Napoleon’s pistols that ‘could have changed history’ sell for £1.4m at auction | World News

A pair of pistols owned by Napoleon Bonaparte have sold for €1.7m (£1.4m).

They were dubbed “the pistols that might have changed the course of history” because after the first abdication of the French general, he is said to have considered using them to take his own life.

But his close ally Armand de Caulaincourt removed the powder from the guns, rendering them useless.

Napoleon Bonaparte. Pic: iStock

Pic: Osenat
Details of one of the guns. Pic: Osenat

The estimate for the pistols was €1.2m (£1m)-€1.5m (£1.27m) but this was below the final sale price.

Covered in intricate details, including fitting references to Greek gods, gold and silver, and even an image of Napoleon himself, the pistols remain in excellent condition, having been passed down by Caulaincourt’s descendants.

They were sold at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau on Sunday 7 July, next door to the palace where Napoleon nearly turned them on himself.

The guns were created by Paris gunsmith Louis-Marin Gosset and were declared a national treasure by France’s culture ministry.

Due to this classification, they can only leave France temporarily and the country’s government has 30 months to make an offer to buy them off the new owner – who has not been named.

As well as the weapons, the sale also includes the pistols’ original box and accessories.

The guns come in their original case. Pic: Osenat
The guns come in their original case. Pic: Osenat

Pic: Osenat
The weapons were made by Paris gunsmith Louis-Marin Gosset. Pic: Osenat

‘On the brink’

It was leading up to and on the night of 12 April, 1814, that Napoleon considered taking his own life after foreign forces had defeated his army and occupied Paris.

Much of what we know about the events at Fontaineblaeau come from Caulaincourt’s memoirs, published over a century later in 1933.

On the night when his fate “teetered on the brink”, Napoleon summoned Caulaincourt during the night and said he wanted to die.

The flintlock pistols were made by Paris gunsmith Louis-Marin Gosset. Pic: Osenat
Napoleon gave the weapon to one of his most trusted allies. Pic: Osenat

The handle of the guns. Pic: Osenat
The handle of the guns. Pic: Osenat

Not knowing at the time that Napoleon had ingested poison, Caulaincourt described how the general began giving away some of his possessions, he said: “During a calmer interlude he told me to give his beautiful necessaire to Prince Eugene as a keepsake, and to keep his finest sabre and his pistols for myself, along with his cameo portrait.”

Napoleon survived the initial poisoning, only to later ask for more – which he was refused.

However, in the days leading up to 12 April, Caulaincourt said he had been told Napoleon had begun to take a particular interest in the two flintlock pistols as he said he wanted to take his own life.

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It was following this that Caulaincourt took the decision to remove the powder, leaving them unable to fire.

Caulaincourt said: “They told me Napoleon had been talking about how to kill himself for days, and had frequently examined his pistols.”

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Napoleon later abandoned the idea of taking his life, went on to flee from his exile, retake France and fight Europe once more in the Battle of Waterloo.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK.

In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK


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