Battle of Waterloo

One of the most famous and powerful historical objects from the battle, this French cuirass, a breastplate worn as body armour by French cavalry, was holed by a cannonball that smashed through the unlucky soldier’s chest. The Waterloo campaign was the first occasion that British troops found themselves face to face with Napoleon’s armoured cavalry, whose cuirasses and metal helmets made them a daunting foe.

The armour belonged to 23-year-old trooper François-Antoine Fauveau – but there is a twist to the tale. Family legend has it that when his call-up papers arrived, François-Antoine was on the point of getting married, so his brother joined up, and died, in his place. Whoever was wearing it on 18 June 1815, this cuirass serves to emphasise the brutality of Napoleonic warfare at a most personal level.