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Napoleon's Hair Sold for $13,000

"Napoleon Bonaparte" by Emile Jean-Horace Vernet AP

Ralph Waldo Emerson thought Napoleon Bonaparte owed his dominance over Europe to his very French desire that "I must dazzle and astonish."

Almost 200 years later, he still does.

A lock of hair from the former French emperor has been sold at an auction in New Zealand, the BBC reported. An unnamed London collector won the bid.

What's the worth, then, of a bit of DNA from a man who is sometimes credited with originating the adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words"? (Bonaparte actually said "Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discours," or "a good sketch is better than a long speech.")

Not as much as, coincidentally, a sketch of Napoleon on his deathbed, which went for $14,600, the highest price for a single item at the auction. The lock of hair sold for $13,000.

The hair was cut from his head after he died in exile in 1821 on the island of St. Helena. About 40 items of memorabilia - which belonged to descendants of a British officer named Denzil Ibbetson stationed on St. Helena with Napoleon - were sold for almost $100,000.

Ibbetson's diary, which detailed conversations with Napoleon, who, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, still planned to take over the world from his little island domain. The soldier's diary only sold for $6,600.

Ibbetson is probably no Boswell, and anyway, as the historian Hendrik Willem Van Loon once wrote, "If you really wish to know how one man could possibly rule so many people for so many years by the sheer force of his will ... do not read the books that have been written about him.

"Wait until you have a chance to hear a good artist sing the song called 'The Two Grenadiers.'

"Go and hear it. Then you will understand what a thousand volumes could not possibly tell you."

Or get a lock of his hair.

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