Chamberlain’s key with monogram of Prince Eugene


Clef de chambellan au chiffre du prince Eugène, vice-roi d Ítalie


Chamberlain’s key with monogram of Prince Eugene, Viceroy of Italy

1805-14

Gilt bronze

16.5cm

 

A gilt bronze Chamberlain’s Key for the court of Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, adopted son of Napoleon, Prince of the French Empire, Prince of Venice and Viceroy of Italy.


The design of the chamberlains key was similar for each of the Napoleonic courts. An oval ring of oak and laurel leaves topped with a crown and inside the oval an eagle with spread wings. At the base of the eagle a shield bearing the monogram of the sovereign. The example above bears the ‘E’ for Prince Eugene. Eugene’s Grand Chamberlain was Antonio Litta Visconti Arese and he was assisted by 23 other Chamberlain.

With the creation of the Empire, it became necessary to re-establish the etiquette and ceremonies that governed court life. The rules were set out in the book ‘Etiquette du palais imperial’ written by the comte Louis-Philippe de Ségur.  

Six Great Officers of the crown were in charge of the affairs of the French Imperial Household with the Grand Chamberlain in charge of controlling access to the Emperor’s apartments, his meeting schedules, accompanying him on trips and directing palace festivals. There were 65 chamberlain at the Tuileries Palace to assist the Grand and First Chamberlains.

The chamberlain was responsible for purchasing their own ‘scarlet’ uniform (see picture above) but the ceremonial key carried by each was gifted to him. The key was worn, as in the picture on the right, attached to the left pocket of the jacket.

This key symbolically opened one special door, that of the sovereigns private realm.


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