Napoleon Bonaparte’s Hat Auctioned for Record-Setting Price

Posted by on Nov 30, 2023 in Stuff You Should Know, World History

On November 19, 2023, a hat once owned by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was auctioned in France for almost 2 million euros ($2.1 million). The selling price was more than double the expected auction price. The amount set a record for one of Napolean’s hats.  

Napoleon is known for the distinctive style of two-cornered military hat he wore, called a bicorne.  The black beaver felt hat auctioned off in November had a blue, white, and red ornament known as a cockade. Blue, white, and red represent the colors of France’s flag.  

A Part of His Identity 

Napoleon is said to have owned approximately 120 hats. About a dozen a year were made for him.  Today, there are about twenty of his hats held by museums, the French government, and private collectors. Unlike most men of his time, Napoleon wore his hats with the corners pointing to the sides rather than front to back. It is said he was recognizable on the battlefield by the outline of his hat. In addition to wearing bicornes on the battlefield, he made the hats a part of his regular attire. 

Napoleon’s Leadership History 

Colorful vector graphic head and shoulders portrait of Napoleon against a white background.
computer graphic of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon distinguished himself as a strong general and skilled negotiator. Participating in a coup (military overthrow of government) in 1799, he assumed the position of first French consul. In 1804, he ended the ruling consulate, and he took power as emperor of France. Known for his ambition, he expanded France’s empire during his rule. His forces lost most of the expanded territory before he was forced from power in 1814. He was exiled to the island of Elba off the west coast of Italy.  

France funded his move to Elba. He returned to power for a brief period in 1815, before his army met their final defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Napoleon spent the rest of his life exiled on the island of St. Helena, dying in 1821 at the age of 51. 

Auction Details 

The hat was among other auction items once owned by Napoleon. The items were from the collection of a French industrialist who died last year. The auction was conducted by the Osenat auction house near Paris, France. The Osenat auction house reported that this hat was used by Napoleon from 1806–1815. The anonymous winning bidder is a French collector. Before this sale, the two most recent auctions of Napoleon’s hats took place in 2018 and 2014. 

Share What You Know Can you think of other historical figures or world leaders who are known for a style of dressing or distinctive fashion accessory?