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Title Joseph Napoleon's Grenadier Guard bearskin plate
Nationality Italian
Period 1806-08

This is one of the rarest of the French Empire bearskin plates. It was worn in the short period (1806-08) when JN was king of the two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily). After he became king of Spain, Murat replaced him as king of the two Sicilies. There were probably no more than 1,000 men in the unit.

The style of the plate is that of an Austrian grenadier of the 1790s, and I suspect that all Joseph Napoleon did was take an existing plate of Austrian design (the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had strong Austrian connections, Ferdinand I's wife being Saxon and the daughter of Maria Josepha of Austria) and, having erased their coat of arms from the centre shield, replaced it with his own initials. This may sound like supposition, but there is nothing else that fits these initials and the style of the plate in the Europe of the day. There is a description of a bearskin plate for the sappers of the Grenadiers of the Guard in Napoleon's Italian and Neapolitan troops by Otto von Pivka (published by Osprey, ISBN 0-85045-303-8), which refers to a 'brass front plate bearing the crowned cypher "JN"'.

It is a die-struck plate (18.5cm high x 19cm across the base) of thin gilding metal/brass, constructed around an iron wire rim, where the plate has been folded over on the reverse for strength. Traces of the original bearskin remain on the reverse. There are also what appear to be six original brass wire fittings clipped into the securing holes around the rim. It is quite fragile; however, surprisingly, there are no visible cracks or signs of metal fatigue, other than two small splits in the rim on the reverse and a considerable amount of age bruising, which does not affect the central device or the crown.

This was dark brown when I bought it, but has now been carefully hand cleaned and polished and has come up beautifully.

If you want to comment on this item—re quality, age, etc—please email me.

[Militaria : Headdress : Italian : 19th Century]


Thanks very much for the bayonet. I am very happy, I think your photos of your items are great because nothing is hidden and you can clearly see them. (Unlike some other dealers.) Everything was as you describe, I will be keeping a eye on your site for any further bayonets for my collection.

S W, UK, 10.01.2013

My Arisaka arrived at 9.00am. Very prompt delivery and excellent packaging! The blade is superb.. and just what I was after, its in very fine condition and just as you described.. I've referenced it in my copy of Raymond La Bar's book "Bayonets of Japan".

Many thanks, Chris, once again its been a pleasure doing business!

S A, UK, 14.08.2012