Les Grognards or The Grumblers were the Grenadiers of the Old Guard of the Imperial Guard; so called because they alone had the right to complain in the presence of the emperor.
The Imperial Guard was Napoleon's equivalent to the Ancien Régime's troops of the Royal Household; the Old Guard were the elite veteran regiments of the Imperial Guard, and of them the First Foot Grenadiers, with their tall bearskin hats, were the best known and most prestigious, hand-picked by the Emperor for courage and physical size. Their outspokenness did not restrict itself to kvetching; they shouted jokes at the Emperor, gave him nicknames, and generally conducted themselves toward him with a familiarity not permitted even to the marshals. In the age of cadaver discipline, such behavior in the case of any other unit would have been subject to extreme sanction, but from his bodyguards, Napoleon permitted it.
At the last, they merited the love of Bonaparte and stood firm when the rest of the Imperial Guard broke and routed at Waterloo; scattered like chaff by British rifle and artillery fire, at last the mangled remnants of the regiment received a demand for surrender from the British general Sir Charles Colville. According to patriotic French newspapers of the time, general Cambronne replied »The Guard dies and doesn't surrender!«; however, he denied to his death that he uttered this epigram, and a folk tradition, perhaps more credible, reports that he merely shouted »Merde!«, best rendered, I think, into contemporary English as »FUCK!« — one last grumble.