History

Key to prison bedroom where Napoléon died in exile sells for €92,000

The bedroom where Napoléon Bonaparte died on 5 May 1821 at Longwood on the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena.
The bedroom where Napoléon Bonaparte died on 5 May 1821 at Longwood on the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena. © AFP/Gianluigi Guercia
3 min

The key to the bedroom where Napoléon Bonaparte died as a prisoner on the island of Saint Helena in 1821 has been sold by the auction house Sotheby's for 92,000 euros. The key was found in a trunk in a house in Scotland.

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The rusted steel key to the room where the exiled Emperor was held prisoner by the British made more than 16 times its estimate of between 3,400 and 5,600 euros as 11 bidders vied to buy it, Sotheby's auction house said.

Napoléon Bonaparte died on the 5 May 1821 on the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic where Britain sent him after he escaped from Elba.

Known for his epic battles during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, he built a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815.

Napoléon Bonaparte last residence during his exile in Longwood, on the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena.
Napoléon Bonaparte last residence during his exile in Longwood, on the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena. © AFP/Gianluigi Guercia

The key was brought back to Britain by Charles Richard Fox, an army general and politician, who visited the island while Napoléon was there.

Fox is believed to have brought it as a gift for his mother who was a great admirer of Napoléon, the auction house said.

The key comes in an envelope labelled by Fox as "Key of the Room at St Helena, in which Napoléon died & which I got there out of the door in 1822..." He gives the exact date in an accompanying note as 6 September.

Found in a trunk in Scotland

The key was found by Fox's descendants in a trunk in a house in Scotland, David MacDonald, a specialist at Sotheby's, said in a statement when the sale was announced.

"The family who had it, always knew it was around but it was tucked away," he said.

He described the lot as standing out from other objects associated with Napoléon.

"We see things associated with Napoléon all the time, important pictures or furniture from one of his amazing houses," said MacDonald.

"But there's something about a key which, particularly as it comes from where he was incarcerated, is quite powerful, especially as it's the key to the room where he died."

(with AFP)

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