GET SHIRTY: Napoleon Bonaparte wore it the day before his mysterious death on May 5, 1821, when, with the last breath, he famously uttered: “France! Mon fils! Armée!” (or “France, My son, Army”).
And now the French leader’s tunic is going under the hammer — preserved by the heirs of his last valet, Achille Archambault, who saved it before it could be washed. Never shown in public before, the yellowed garment still bears the signs of Napoleon’s final battle — a large stain, probably from sweat.
Archambault’s family is parting ways with a number of Napoleon’s personal affairs at a sale scheduled for Sunday at Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau near Paris. The lots include the ivory-knobbed Chinese cane the exiled emperor used for his long walks on the island of Saint Helena, where he must have picked it up from one of the merchants passing through from the Far East.
Two handkerchiefs, his ivory paper cutter, bandages and a wisp of his hair are also up for grabs. The literally last scrap of Bonaparte’s wardrobe — the sleeves of the tunic he wore the very moment he died, will also go to the highest bidder. The sleeves were cut off just before the French leader’s face was cast in a death mask.
The total value of the lots is estimated at 80,000 euros to 120,000 euros, or $111,359 to $167,039 at current exchange rates.