A faded and cracked felt hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte has fetched 1.9 million euro (£1.66m) at an auction of the French emperor’s belongings.

The signature black hat — one of a handful still in existence that Napoleon wore when he ruled 19th century France and waged war in Europe — was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros (£525,000-£700,000).

It was the centrepiece of Sunday’s auction in Fontainebleau of memorabilia collected by a French industrialist who died last year.

France Napoleon’s Hat
A visitor looks at the hat before the auction (Christophe Ena/AP)

But the bidding quickly jumped higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.

“We are at 1.5 million (euros) for Napoleon’s hat… for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8% in commission, according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euro.

While other officers customarily wore their hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style — known as “en bataille” or in battle — made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Colonel Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoleon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than half a century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.