France is, whether you are a fascinated scholar or an intrepid traveller, the land of fashion, luxury, sassy design, a rendezvous of a very Avant-Garde melange of literature and philosophy and many other fascinating highs. Implicit in the heart of France are fascinating symbols of architecture and history and often, it doesn’t get bigger than the Eiffel Tower.
But that is not the only thing there is about France to entice travellers and experts from the world around, isn’t it? France is also the home to one of the bravest and dauntless in the spectre of war- Napoleon Bonaparte. A great king, a fantastic people’s leader and a tireless fighter of France, Napoleon’s name is forever etched in the history for being a generous leader, an ostentatious fighter who died fighting and, one who inspired men and women alike like few others did.
Among the most iconic battles that the great Napoleon Bonaparte was a part of was the great battle of Waterloo, in Belgium, wherein his great France was vanquished at the hands of the Seventh Coalition and a Prussian Army, the latter commanded by Gebhard Von Blucher. This would be the last defeat of Napoleon before he was captured and his fate reversed, in June 1815.
But while this commanding and morbid battle put an end to the great Napoleonic wars in which 5 million would perish, an important albeit tiny aspect of the former battle is still being remembered over a century of its completion.
The Hat that charismatic emperor Napoleon wore during the course of the long, tiring battle-has just been sold at an auction. Implicit in the heart of key events, and surely the Battle of Waterloo was a fate-changing event in itself is the importance or significance of elements attached to it. For instance, in the East, in the tectonic battle that took place in Haldighati, the legendary fighter Maharana Pratap of Mewar in India wore a peculiar war-suit, that has been kept safely for public display at Udaipur. Similarly, the sword of Tipu Sultan that was his customary weapon was also subjected to a private auction and is since a decade nearly, in possession of a businessman.
But Napoleon’s hat was recently sold at a mega-auction that took place in the French city of Lyon. It went for a whopping $400,000. Interestingly, this hat has a bit of a history attached to it. It’s considered to be among the 120 two-cornered military-styled hats worn by Napoleon throughout his reign as the emperor of France. It’s also, interestingly, among the 19 hats today that survive, the rest being in museums across Europe. Isn’t it a bit of a landmark in itself that 203 years from the date of it being last worn- the Battle of Waterloo- that the hat was preserved so well?
Historians and archivists are of the view that Napoleon constantly wore military-style hats all throughout and he had 12 hats in his service. Each of them had a three-year lifespan. It’s also not the first time that a Napoleon hat went for sale. Back in 2014, a private collector from South Korea and a massive history fan purchased one of the hats worn by the great Napoleon for $2.4 million. Wondering if there’s more to this statistic?
In reality, the amount he ended up shelling for the Napoleon hat was way more than what it was expected to achieve or fetch- around $500,000.
And there’s more to the current hat of Napoleon.
It came from a collection belonging to Monaco’s royal family. But what was sold was in far inferior shape and quality than what had initially arrived. The recently-sold hat was not only faded but torn and cracked in some places.
One wonders as to how this hat may have survived? Interestingly, the hat was picked up from the battleground- it is believed- upon the completion that resulted in a crushing loss for Napoleon who was, at that time, fighting against Dutch captain, Baron Arnout Jacques van Zuijlen van Nijevelt. Upon the morbid events at Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated himself as the emperor of France and was sent to the island of St. Helena, where he died. He would be no more in 1821. People pass away but their belongings stay behind. And perhaps when such preciously vital items exchange hands, history multiplies and is remembered.