At French Auction, Napoleon’s Hat Fetches $2.1 Million

( – Napoleon Bonaparte is largely regarded as one of the greatest—and most controversial—military leaders in history, having conquered much of Europe in the 1800s. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution, and after a coup d’etat, he declared himself emperor of France in 1804. He ruled the country until 1814, then briefly rose to power again in 1815. Some of his belongings recently went to auction and fetched quite a price.

On Sunday, November 19, the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau, France, held an auction showcasing some of Bonaparte’s belongings. They had belonged to French businessman Jean-Louis Noisiez, an avid collector of all things Napoleon, who passed away last year. The pièce de résistance of the auction was a faded and cracked beaver felt bicorne hat. It sold for an astonishing $2.1 million, much more than its estimated value of $875,500. The buyer who plunked down the pretty penny for the piece chose to remain anonymous.

The hat is one of the 120 the military leader owned throughout his lifetime, and it’s what immediately distinguishes him in any painting depicting the French Revolution and the periods surrounding it. The piece set Napoleon apart because he wore it differently than most, with the ends pointing side to side rather than backward as everyone else did.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Napoleonic heritage, the Fondation Napoleon, said the leader always had 12 hats on him at any given time, all made from a specific hatter: Poupard. He had such an obsession with his hats—which he was prone to throwing on the floor in fits of rage—that he was buried with one sitting on his legs.

The auction also consisted of other belongings in Noisiez’s collection, including swords, a handkerchief, and a long-sleeve shirt. The event took place just days before the movie showcasing the emperor’s life, starring Joaquin Phoenix, hit theaters on Wednesday, November 21.

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