Monaco’s Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens will close its doors at the end of the year, with its contents set to be auctioned this November.
This considerable collection amounts to nearly 1,000 pieces that include many manuscripts, weapons, paintings, and sculptures. Other items of note include a black felt cocked hat, which was worn by the French ruler during his imprisonment on the island of Elba and which is valued at between €300,000 and €400,000, the watch he wore during the Russian campaign and cannonballs from the Battle of Austerlitz. Truly the “sale of the century” for fans of the deposed emperor.
These artifacts were amassed for the most part in the early 20th century by HSH Prince Louis II, a dedicated military man, who was not only a distant relative of the French ruler – his mother, Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton was a third cousin of Napoléon III, but was also fascinated by the history of that period and the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was later enlarged by his grandson and successor Prince Rainier III, who moved the museum to the south wing of the Princely Palace in 1970.
If some history buffs and specialists of Imperial France are getting excited about the impending auction, others on the other hand regret the Prince’s decision to part will the artifacts. This is the case with Jean Etevenaux, the head of the Remembering Napoleon Society, “I regret that the contents of the museum are being dispersed”, he recently told the AFP, “I suppose French museums will attempt to acquire some pieces, but will they have the means?”
The sale will be conducted in Fontainebleau, near Paris, by French auction house Osenat. It is still unclear as to what will be done to the rooms in the museum after the sale.
Lead image “Napoleon I of France by Andrea Appiani” by Andrea Appiani – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons (edited)