Sotheby’s has announced the sale of the key to the cell in which Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on Saint Helena in 1815, for 81,900 pounds (92,000 euros).
Eleven people took part in the auction for the 13-centimeter-long piece of metal, which sold for 16 times its initial estimate of between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds (5,500 euros).
The key was found “in an envelope that was in a box of a Scottish house,” said David MacDonald, a specialist in British furniture at Sotheby’s, before the sale.
He added, “The family that owned it knew that the key was somewhere, but it was hidden.”
A soldier named Charles Richard Fox, who was on the island of Saint Helena after the death of the French emperor in 1821, brought the key to Scotland to present to his mother, who was a “big fan” of the former ruler, so much so that she sent him sweets and books during his captivity.
Her grandchildren eventually found the key and decided to sell it at auction.
MacDonald said: “We often see items associated with Napoleon, such as paintings or pieces of furniture from one of his wonderful homes, but there is something very strong about this key, especially as it comes from the place in which he was imprisoned and from the cell in which he died.”
Fox had pulled the key himself from its lock during a visit to the place after Napoleon’s death, according to what was explained in a note dated September 6, 1922, which was sold with the key.