More than a historical souvenir, this decoration is the symbol of a vision: the vision that the legendary emperor had for the French nation. MILLON will be auctioning Napoleon's last Legion of Honour on 24 November at Hôtel Drouot
An award emblematic of meritocracy
On 15 July 1804, the Légion d'honneur was awarded for the first time in the cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides. This decoration, created and decreed by Napoleon Bonaparte, rewards military and civilian merit and is open to all those who have rendered notable service to France. For the emperor, this distinction embodied the qualities and unity of the nation he wanted to unite.
In order to be able to wear his decoration in all circumstances and on all types of costumes and uniforms, the Emperor commissioned the goldsmith Biennais to make a reduction of the star with five double rays, surmounted by a crown of oak and laurel.
The badge remained with him until his death
He wore this reduction on his return from Waterloo and wore it throughout his crossing from France to his boat for St Helena.
During the 1973 days of his residence on St Helena, Napoleon cherished this object and kept it close to him. His last wish was to pass on the emblem of meritocracy to his son, l'Aiglon. But the Austrian family refused to accept any form of Napoleonic souvenir. It was therefore Madame Mère who kept the few possessions left by her son and divided them between her living children on her death in 1835: she awarded the medal to her daughter Caroline, wife of Marshal Murat. It remained in the family for almost a century and a half, before being acquired by the famous Belgian collector Emile Brouwet.
November, the month of the Brumaire coup d'état (November 1799), brought the Napoleonic figure to the fore. The presentation of this historic souvenir and symbol of the Napoleonic legend will take on its full meaning at the MILLON- Souvenirs Historiques sale on 24 November, which will be preceded by a "La Face des Rois" sale on 23 November featuring a rare portrait of Bonaparte as First Consul, as well as others depicting him as Emperor, including a large oil on canvas by David, showing him crossing the Grand Saint Bernard pass.
November, then, is a month to celebrate Napoleon, whether at auction or at the cinema (with the release of Ridley Scott's film Napoleon).
Cross of the Legion of Honour
"From Waterloo to St Helena
Reduced goldeagleof the Legion of Honour, lateEmpire or Hundred Days (1815)model.
In 18k gold and enamel (chipped and slightly missing), a double pearled five-pointed star with a green enamel oak wreath and a hinged bridge with a crown of arches decorated witheagles and foliage. Obverse of the centre in profile to the right with large head on radiant background and legend "NAPOLEON EMP. DES FRANÇAIS"; obverse of centre witheagle head to right on striated background and legend "HONNEUR ET PATRIE" - 28 x 16 mm. Gross weight: 3.1 g.
In a mid-19th century green morocco case withgoldfillet decoration, two hook closure, sheathed in silk and ivory velvet inside, inscribed on the lid:
"CETTE CROIX DE LA LEGION D'HONNEUR QUI APPARTENOIT A L'EMPEREUR NAPOLEON EST ECHUE EN PARTAGE A SA SŒUR CAROLINE - 6 x 7.5 cm.
Estimate: €80,000 / €120,000
Contacts and information
Historical Memories Department
+33 (0) 1 40 22 66 34
+33 (0)6 13 53 45 67
Sale onFriday 24 November
At Hôtel Drouot
Preceded by the sale of La Face des Rois on 23 November
Exhibition: 22 and 23 November