A British attraction with links to the French Revolution is expecting to boom in popularity thanks to the release of Ridley Scott’s new movie, Napoleon.
Levens Hall and Gardens, in Cumbria, is home to a trove of items once belonging to both the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his greatest opponent, the Duke of Wellington.
Among items on display are a lock of the Duke’s hair, Napoleon’s paper blotter and a clasp of bees taken from the Emperor’s cloak after he was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
With these items and more, the Elizabethan hall claims to be ‘excellently placed’ to satisfy the curiosity of fans who ‘become absorbed by this period’ when the film hits cinema screens on November 22.
It adds: ‘Thanks to the life breathed into the character of the French Emperor and soldier by actor Joaquin Phoenix, Levens Hall and Gardens, located close to Kendal, is predicting a surge of interest in all things Napoleonic.’
Levens Hall and Gardens, pictured here, is home to a trove of items once belonging to both the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his greatest opponent, the Duke of Wellington
Levens Hall is owned by the Bagot family into which the Duke’s niece, Lady Mary Charlotte Anne Wellesley, married in 1806.
The Duke, remembered for defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, left her a number of items after his death in 1852, which are now housed at Levens Hall.
These also include locks of hair from the Duke’s horse, Copenhagen, his folding portable campaign bed and a bottle of port wine presented by the people of Oporto after the Peninsular War.
These items ‘always cause a stir’, according to Levens Hall.
Other items belonging to Napoleon fell into the Duke’s possession after his army’s victory over the French.
The hall says: ‘If victory mementoes, it is likely they were kept with a sense of disdain for an enemy the Duke described as a “fraud” but also some degree of respect.
‘When referencing the man as a military leader, the Duke claimed his presence on the battlefield “was worth forty thousand men”.’
Smaller items at the property also include the Emperor’s writing blotter, taken from one of the captured Napoleonic coaches after Waterloo, and a small book, seized from the carriage of older brother Joseph Bonaparte at the Battle of Vitoria.
Visitors to Levens Hall can cast their eyes on ‘a clasp of bees (pictured) that closed and adorned the cloak Napoleon wore before Waterloo’
Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon
There is also a set of French porcelain figures depicting Napoleon and his marshals.
‘Fans of the era will also delight in the Arabian saddle, given to Napoleon by Elphi, the Bey of Cairo, during the leader’s Egyptian campaign,’ Levens Hall says.
‘Then there is a clasp of bees that closed and adorned the cloak Napoleon wore before Waterloo and which was found on a battlefield mound by the Duke of Wellington’s Aide de Camp.
‘Napoleon used the bee symbol to enhance his credibility as Emperor, with this having been the oldest emblem of French sovereigns.
‘It also symbolised immortality and resurrection.’
Another item conveying the era’s history, it says, is the Sevres Chocolate Service, which was seized from the chocolate factory at Sevres, France, after Waterloo.
Napoleon had commissioned this special green porcelain chocolate service for ‘Madame Mère’, the hall explains.
Saddling up for action: Napoleon hits cinemas in the UK on Thursday, November 22
LEFT: Visitors can explore ‘the world’s oldest topiary garden’ at Levens Hall. RIGHT: A lock of the Duke of Wellington’s hair is among items on display at Levens Hall
The Sevres Chocolate Service, above, was seized from the chocolate factory at Sevres after Waterloo, according to Levens Hall
ABOUT LEVENS HALL
Levens Hall and Gardens is a historic house near Kendal, Cumbria.
Built around a 13th-century pele tower, the Elizabethan home has close links to the Duke of Wellington and houses various items that once belonged to him and Napoleon Bonaparte.
It also boasts the world’s oldest topiary gardens, dating from 1694, created by French garden designer Guillaume Beaumont.
Levens Deer Park, meanwhile, is home to a herd of black fallow deer, and a herd of rare-breed Bagot goats. With their distinctive white coats, black faces and large curved horns, the goats are believed to be Britain’s oldest breed of goat with a documented ancestry.
Source: Levens Hall and Gardens
This was the Imperial title given to his mother, Letizia Bonaparte, and the gift was intended to enable her to enjoy one of the era’s great trends – drinking chocolate.
The porcelain, which depicts hunting scenes in the park of Vincennes and figures that are portraits of Napoleon and his generals, had been packed up in readiness for its presentation.
‘Anyone absorbed by Napoleon will also probably appreciate the gloves worn by the Duke at Waterloo and taken off his hands, post-battle, by Lady Mornington,’ according to the site.
‘These are displayed with his spectacles and case.’
Levens Hall says those who enjoy the new Napoleon film will also be ‘delighted’ by the site’s Christmas event – Silhouettes and Song.
This will take place on the weekends of December 2 and 3, 9 and 10, and 16 and 17, from 11am to 4pm, with last entry at 3.30pm.
During this time, visitors can tour some of the hall’s rooms, ‘exquisitely decorated for Christmas’ and enjoy a musical programme featuring choral and brass band performances.
Access will also be given to part of Levens Hall garden, described by the site as ‘the world’s oldest topiary garden’.
It was ‘ironically’ founded by Frenchman Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont in 1694 around a century before Napoleon’s rise to power, the hall says.
‘There, the trees will be at their absolute best after their winter trim and stunningly silhouetted against a winter sky,’ it adds.
Those attending the Levens Hall Christmas event can tour some of the hall’s rooms, ‘exquisitely decorated for Christmas’. Pictured: The Great Hall
A festive menu will be served at Levens Kitchen while festive bakes and cakes will be available for takeaway from the bakery.
Entrance to the event costs £5.50 for adults and £2 for children.
Following the Christmas event, the site will close and reopen on March 27 for the 2024 season.
For more information visit www.levenshall.co.uk.