Auction Results

Napoleon hat is most valuable at £1.6 million


A hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte has been sold for a record price.

A buyer has paid €1.932 millon (around £1.69m) for one of Napoleon’s trademark bicorne hats. The sale, in Paris on Sunday, makes the headgear, with its distinctive cockade of ribbons, the most valuable Napoleon hat ever sold.

The two-pointed hats worn by France’s first Emperor were a well-known visual marker even during his life. Napoleon wore the hats sideways, against the prevailing fashion.

Joaquin Phoenix models a hat in Napoleon’s distinctive style in Ridley Scott’s new film.

He is believed to have owned 120 of them during his life. The most valuable hat before this week’s sale was sold in 2014 for nearly €1.9 m.

That hat had been worn at the the Battle of Marengo in 1800. That was one of Napoleon’s most famous military triumphs. This hat has a less glorious history, and was worn by Napoleon as he returned from exile in Elba, on his way to his final defeat at Waterloo.

The hat was the star item in the sale of the collection of French tycoon Col Pierre Baillon who died in 2022. It had been in the family of Napoleon’s quarter master Jean-Louis Noisiez for much of its history. The distinctive tricolore ribbons also tied it to the emperor.

Just 20 of Napoleon’s hats are believed to survive, only 5 of them in private hands. Sales are rare.

The auction was a rich hunting ground for Napoleon enthusiasts. It also included a nightshirt, a vanity case, and a plate nabbed from his carriage after Waterloo.

The release of a new Napoleon biopic means interest in the Corsican-born leader is especially high.

Napoleon rose from relatively humble origins in a newly conquered French province to head an Empire that controlled much of Western Europe.

His skills as a military tactician are universally acknowledged. His political legacy is still disputed.

The emperor’s sword sold for £3 million in 2007. The engagement ring he gave to Josephine (his wife, who plays an enormous role in his legend) sold for nearly $1 million in 2013.

Both would undoubtedly make much more if sold today.

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