The iconic bicorn hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte is up for auction, along with around 1000 other items associated with the famed French general. The sale is being held November 15 and 16 in Fontainebleau, and is put on by the royal family of Monaco, who are distantly related to Napoleon.
“Due to necessary rehabilitation of the Palais de Monaco, which will enhance our cultural heritage, I prefer to give a new lease of life to this collection of objects and relics, by organizing a visible and grouped auction, rather than to see them remain in the shadows,” Prince Albert II wrote in the catalog of items being auctioned, the entirety of which is projected to sell for between 4 million and 5 million euros ($6.2 million).
The hat alone is expected to fetch 500,000 euros ($623,000) due to the rarity of such an item. Jean-Pierre Osenat, head of the auction house, said that only 19 of Napoleon's 120 bicorn hats have survived, and only two of those are in private hands. This particular one was given to Napoleon's cavalry veterinarian as a gift from the general himself (before his defeat at Waterloo), and from there was sold by the vet's descendants to Prince Albert's great-grandfather, Louis II. The last time one of Napoleon's bicorns went up for auction was 1968.
Also up for auction along with the hat will be the embroidered slippers that Napoleon's son was christened in, gloves left in his coach after the Waterloo battle, a Russian caviar spoon, a bronze eagle that once perched atop a battle flag, and dozens of smaller items such as medals, decorative keys, documents and even strands of Napoleon's hair. But the standout is clearly the hat, which most people wore with the corners to the front and back. Napoleon, on the other hand, wore the hat sideways. "He did this to make himself stand out and be easily identified," Osenat said. "There are not that many historical people who can be identified by a single item."