One of my favourite stories of the past week or so has been about the sale of Napoleon’s trademark bicorn hat. So the story goes, the seller did not know when they bought it that it had once belonged to the great French general and emperor. Only when they had investigated inscriptions on it, its dimensions and, ultimately, hairs found within it, was it confirmed to have been the real deal.
Estimated at £100,000-150,000, it seems a conservative price bearing in mind that other Napoleonic hats have made up to £1 million.
The emergence of the hat at auction set me thinking about what other lost treasures might come to light. Which would I most like to see and what might they be worth?
The list may be endless, but assuming you could verify them as the genuine article, few things would excite potential bidders as much as King John’s Treasure, lost in The Wash just over 800 years ago. A modern-day speculator claims to have found the site where it lies near Sutton Bridge – we shall see. No one is certain of its exact contents, but if it lives up to the legend then it must be worth tens of millions of pounds at least.
Another great loss was the Amber Room, presented to Tsar Peter the Great by the Prussian king Fredrich Wilhelm I in 1716. Looted by the Nazis, it was lost from view until salvage experts recently claimed to have found it in a sunken warship off Poland. Divers, however, said they found nothing.
The ultimate lost treasure? Surely it has to be the legendary Holy Grail, an item that would be utterly priceless.