A 19th century English painting by Edward Matthew Ward depicts the investiture of Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor was bestowed with the Order of the Garter on April 16, 1855.
At Queen Victoria’s invitation, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie arrived in England on April 16, 1855 for an official state visit. They arrived at the port in Dover on their royal yacht Pélican where they were met by Prince Albert. The French Imperial Couple spent three days at Windsor and three days at Buckingham Palace in London. Some of the events included a state dinner at Windsor, a visit to the opera in London and a military review.
As part of the state visit, Napoleon III received the Order of the Garter. As depicted in the painting, the investiture took place in the Throne Room at Windsor Castle. You can spot Queen Victoria bestowing the Order on Napoleon III. The painting boasts a number of fine details of this event because Queen Victoria allowed the painter to observe the investiture. Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting are looking on behind her. Prince Albert, adorned in his own Garter robes, is standing right behind Napoleon III. On the far right you can spot a seated Eugénie wearing her Pearl and Diamond Tiara. Next to her is a young Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and right behind her chair stands a young Princess Royal (later Empress Friedrich).
The Order of the Garter
In 1348, King Edward III was so enchanted by the mythical tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that he set up his own group of knights, called the Order of the Garter. Today the Order is the oldest and highest Order of Chivalry that can be bestowed upon a British citizen.
Napoleon III reigned until his defeat during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He was imprisoned for a short time at Schloss Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany. After his release, he and Eugénie took refuge in England. Napoleon III died in 1873; Eugénie died in 1920. Their only child, Louis-Napoléon, was killed at age 23 in 1879 while fighting in the Anglo-Zulu War.
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Royal Collection Trust