Napoleon hat could fetch up to 600,000 euros at auction

By: AFP      Published: 10:06 PM, 15 Jul, 2021
Napoleon hat could fetch up to 600,000 euros at auction

A hat worn by Napoleon during his 1807 military campaign against Prussian and Russian forces could fetch 600,000 euros ($710,000) when it goes on sale in September, auctioneers Sotheby's said Thursday.

The distinctive two-cornered black felt hat is one of 19 that historians have identified as having been worn by the emperor, Sotheby's said ahead of the auction of memorabilia to mark 200 years since the emperor’s death.

The last bicorne hat to be auctioned, which was said to have been taken as a war trophy from the scene of Napoleon's ultimate defeat, the Battle of Waterloo, fetched 350,000 euros at auction in 2018.

The latest to go under the hammer was acquired in 1814 by a Scottish politician, Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, whose family has owned it since.

It is believed to have been worn during Napoleon's battlefield victories against Prussian and Russian troops in 1807 as well as the signing of an amnesty with Russian Tsar Alexander I known as the Treaty of Tilsit.

In 2014, a Napoleon bicorne sold for a record 1.9 million euros to the owner of the South Korean food and agriculture giant Harim as part of the sale of a collection auctioned off by Monaco's royal family.

The huge appetite for memorabilia led to a fragile gold laurel leaf from the crown made for his coronation in 1804 selling for 625,000 euros in 2017, while a jewellery set worn by his adopted daughter sold for 1.4 million euros in May.

As well as being one of the best-known and instantly recognisable French figures, usually depicted in his frock coat and sideways hat, Napoleon is also one of the most divisive characters in the country's history.

French President Emmanuel Macron led commemorations in May for Napoleon 200 years after his death, saying "few destinies have shaped so many lives beyond their own" and that the emperor was "part of us."

Some critics had called for the Macron and the French state more broadly to boycott the anniversary on the grounds that Napoleon was a war-mongerer who re-established slavery in France's colonies in 1802.  

But Macron paid tribute to Napoleon's huge contribution to the French state -- the modern bureaucracy, school and legal systems bear his stamp -- while calling his decision to bring back slavery an "error".