Lock of a Tyrant – Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair is worth £400 a strand

A strand of Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair has emerged almost 200 years after the warrior dictator was defeated by Britain in 1815.

Napoleon Bonaparte dominated European politics for two decades and ruled over the French empire with an iron fist. He was a tyrant, a ruthless warrior and a cunning politician. His reign came to an abrupt end when his army was crushed by a strategically superior British Army, in the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Napoleon had previously been captured alive and sent to the Italian island of Elba, from which he had escaped. Following his final defeat at Waterloo, he was sent into exile on the famous island of Saint Helena in the south Atlantic – a British controlled territory – where he eventually died.

Now, almost two centuries later, a lock of his grey hair has appeared, and an auction company in Dorset called Duke’s of Dorchester is going to sell it in an auction on Thursday.

It is believed by historians, that Napoleon gave this lock of hair to one of his servants. The strand of hair comes with a provenance note stating that the lock of hair was given to the emperor’s valet, Louis Marchand, by Napoleon himself in St Helena. Louis Marchand served the emperor for many years and Napoleon was very pleased with his commitment and services, the Express reports.

According to the organizers of the auction, this item has a historic value attached to it; therefore, they are expecting a handsome price for this relic. It is estimated that the lock of hair is worth £400 or maybe more.

There is also a conspiracy associated with Napoleon’s hair found in the past. According to some people, Napoleon did not die of natural causes; he was rather poisoned with arsenic and a sample of his hair when tested showed a significant amount of arsenic in his system. This theory had since been disproved, because historians now agree that the tyrant died of stomach cancer while in exile.

It is considered that the timing of the auction could not be better, as this year is being celebrated as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (1815-2015).

Napoleon was born on 15th August 1769, studied at military school and joined the military very early in his life. He got promoted to brigadier general in the year 1793, at the age of 24. Two years later, in 1795, he was made the chief of the Army of the Interior. This promotion made him famous and rich; his ambitions grew bigger at this time and he started thinking about becoming a ruler. He rose to power after defeating Austria in October 1797. He was crowned as Emperor of the French Empire in Notre Dame, Paris, on 18th May 1804. He was named King of Italy a year later. He died on 5th May 1821 while in exile on Saint Helena, as a result of stomach cancer.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE