Warship gangway where Napoleon surrendered to be auctioned for £60k
Warship gangway where Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered after the Battle of Waterloo to be auctioned for £60,000 after being turned into a desk
- The find is among objects from time aboard British warship HMS Bellerophon
- It is hoped a museum will snap up the historical item at the Hansons Auctioneers
The warship gangway that Napoleon Bonaparte stood on to surrender to the British Navy following the Battle of Waterloo is set to fetch £60,000 at auction.
Described as a ‘national treasure marking the end of the Napoleonic Wars’, the gangway wood, which is inset into a desk, is set to attract plenty of global interest; particularly after the release of Ridley Scott’s new biopic on the military commander.
It is hoped a museum will snap up the historical item at the Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, in March next year.
The ‘astonishing’ find, uncovered during a routine antiques valuation event, is among a variety of historical objects relating to Napoleon’s time aboard 74-gun British warship HMS Bellerophon, known as ‘Billy Ruffian’.
It was a veteran of many bloody battles against the French and played a part in Nelson’s victories at the Nile and Trafalgar. However, she will be best remembered for hosting Napoleon.
The warship gangway that Napoleon Bonaparte stood on to surrender to the British Navy following the Battle of Waterloo is set to fetch £60,000 at auction (Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon in Ridley Scott’s drama)
Described as a ‘national treasure marking the end of the Napoleonic Wars’, the gangway wood, which is inset into a desk, is set to attract plenty of global interest
A plaque set into the wood reads, ‘Made of part of gangway of HMS Bellerophon, on which Bonaparte stepped when he surrendered off Rochefort, 1815. 5 Frc piece given by Bonaparte to E.Sones’
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: ‘Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland aboard HMS Bellerophon on July 15, 1815. It was a momentous historical moment and Captain Maitland later secured part of the gangway Napoleon stood on for posterity.
‘He also kept the sofa Napoleon slept on aboard ship and other artefacts. They are coming to auction by descent through the Maitland family, their custodians for more than 200 years.
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‘For lovers of history, these are mind-blowing objects. They were kept by Captain Maitland to remind him of the role he played in a defining moment in history. They are undoubtedly the most important historical objects Hansons has ever uncovered, truly breathtaking.’
The desk, which has a guide price of £40,000 to £60,000, also incorporates a French coin thrown to a cabin boy by Napoleon.
A plaque set into the wood reads, ‘Made of part of gangway of HMS Bellerophon, on which Bonaparte stepped when he surrendered off Rochefort, 1815. 5 Frc piece given by Bonaparte to E.Sones’.
The discovery was made by Hansons’ valuer Katy Beardmore. She said: ‘Our lovely client attended an antiques valuation event and mentioned they had images of some family pieces.
‘They were unsure whether to show them to me or not but when they did it left me speechless. Seeing the couch, desk and other objects and hearing of the connection to Captain Maitland and Napoleon gave me goosebumps.
‘Being in the presence of the items and knowing of their importance within British maritime history has been a privilege. I hope they go to a museum collection for all to see.’
After defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18 1815, Napoleon retreated to Rochefort, on the west coast of France. He pondered on escape to America and a new life in the new world.
The desk, which has a guide price of £40,000 to £60,000, also incorporates a French coin thrown to a cabin boy by Napoleon
Maitland allocated his cabin to the defeated emperor and the auction includes the ship’s couch Napoleon rested on, estimated at £30,000 to £50,000
Captain Maitand also kept the skull of a goat which supplied milk for Napoleon on board ship, which has an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000
Other items from Captain Maitland’s private collection include his Bible and gunpowder flask mounted in silver
But his route was blocked by Britain’s Royal Navy in the formidable form of HMS Bellerophon.
After tense negotiations Napoleon surrendered to Captain Maitland on July 15 in the vain hope that he would be allowed to retire to the quiet life of an English country gentleman.
Maitland allocated his cabin to the defeated emperor and the auction includes the ship’s couch Napoleon rested on, estimated at £30,000 to £50,000.
READ MORE: How accurate IS Ridley Scott’s Napoleon? From Marie Antoinette’s hair to shooting the Pyramids with a cannon – experts reveal film’s made-up scenes after it riled French critics
Captain Maitand also kept the skull of a goat which supplied milk for Napoleon on board ship, which has an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000. Other items from Captain Maitland’s private collection include his Bible and gunpowder flask mounted in silver.
Charles added: ‘In 1836 HMS Bellerophon was broken up. Captain Maitland bought part of her figurehead and stern ornaments and deposited them in the collections of what eventually became the Royal Navy Museum.
‘However, he retained a piece of gangway timber which Napoleon stood on when he boarded the ship to surrender.
‘The desk, which bears a plaque detailing its provenance, was crafted for Captain Maitland and subsequently passed down through generations of the Maitland family. A French coin which Napoleon tossed to a cabin boy who assisted him is also embedded into the table.
‘These objects are important national treasures. They represent a key moment in history, the end of the Napoleonic Wars which lasted from 1803 to 1815. It’s astonishing to think we have uncovered the timber Napoleon’s intrepid feet stood on to surrender.
‘These artefacts have never been seen by the public. We expect them to be bought by a museum.’
A detailed account of the events that followed Napoleon’s surrender, kept by Captain Maitland, can be found in the National Archives. The log entry for July 15, 1815 recorded the surrender.
Napoleon ruled France and controlled much of Europe from 1804 until he was conclusively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815
In brisk naval fashion Captain Maitland noted the arrival of perhaps the greatest general the world has seen, a moment which ended some 20 years of war: ‘Received onboard Napoleon Buonaparte late Emperor of France.’
Whilst in custody Napoleon and his entourage were treated liked guests, with the former emperor given access to the Great Cabin of the ship – Maitland’s quarters.
Napoleon noted Captain Maitland had shown him and his officers kindness and hospitality aboard HMS Bellerophon. Napoleon told Maitland he considered him a man of honour.
The British Government refused to allow Napoleon to set foot in England and arranged for his exile to the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena where he died in 1821.
Captain Maitland rose to the position of Rear Admiral by the time of his death in 1839.
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