Napoleon’s Hat

Napoleon’s Hat
There have been many events to mark the bicentennial of Napoleon Bonaparte‘s death on the island of St Helena in May 1821, but perhaps the most recognizable and iconic is in the upcoming September auction in Sotheby’s in Paris. Napoleon’s bicorne hat is expected to sell at an estimate of between 400,000 – 600,000 euros. This hat, believed to be only one of 19 still in existence, is credited to have been worn by Napoleon not only during his army’s triumphant defeat of Russia in 1807, but also when he signed the peace treaties of Tilsit that carved up continental Europe into various zones of French and Russian influence. Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz wearing a bicorne (C) Unknown, Public Domain Most of the remaining 19 hats are in museum collections, although one is famously displayed in a glass cabinet in Le Procope restaurant in Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. It was said to have been left in lieu of a bill. (When Napoleon fled the battlefield on June 18th, 1815, he was forced to abandon the carriage carrying his campaign baggage. After his defeat, the contents were seized upon by the allies. The Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin has his hat and since 1837, the Queen of England has owned the red, ankle-length, embroidered cloak worn by Napoleon on the eve of the battle.) The bicorne up for auction had been bought in 1814 by the Scottish politician and aristocrat Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart, then passed down through the generations from his estate in Ardgowan, Scotland. Stewart had been somewhat obsessed with Bonaparte. He had met him once and had considered him to be a brilliant strategist. Battlefield at Waterloo. Credit: William Sadler, Public Domain Another of Napoleon’s bicorne hats that was believed to be have been dropped on the battlefield at Waterloo 205 years ago was bought at auction in Lyon in 2018 for 350,000 euros. Earlier in 2014, again at auction, a bicorne which had come from a collection of the Monaco royal family was bought by the South Korean founder and chairman of the Harim food conglomerate for a whopping $2 million –  five times the estimated guide price. This particular bicorne had a convincing provenance. The hat was said to have been picked up as a war trophy after the Battle of Waterloo and after changing hands was showcased in Brussels at the 1897 World’s Fair. Other clues to its authenticity, apart from it being Napoleon‘s size (he was said to have a larger than average head!), were modifications he was known to request, such as reinforcements and the removal of the sheepskin band.

Lead photo credit : Early bicorne from France (C) Unknown, Public Domain

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After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they've lived on the Isle of Wight.