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Hat of Napoleon Bonaparte Sells for Over $2 Million at Auction – Lesson

The bicorne, battle-hat dates to the 1800s.

Napoleon Bonaparte was emperor of France for about a decade in the early 1800s. He is celebrated in Western history for having improved military training, enhanced education, and the Napoleonic code, which influenced laws around the world. On Sunday, November 19, at an auction house in France, Napoleon’s rare and iconic two-cornered hat sold for $2.1 million. The sale price was far higher than auctioneers had anticipated.

Why was Napoleon’s Hat So Valuable?

The final selling price of the hat was far more than expected. However, Napoleon Bonaparte was a large part of European history, so it is unsurprising that it was a sought-after item.

GettyImages-150618643 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Born on August 15, 1769, Napoleon (also known as Napoleon I) made a name for himself. He was not born into wealth, and while he is remembered as a military man, he spent much time out of the military. Instead, Napoleon engaged himself in politics, primarily with the Jacobins, a pro-democracy political group in his hometown of Corsica. After he and his family fled Corsica in 1793, Bonaparte returned to military duty. His strategic military leadership skills moved him quickly up the ladder. He led a victorious French Army in a fight against Austria. He went on to become a leading political figure in France, guiding the nation to a temporary peace treaty with Britain.

The natural-born leader accomplished much more over the following years. According to, “Napoleon worked to restore stability to post-revolutionary France. He centralized the government; instituted reforms in such areas as banking and education; supported science and the arts; and sought to improve relations between his regime and the pope (who represented France’s main religion, Catholicism), which had suffered during the revolution. One of his most significant accomplishments was the Napoleonic Code, which streamlined the French legal system and continues to form the foundation of French civil law to this day”.


Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of France in 1804 and held the position until 1814 and then briefly again in 1815. His next several years were difficult. He was duped by the Russians and pushed his troops further into Russian territory. The weak, cold, and starving soldiers could not keep up the pace, so Napoleon forced his troops out of Moscow. Of the 600,000 men he started with, only about 100,000 returned.

Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba in 1814, but then returned to power only to be exiled once again in 1815 – to Saint Helena, the second time, where he died in 1821 of what most believe to have been stomach cancer. Along with other French military leaders, his remains are entombed in a crypt in the city of Les Invalides in Paris.

Other Bonaparte Trinkets for Sale

The battle-hat was not the only possession of Napoleon Bonaparte that auction-goers sought. The house also sold off a collection of swords, coins, and firearms that once belonged to the emperor.

The sale took place just before the release of the movie Napoleon, in which Joaquin Phoenix plays the title role. The film’s production piqued the interest of many, perhaps explaining the high price tag.

Popular Quotes from the French Leader

  • “The reason most people fail instead of succeed is they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment.”
  • “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
  • “The only way to lead people is to show them a future: a leader is a dealer in hope.”

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