"You are worthy to belong to my Old Guard. Honour to the Bravest of the Brave!" [Words spoken by the Emperor at the revue of the Polish Light-Horse following their charge at Somosierra]
Poland as a nation has had a turbulent history. Its people are fiercely patriotic and have always held a strong desire for freedom and a National identity.
In the eighteenth century Poland was looked on as a prize by its strong neighbours who saw the country’s weakness as a chance to expand. In 1795 Poland was partitioned for the third time by Prussia, Austria and Imperial Russia. It ceased to exist as a nation. Many thousands of Polish soldiers, officers and volunteers therefore emigrated, especially to Italy and to France, where they joined forces with the local military and formed the Polish Legions, under French command.
In 1807 Napoleon expressed his intentions to decisively crush the might of Prussia, Austria and Russia and reestablish Poland by moving onto Polish soil. With words of independence and a belief that the Polish Nation would again be recreated the Poles flocked to his side and the Duchy of Warsaw was created.
Among the thousands of soldiers and veterans who took up the banner of freedom were those who entered the Poznan and Warsaw Honour Guard. This unit so impressed Napoleon that it was immediately put under French command and attached to his personal escort. It’s loyalty to Napoleon and heroism as the Polish Light Horse and later the 1st.Regiment of Polish Guard Lancer’s was to speak for itself on many fronts in the Napoleonic Wars that followed.