally darkened apart from the displays - very effective... Bayonne was good as well as I recognised some of it from our visit a few years ago

  7. Nice post, I think I've been there but it was at least 20 years ago and nowhere near as good!
    Best Iain

  8. Well worth a visit. I've been twice in the past decade but I'm not ruling out a further trip.

    1. Tim - me too - lovely place to visit (Paris) but next time I'll take better walking shoes... :o))

  9. The best military museum and one I keep going back to. One for every wargamers bucket list I think.

    1. Paul - couldn't agree more - funnily enough I thought of you when I saw the multi barrel cannon as I remembered a post where you'd mentioned them! :o))

  10. Wonderful photos, thanks for posting them Steve. I love the shots of massed armour in the workshop.

    1. Lee - closest thing you'll get to what it must have been like looking at the front rank of a War of the Roses battle array...? :o) I think the one that made go "wow" was the Samurai display - very very effective

  11. Enjoyed your report, Steve, brought back happy memories of my own visits a while ago now.

  12. Have been there and it is absolutely superb. Thank you for the article and fine photos.

    1. Thanks Jubilo - definitely a highlight of my year

  13. That's a terrific post! Now I want to go there too.

    1. Get over there, Jim - wholly recommended - throw in the Orangerie, the Musee d'Orsay and the Arc de Triomphe and you will definitely not be spoilt for choice!

  14. I haven't been there since I was eleven. I know that it was closed for a number of years recently while they did it up. Glad the French didn't go all politically correct on it!