December 4, 2023

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Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat sold for 1.9 million euros at auction in Paris

Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat sold for 1.9 million euros at auction in Paris

  • Written by Emily McGarvey and Vicki Wong
  • BBC News

A hat belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte when he ruled the French Empire in the 19th century has sold for €1.9 million ($2.1 million; £1.7 million) at an auction in Paris.

The value of the black beaver felt hat ranges between €600,000 and €800,000 (£525,850 – £701,131).

The person who bought the hat did not announce himself.

Historians say the hat was part of his trademark. Wearing it sideways made it recognizable in battle. He owned about 120 horned hats over the years.

However, only 20 pieces are believed to survive, many of which are in private collections.

The hat is being sold alongside other Napoleonic memorabilia collected by an industrialist who died last year.

But the auctioneers told specialists that the hat is the true Holy Grail.

The Emperor wore his hat with the corn parallel to the shoulders—known as “en bataille”—while most of his officers wore their hats perpendicular to the shoulders.

“People recognized this hat everywhere,” said auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat. “When they saw it on the battlefields, they knew Napoleon was there.”

“And when in private, he always put it on his head or in his hand, and sometimes he threw it on the ground. That was the image – the symbol of the emperor.”

The hat being auctioned by Osinat Auctions in Fontainebleau bears a ribbon that Napoleon pinned to his hat in 1815, while crossing the Mediterranean from his exile on Elba to Antibes, where he led a brief return to power.

Other items being sold include a silver plate stolen from Napoleon’s carriage after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, and a wooden bag he owned, containing razors, a silver toothbrush, scissors and other possessions.