Chicken king buys Napoleon’s hat

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Chicken king buys Napoleon’s hat

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An employee prepares Napoleon’s hat before its auction in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, Sunday. Korean businessman Kim Hong-kuk, inset, bought Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous bicorn hat for 1.9 million euros (2.4 million dollars) in the auction.[AP/NEWSIS]



The Korean who bought Napoleon Bonaparte’s iconic bicorn hat from Monaco’s royal family for 1.9 million euros ($2.4 million) over the weekend was revealed to be Kim Hong-kuk, chairman of food industry giant Harim Group.

“I have always admired Napoleon Bonaparte’s challenging spirit of ‘Nothing is impossible,’” Kim said in a statement released by yesterday by Harim, Korea’s largest poultry producer. “With the intent of once more awakening my entrepreneurial spirit, I purchased Napoleon I’s hat at auction.”

A Harim manager representing Kim successfully bid on the French emperor’s black felt and beaver fur hat during a two-day auction in Fontainebleau, near Paris, on Sunday. It was put up for sale by the Grimaldis, Monaco’s royal family.

The auction house listed the hat with an expected selling price of around 400,000 euros. As experts anticipated, it fetched a higher price of 1.9 million euros, international media reported Sunday.

“Rather than keeping the hat personally, I am thinking of installing it where other people can share Napoleon’s spirit of taking on challenges and being a pioneer,” Kim said.

The black two-pointed hat, decorated with a tricolor rosette, was apparently worn by Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo in Italy in 1800 against the Austrians, before he declared himself emperor in 1804.

Napoleon wore the bicorn sideways, rather than with the two points positioned front to back as fashion of the time dictated. This made him easier to spot in battlefield, said the French auction house that sold the hat, Osenat.

It is one of the emperor’s 19 remaining bicorn hats out of the estimated 120 he wore in his lifetime.

Thus, the military headpiece was considered the star attraction amongst hundreds of other pieces of Napoleon memorabilia auctioned off at the Chateau de Fontainebleau, historically significant as the location where Napoleon abdicated in 1814.

The items included gloves left in his coach after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, his stockings, private letters, a diamond-studded sword and strands of the emperor’s hair.

All of the items belonged to Prince Louis II of Monaco (1870-1949) and were put up for sale by Monaco’s Grimaldi family to raise funds for the restoration of their palace.

Napoleon’s chief veterinarian received the hat as a gift before it went into the hands of the Prince Louis II in 1926, so its authenticity was not in question.

Through a statement, Harim Group said, “Chairman Kim, who in his youth raised 10 chicks that became the foundation of Harim Group, which now has annual sales of 4.8 trillion won, has always emphasized ‘Escaping the safety zone’ and a pioneering spirit and not to settle for the status quo.”


BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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