A Paris auction house is to offer the engagement ring that Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his first wife Josephine as part of its bi-annual sale of items from the French Empire, which will be held on March 24.
The ring will be sold with a modest estimate of €12,000 ($16,000), though is likely to exceed the auction house's expectations, such is the demand for items connected with the "Little General". A simple diamond and sapphire piece, it was bought at a time when Napoleon had very little money as a young general in the French army.
Josephine was the widow of French aristocrat Alexandre de Beauharnais and had already had affairs with several of France's leading politicians by the time she met Napoleon. Nonetheless, the soon-to-be-emperor was infatuated with her, writing: "I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night's intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses," in a letter sent soon after their first meeting.
He wasted no time, proposing to Josephine just one month later and marrying her soon after. The marriage was much to the dismay of his family, who disapproved of his relationship with an older widow who already had two children.
Despite their divorce and Napoleon's subsequent marriage to Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, it appears the general never quite laid his relationship with Josephine to rest. His last words were reported: "France. The army. The head of the army. Josephine."
A collection of 50 of Napoleon's overtly romantic letters to Josephine were sold through the same auction house in 2010 for an impressive $1m, spelling promising results for the ring. Paul Fraser Collectibles has a superb selection of Napoleon-signed letters for sale, as well as authentic strands of his hair.