The 1st and 2nd Carabiniers-à-Cheval were created in 1787, as regiments of heavy cavalry. They participated with distinction in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Their armament included a carbine, a sabre (straight-bladed before c.1811, then "a la Montmorency" - with a very slight curve) and a pair of pistols.
The Carabiniers' most memorable exploit occurred during the Russian campaign at the Battle of Borodino, where they successfully stormed the Great Redoubt despite suffering heavy casualties. The winter retreat proved even more devastating and only some 200 men escaped, the 1st Regiment, numbering 941 men in July 1812, now had only 81.
The surviving carabiniers were reorganized but they never recovered; in July 1813, according to one, source there were only 122 men with 134 horses in the 1st Regt. and 140 men and 143 horses in the 2nd.
During the Hundred Days, they rejoined Napoleon's army and formed a brigade in General Kellermann's 3rd Reserve Cavalry Corps serving with distinction at the battle of Waterloo alongside the cuirassiers.
In the Musée de l'Armée, there is a famous, or to be more accurate, a poignant example of a Carabinier-à-Cheval cuirass with a hole made by a cannonball at Waterloo, it belonged to a cavalryman called Antoine Fauveau.
310gm Limited edition of 50 c/w authentication certificate
Illustration by David Higham