Martin-Guillame Biennais (1794-1843) held the appointment of Goldsmith to the Emperor and was unquestionably pre-eminent in his field. Biennais made a series of highly ornamented swords for Napoleon, both for his own use and for presentation.
The present sword is marked by its unusual simplicity. A noteworthy comparison in this respect is the sabre carried at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington, now preserved at Apsley House. Also by Biennais, the sabre might be regarded as lesser sword in that it is mounted in silver-gilt rather than in gold. It is believed that Wellington acquired the sabre from a French General during the Peninsular War of 1808-1814. In the absence of firm evidence it must remain a possibility that the present sword was also acquired within this period and from the same source, despite claims to a Napoleonic provenance.
Sir Henry Hardinge (1785-1856) was an illustrious soldier whose military career spanned the most glorious campaigns of British military history. Having repeatedly distinguished himself in the Peninsular Wars, he was taken by Wellington onto his personal staff for the Flanders campaign and was instructed by the Duke to track Napoleon's progress at the outset of the 'Hundred Days'. Chosen for his intelligence and diplomacy, Lt. Col. Hardinge was appointed as Wellington's liaison officer on Field-Marshal Blücher's staff. It was with the Prussians at the opening engagement at Ligny, on the afternoon of 16th June 1815, that Hardinge's left hand was shattered by a stone driven up by roundshot and was subsequently amputated. Hardinge nonetheless compiled a final and much needed situation report of the Prussian disposition for Wellington. He then resumed his post with Blücher in Paris.
After Waterloo the Duke devoted a special Gazette to Sir Henry Hardinge's service and at the Grand Review of the Prussian army near Sedan it is stated that Wellington took from his own side Napoleon's sword and presented it to him (Charles Viscount Hardinge, op. cit., p.28)
For a detailed account of Hardinge's early service in the Peninsula see J.A. Hall, A History of the Peninsular War, vol. VIII, London, 1998, p. 260. For references to Hardinge's role on the Prussian staff see M. Adkin, The Waterloo Companion, London, 2001, pp.33, 97 and 111. Also see Jac Weller, Wellington at Waterloo, London, 1998, pp. 37, 71-2 and 127.