One hundred thousand tin, lead, card and papier-maché figurines, recounting the military and civilian history of France, go to make up the Musée de la Figurine Historique. And the museum spreads out over 5,300 square feet, six chronological sections, and includes twenty dioramas devoted to the First Empire.
Two historical reconstructions present 'The victory at Austerlitz, 2 December, 1805': the first, "l'Attente", recalls Napoleon's sleepless night on the eve of the battle; the second, "le Soleil Matinal", represents the few moments before the three emperors engaged in combat.
Some of the dioramas, for example "Bataillon au bivouac", "L'Armée impériale de 1806 à 1812" and the "l'Intendance de l'artillerie", show the day-to-day life of the imperial army. In fact, the "Bataillon au bivouac" gives an excellent portrayal of camp-life according to the rules set out in 1809 for the infantry. Visitors are presented with further historical reconstructions, such as "A military parade in front of the Tuileries Palace and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in 1811" [see inset], "The capture of the Great Redoubt of the Moskowa, 7 September 1812" and "The Return of the Body, 15 December 1840".
The most impressive diorama has to be that of the battle of Waterloo by Charles Laurent, who for greater accuracy used charts from Belgian military headquarters and worked on the reconstitution for 18 years (1905-1923). The diorama features almost 12,000 figurines spread out over 270 square feet and triangular panels signal the positions of all the protagonists (Napoleon, Wellington and the Ompteda's Hanoverian battalion). The different phases of the battle are related using lights and recorded commentaries.
"The Arrival of the Empress Marie-Louise at the Château de Compiègne" is a fine illustration of the pomp of the imperial palace at the height of its glory. Nor is Compiègne during the Second Empire omitted, with the reconstitution of a reception in the park of the château. The museum also features several showcases displaying arms and prints of military uniforms.