Napoleon’s hat fetches $2.5 million at auction

Napoléon wore his hat with the ends pointing toward his shoulders.

Napoléon wore his hat with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. Photo: Getty

A faded and cracked felt hat worn by Napoléon Bonaparte has fetched $2.5 million at an auction of the French emperor’s belongings

The signature broad, black hat — one of a handful still in existence that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe — was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($1m to $1.3m). It was the centrepiece of Sunday’s auction in Fontainebleau of memorabilia collected by a French industrialist who died last year.

But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.

”We are at 1.5 million (euros) for Napoleon’s hat … for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said. The name of the winning bidder was not released.

While other officers customarily wore their hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoléon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style — known as “en bataille,” or in battle — made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Colonel Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoléon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.

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