This silver chamber pot forms part of the treasure looted from King Joseph Bonaparte’s captured baggage train after the Battle of Vittoria.
Following the Allied victory at Vittoria, on the 21 June 1813, there was an uncoordinated British cavalry chase and a French baggage-train, consisting of thousands of wagons and carriages was ransacked, so delaying the pursuit of the enemy’s retreating column.
Women, children, art treasures, silver, gold and rich materials were captured and shared out by the cavalry and following infantry. The 18th Hussars almost captured King Joseph. A corporal of the 18th fought a drummer of the 87th Foot for the possession of the King’s baton, later presented to the Prince Regent.
The 14th Light Dragoons, part of Victor Alten’s Light Cavalry Brigade (of Hill’s Division), commanded by Colonel FB Hervey, an able and distinguished officer, avidly assisted in the pillage of the French treasure. Hervey saw to it that the regimental loot was not formally handed in to army HQ, but fairly divided amongst the regiment, who, as many, were in arrears of pay.
The silver chamber pot (a pot de voiture) was part of the toiletry contents of King Joseph’s personal carriage, captured by the 14th Light Dragoons. It was supposed to have been presented to King Joseph by his brother, Emperor Napoleon. Thus it was known as the ‘Emperor’!
Ever since 1813, the silver pot was used as a loving cup by the regiment, who became nicknamed the ‘Emperor’s Chambermaids’!
Today, the Commanding Officer of the successor regiment, The King’s Royal Hussars, traditionally invites officers to drink from the Emperor on Mess nights and it remains the regiment’s most treasured piece of silver.