The Imperial Guard was a small, elite army, directly under Napoleon’s control. Like the corps, it had infantry, cavalry and artillery. It was comprised of the best veteran soldiers from every theater of war. They were the most feared men in Napoleon’s army and were Napoleon's weapon of last resort. Napoleon took very good care of his Guard, particularly the Old Guard, and the Old Guard Grenadiers were known to complain in the presence of the Emperor, giving them the nickname Les Grognards, the grumblers.
The most honored among them were the Old Guard, veterans of regiments formed between 1800 and 1806; next was the Middle Guard, formed between 1806 and 1809; and finally the Young Guard. The Imperial Guard grew from 8,000 in 1805 to 80,000 in 1812. Over 60,000 marched into Russia; few returned.
At Waterloo,Napoleon committed most of the Guards — twenty-three infantry battalions, 18,000 men strong. It was thrown into the battle at the last minute to salvage a victory for Napoleon. It faced terrible fire from the British lines, and began to retreat. It was the first time the Guard had ever been defeated in battle. At the sight of this Napoleon's army lost all hope of victory.
To view a little bit of history on Napoleon's Imperial Guard, please click here.