In an event that took place last weekend, some of Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal effects were auctioned off in an effort to raise money for palace renovations. Some of these effects included his sword, his stockings, and small medals, but the largest contributor to the auction was his hat. So, how much was Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat worth? At auction it sold for $2.4 million U.S. dollars, around $1.9 million Euros. As the family and auctioneers were predicting to get at least $500,000 for the hat, the price it sold for was far beyond expectations.
History teaches us of Napoleon Bonaparte, “a small man, who left behind a huge legacy,” but with the most recent event, bearing his name, it seems that his legacy continues, even today. He was an ordinary man who quickly rose to power after conquering most of early 19th century Europe. In the military he began as a leader in the French Revolution in the late 1700’s. In 1804 he crowned himself emperor and began waging wars against European nations in order to expand his empire. It went downhill from there as he was exiles a couple of years later, but then returned in 1815 to rule in power during his famous Hundred Days campaign. Then, only to be exiled again some time later, his legacy had already been left behind when he died at age 51.
Though historical items always seem to bring in the big bucks, Napoleon Bonaparte’s things were no exception. In fact, items from the French Revolution have brought in big bucks in the past. Such was the case when his gold-encrusted saber brought in a record $6.5 million in 2007. However, the auction of his hat, with twice the expected amount, was extraordinary. The infamous hat received the final bid and ended up with a South Korean collector. During the auction the delicate item sat on top of a pillow, in its own chair, awaiting the final bid of $2.4 million dollars.
Other items auctioned off went to various collectors, though the final bid prices were not released. Nearly 1,000 objects were released by the Monaco royal family, in hopes that the objects would be given “a new lease [on] life.” Some of these items were portraits of Napoleon, letters written by him, cologne bottles, the stockings he wore, weapons he used, and even a knife used in an assassination attempt against him. Also auctioned off were some of Napoleon’s son’s baby clothes and childhood items.
The auction attracted hundreds of buyers, resulting in a packed auction house. One such buyer, is a huge collector of Napoleon Bonaparte things, as he hopes to create a museum. Owner of the Liberation newspaper, Mr. Bruno Ledoux, was hoping to get his hands on some of Napoleon II’s baby items, though it was not released for certain, whether or not he achieved his goal.
But the star attraction of the event was still his black bicorn hat. Only 19 of those types of hats have ever existed, giving reason to why Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat was worth so much, but even more interesting is the story of how his hat become such a contributor to his legacy. It is said that during his time in battles, the French leader wore his hat with the tips on each side of his head, rather than from front to back, like the hat was usually worn. Many, many years ago when asked why he wore it so unusually, Napoleon said it was so his men could recognize him in battle. Pictures of the infamous French leader wearing the hat the wrong way, can still be seen today.
Since the early 2000’s, prices for Napoleon’s things have been rising exponentially. Especially now, with the Battle of Waterloo anniversary approaching, collector’s are battling over the things that once belonged to Napoleon. The New York Times is calling it, the “New Napoleonic Era.”
By Crystal Boulware