Napoleon’s bicorne hat sells for €1.9m at French auction

The sale broke the previous world record for one of his iconic hats, ahead of the release of Ridley Scott’s new film about the emperor's life this week

Napoleon wore his bicorne sideways to ensure his silhouette was instantly identifiable by his troops on the battlefield
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A black bicorne hat of Emperor Napoleon I, featuring a blue, white and red cockade, has sold for a record €1.9m in France.

The hat was sold in Fontainebleau yesterday (November 19) and attracted interest from collectors across the world, the Osenat auctioneers said, declining to give the identity or nationality of the eventual buyer.

The bicorne sold for €1.932 million, breaking the previous record for a Napoleonic hat, held by the same auction house, of €1.884 million in 2014 which was purchased by a South Korean businessman.

More than double the estimate

The hat’s final price, including charges, was more than double the estimate of €600,000-800,000, and nearly four times the reserve price, the auction house based in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, said.

Napoleon is believed to have owned around 120 such hats in total over 15 years, and while most of which are now lost, they are seen at auction houses from time to time.

He wore this particular hat towards the middle of his time as emperor, according to the auction house.

Napoleon memorabilia collection

The hat sold was part of the collection of Jean Louis Noisiez, businessman and founder of hygiene group GSF, who died in 2022.

Other memorabilia from the Noisiez collection was also auctioned, including a Légion d'honneur medal and a pair of silver spurs, owned by Emperor Napoleon I.

The bicorne was made by Pierre-Quentin-Joseph Baillon, the Emperor's furrier from 1806. According to experts, Napoleon added his cockade while he was in the Mediterranean, returning from Elba, on March 1, 1815.

Read also: French language: Napoleon’s ‘Old Guard’ still used in English today

What is a bicorne?

A bicorne is a two-cornered cocked hat worn by the military as part of their uniform.

Napoleon wore his bicorne sideways - known as "en bataille" - despite convention being to wear them pointing forward and back.

He is said to have done this to give him a distinct silhouette and to ensure that he was instantly identifiable by his troops on the battlefield.

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