Napoleon Hat Sells Today

Fontainebleau, France -- The Grimaldis, Monaco’s royal family, are selling off a unique collection of chattels belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are attending the auction near the historic chateau here, outside Paris.

The collection is going under the hammer today, in order to pay for restorations and a new display at the Royal palace.

Over a thousand items, mostly French imperial relics, will be sold with some of the proceeds given to the creation of a museum devoted to the Monaco ruling dynasty. It is thought that the French government may be key bidders in the sale.

“The French Defense Ministry has a very bellicose approach to historical items, particularly manuscripts,” said Paris auctioneer Alexandre Giquello, who is co-hosting the sale with Jean-Pierre Osenat, a specialist of the Napoleonic era.

Mr Giquello said that because of the risk that the Defense Ministry would confiscate some lots without paying the vendor, he advised the Grimaldi family to withdraw 30 manuscripts prior to the auction.

Rare Hat

Included in the sale is Napoleon's trademark black felt bicorn hat, shown here, believed to have been worn by Napoleon in exile on Elba. It will go on sale at the reserve price of €300,000 to €400,000.

The hat is one of only about 20 in the world, mostly in museums, and the last one was sold in 1969.

Of the 120 original hats, 19 have survived and this one is one of only two in private hands.

Other important items include a diamonds encrusted ceremonial sword listed at €600,000 to €800,000.

A painted plate in Sèvres porcelain, from Napoleon’s dinner service used during his final imprisonment on the island of St Helena where he was exiled after being defeated at Waterloo, is estimated at €80,000 to €100,000.

Napoleon Memorabilia

Also for sale are dozens of medals, decorative keys, documents, a Russian caviar spoon and a bronze eagle that once perched atop a battle flag, complete with bullet holes. And an elaborate burr elm cradle presented to Napoleon’s adopted step-daughter Stéphanie de Beauharnais is to be auctioned for €250,000 to €350,000.

Other personal mementoes include a shirt, gloves and stockings worn by the Emperor, as well as drinking cups.

This iconic collection of memorabilia, was put together by Louis II until his death in 1949, is expected to garner an intense interest from collectors and museums from all over the world.

Jean-Pierre Osenat, head of the auction house in Fontainbleau, said: "It is an exceptional collection."It was gathered at the beginning of past century by a passionate man, the prince Louis II.

"I think it is the first time that a real genuine collection is going under the hammer. We will never see such a collection ever."

Mr Osenat said that the particularity of the Grimaldi collection was that it was put together by a single person over a long period.

Louis II, who served as a general in the First World War and was known as the “soldier prince” took an interest in Napoleon because of a shared military background.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers some highlights of this royal auction.