Hat belonging to Napoleon fetches record £1,700,000 at auction

Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said the hat was one of Napoleon’s trademarks.

Hat belonging to Napoleon fetches record £1,700,000 at auction

A hat belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe has been sold for a record £1.7 million (€1.9 million, $2.1 million) at an auction.

The faded and cracked felt bicorne hat was initially estimated to fetch £525,000 to £700,000 (€600,000 to €800,000) when it went under the hammer in Paris.

It beat the €1.8 million paid for another Napoleon hat in 2014. The buyer has not yet gone public.

Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said the hat was one of Napoleon’s trademarks.

He is thought to have owned around 120 throughout his life, although only 20 are believed to remain.

‘People recognised this hat everywhere. When they saw it on the battlefields, they knew Napoleon was there,’ Mr Osenat said.

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

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The ‘black beaver’ felt two-cornered hat with an embroidered tricolor cockade belonging to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Picture: Reuters)
Napoleon the Great, Emperor of the French, King of Italy', circa 1806, (1921). 'Napoleon Le Grand, Empereur des Fran??ais, Roi d'Italie'. Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in cocked hat and uniform. Engraving by Ruotte after Robert Lef??vre. From
Napoleon always wore the hat with the corners aligned with his shoulders – known as ‘en bataille’, or ‘in battle’ (Picture: The Print Collector/Heritage Images)
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The hat on display before going on auction at Osenat auction house, in Paris (Picture: Reuters)

He described how Napoleon always wore the hat with the corners aligned with his shoulders – known as ‘en bataille’, or ‘in battle’ – while most people at the time wore it with the corners front to back.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Colonel Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoléon, according to the auctioneers.

It then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.

Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard Pass, 20 May 1800. 1801-1802. Oil on canvas. 232 x 271 cm (91.3 x 106.7 in). Musee de l'Histoire de France, Versailles, France. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said the hat was one of Napoleon’s trademarks (Picture: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
This image released by Apple TV+ shows Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from
The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film ‘Napoleon’ with Joaquin Phoenix (Picture: AP)

The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film ‘Napoleon’ with Joaquin Phoenix, which is rekindling interest in the controversial French ruler.

Hats believed to have been owned by Napoleon regularly appear at auctions.

In October 2021, a newly discovered hat with DNA evidence proving it belonged to Napoleon was auctioned by Bonhams in London. 

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