(FONTAINBLEAU, France) — The engagement ring that a young Napoleon bought for his fiancée Josehine sold at an auction house outside of Paris for nearly $1 million on Sunday.
The Osenat auction house sold the ring to a bidder who wanted to remain anonymous for $949,000, almost 50 times more than Osenat expected it to sell for. Including the 25 percent commission to Osenat, the buyer spent a total of $1.17 million on the ring.
The sale was timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Josephina’s birthday.
The golden ring is in an 18th century setting called “toi et moi,” meaning “You and Me,” with opposing tear-shaped jewels — a blue sapphire and a diamond. The two gems are a little less than a carat each.
It may seem somewhat underwhelming for a ring bought by Napoleon, but he was not yet the fabulously rich Emperor of France when he bought the ring for his bride-to-be.
“At the time Napoleon was a young and promising officer, but he was not rich. He must have broken his wallet to buy this quality ring,” Osenat’s expert Jean-Christophe Chataignier told ABCNews.com.
Napoleon met Josephine, (Rose Tascher de la Pagerie as she was known then) in September 1795. She was 32 years old, six years older than Bonaparte. At the time she was the rich and stylish widow of Alexandre de Beauharnais, an aristocrat who supported the French Revolution but died on the guillotine. Her first marriage produced two children, Eugene and Hortense, who Napoleon later adopted.
The wedding day was March 9, 1796, but the honeymoon lasted only 36 hours. Napoleon left to lead the French army on a successful invasion of Italy, but during this absence he wrote frequently, sometimes twice a day.
Their marriage fell apart in 1810, after several instances of infidelity on both sides and Josephine’s inability to produce an heir. Still, “Josephine continued to treasure the ring and gave it to her daughter Hortense, later Queen of Holland, through whom it came down to her son, Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugene to whose family this relic ring still belongs,” claims Chataignier.
The buyer broke up something of a set. The ring had been on display alongside other historic treasures, including portraits of Napoleon’s son and a sword given to the emperor by King Henry IV.
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