The Imperial Eagle
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, one man’s name was on everyone’s lips. Napoleon Bonaparte had seized power in France with a coup, transforming himself into a living juggernaut. At first, he paid lip service to the Revolution, but there were many who were rightly suspicious of his motives. His time was the Romantic Era, when the cult of the individual first developed. This was the precursor to our contemporary world’s cult of the celebrity. Napoleon’s fame spread hope among those in Europe who were disillusioned with traditional monarchy. Even Beethoven worshipped at that shrine before becoming disenchanted with his hero. Napoleon’s grab for the imperial throne disappointed those who’d previously idolized him. Yet despite his attempt to control all things around him, just like King Louis XIV, the new Emperor was a failure at fashion. He lost his lankiness to the good life that came with being a ruler. A short man, he preferred breeches to trousers, although they didn’t suit his thickening form. His generals, known as Marshalls of France, made up for his shortcomings. They flaunted the most dandified extremes of dress, including horsehair plumes, scads of gilt braid, and brightly colored jackets. A number of English opponents would offer laconic remarks in their journals about how this made it so much easier to aim for them on the battlefield.