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Pistols Napoleon meant to use to take his own life sell for €1.69m

Image source, Osenat Auction House

Legend, Napoleon then gave the pistols to his squire Armand de Caulaincourt, who passed them on to his descendants.

  • Author, Catherine Armstrong
  • Role, BBC News

Two pistols once owned by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, with which he intended to commit suicide, have been sold at auction for €1.69 million (£1.4 million).

The weapons, created by Parisian gunsmith Louis-Marin Gosset, were estimated at between 1.2 and 1.5 million euros.

They were sold on Sunday at the Osenat auction house, next to the Château de Fontainebleau where Napoleon attempted suicide after his abdication in 1814.

The sale of the pistols comes after the French Ministry of Culture recently classified them as national treasures and banned their export.

This means the French government now has 30 months to make an offer to purchase the guns from the new owner, whose name has not been revealed. It also means the guns can only leave France temporarily.

The barrels are inlaid with gold and silver and feature an engraved image of Napoleon himself in profile.

It is said that he wanted to use them to commit suicide on the night of April 12, 1814, after the defeat of his army by foreign forces forced him to give up power.

However, his grand squire Armand de Caulaincourt removed the powder from the guns and Napoleon took poison but survived.

He later gave the pistols to Caulaincourt, who in turn passed them on to his descendants.

Also included in the sale were the pistols’ original box and various accessories, including a powder horn and various powder tamping rods.

Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said that “the image of Napoleon at his lowest” was being sold alongside the objects.

The historic leader returned to power in 1815 after his exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

He died in 1821 after his second banishment, this time to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic.

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