Napoleon's hair on display in London

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Last Thursday, Sir John Soane’s Museum in London announced that a gold mourning-ring belonging to Soane and containing a lock of Napoleon’s hair had been returned to the museum. The museum had previously tried to acquire the ring at an auction held by Christie’s in June. At the time, however, the museum was the under-bidder. With the support of The Art Fund and private donors the museum has now successfully purchased the ring for £41,000.

The ring originally belonged to Sir John Soane and was allegedly one of his most treasured private possessions. It featured on his will among the items to be kept ‘as heir looms in my family’. However, it eventually passed out of the family’s ownership and was deemed lost. When it went on sale in June, it was the first time that the museum had news of its whereabouts since Soane’s death in 1837.

The ring is hallmarked London 1822, the year after Napoleon’s death. It contains a lock of plaited brown hair, which was given to Sir John by Elizabeth Balcombe, the daughter of an official on St Helena who became close friends with the Emperor.

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