|Republican Guards. Our guide was the one in the middle with his back towards the camera.|
The world as I know it has ceased to exist. I had an inkling that something major had happened when I received a short email from Stéphane that said, "Did you tell me that you were free from Sunday 29 April afternoon? Can we leave for a romantic trip on Sunday afternoon?" Bizarre. After responding that I would happily go on a trip with him and asking if we should meet at the gym or at home later that evening, Stéphane replied, "I'll go with you to the Gym. Any romantic place you feel like going to afterwards?" Shivers ran down my spine. Had someone hacked Stéphane's email account and assumed his identity?
Stéphane's behavior continued to baffle me until shortly after our arrival at Afaria when I mentioned that I liked the turn of phrase used by our waiter when he asked if we would entrust him with the wine selection. When Stéphane smiled and enquired, "Is he charming?", it finally occurred to me that my husband of many years was jealous. Absolutely amazing! Teasing Stéphane that if I had known that my enthusiastic comments about the charming Republican Guard, whom I had met the day before, would result in invitations for romantic trips, I would have made a point of mentioning the other captivating Frenchmen I've met.
But between you and me, the Republican Guard was the most charming - and just to set the record straight, everyone, including the men, on the WICE tour of the Headquarter's of the Republican Guard agreed.
|Another Republican Guard. Not our guide.|
The Republican Guard, composed of 3,200 men and women, is part of the French Gendarmerie and is responsible for guarding important national buildings, including the Élysée Palace, the Palais du Luxembourg and the National Assembly and welcoming and protecting important dignitaries, such as the President of the United States and the Queen of England. Additionally, Republican Guards on motorcycle transport or escort 600 organs for urgent transplantation every year. They also support other law enforcement forces, while the cavalry assists with security at major sporting events at the Stade de France.
While visiting the museum, our guide entertained us with tales about the history of the Republican Guard. For example, it used to be mandatory for members to smoke pipes because touching the bowls of the pipes proved to be a fast and effective way for superior officers to know if a guard had fallen asleep during his watch. If the pipe was cold, the guard had obviously dozed off on the job, whereas if it was hot, it meant that he had performed his duty.
The large Canadian bearskin hats used to be a part of the uniform of the Republican Guards until Napoleon Bonaparte's defeat at Waterloo when the British kept them as trophies of their victory.
Another fascinating historical fact is that trumpeters' hats are adorned with red feathers because Napoleon used trumpets to signal his orders to the troops and it was crucial for him to be able to spot them as quickly as possible during battle.
Monday's post will feature the horses of the Republican Guard. Until then, see if you can guess the use of the metal object sitting on top of the bucket and why it was an important tool when Napoleon crossed the Alps. [Edit: Hint - The metal plate is a template that is placed on the haunches (rear end) of a horse. A wet brush is used to brush the hair in the opposite direction to make a checkerboard pattern. I tried to find a better photo but only have this one from last September before I knew that it was the Republican Guard at Place Vendome. Anyway, if you look closely at the horse on the left (click on the picture to enlarge it), you'll see the pattern made by the metal template. But the question remains, why do they do this?]
While watching the following YouTube video, I was reminded that I should mention that the long red "tail" (made from a horse's tail) hanging from the helmets of the Republican Guard used to serve an important function. It protected the neck from fatal blows.
If you would like to learn more about the Republican Guard, there will be an open house for the public on September 29 and 30, 2012 when there will be a number of demonstrations on foot, horse and motorcycle. I've already made a note in my calendar!