A LOCK of Napoleon’s hair has been uncovered by television antique experts during a visit to Abbotsford House .
Anita Manning, from BBC’s Antiques Road Trip, along with Abbotsford Trust chief executive Jason Dyer, unearthed the latest treasure from novelist Sir Walter Scott’s collections.
The French dictator’s snip was found when the duo examined a blotter book that belonged to Napoleon and was on show in the library at the house.
It was contained in a small handwritten note dated November 8, 1827, written to Scott by a Mr Dalton.
In the note, Mr Dalton explained that the lock was given to him by a Lt Col Elphinstone, who served under the Duke of Wellington, and that he believed it would be of great interest to Scott who was famed for his passion for collecting.
The blotter, which is extremely fragile, the note and hair have now been taken from Abbotsford and are being examined by a team of conservation experts. They will go on show when the house re-opens in 2013 after conservation work is completed.
Napoleon’s hair is one of a host of objects in Scott’s Abbotsford collections. Other items include a silver urn gifted to Scott by Lord Byron, a clock that was once in the hands of Marie Antoinette, Rob Roy’s broadsword, dirk and sporran and numerous artefacts collected from the field of the Battle of Waterloo.
A multi-million-pound regeneration is underway at Abbotsford, including the first extensive cataloguing of all the historic objects in the house as well as much-needed conservation work on many of the pieces.
Mr Dyer says the discovery underlines the importance of preserving Abbotsford and its contents
He commented: “We believe the restoration process involved will unearth even more treasures and are greatly looking forward to seeing the progress of this exciting project.”
Wendy Rattray, executive producer at STV Productions, which produces the antiques series, added: “We’re delighted to kick off the new series of Antiques Road Trip with a truly breathtaking find at Abbotsford.
“Never did we imagine we’d find something of such historical importance. It just goes to show that there are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered.”
Abbotsford will feature in the first week of the new series of Antiques Road Trip which will be broadcast on BBC Two Daytime at 5.15pm on Wednesday.
The house will close its doors for restoration and refurbishment from September 16, until 2013.
Work has begun on its new visitor centre which is scheduled to open next spring. More than £10million has been raised by the Abbotsford Trust to fund the work. A further £4million is still required to safeguard Abbotsford’s long-term future.
z Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769, in Corsica and by 1796 was commander of the French army in Italy, where he forced Austria and its allies to make peace
z In 1798, he conquered Ottoman-ruled Egypt but he was stranded when his fleet was destroyed by the British at the Battle of the Nile
z In 1799, Napoleon became emperor of France but was forced to scrap plans for an invasion of England when his fleet was trounced at Trafalgar in 1805
z The Holy Roman Empire’s collapse gave him control of Europe. The Peninsular War started in 1808 and over the next five years he suffered costly defeats. His invasion of Russia in 1812 was a disaster
z Paris fell in 1814 and exile followed on Elba. He escaped and marched on the French capital the following year but got the boot from the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. He died a prisoner in 1821 at St Helena
z Scott was an early visitor to the Waterloo battlefield and collected various artefacts. He spoke with Napoleon’s colleagues as well as Wellington and compiled the first biography of the French dictator.