University Archives


Over 15 Strands of Napoleon's Hair Collected from St. Helena Chaplain, Authenticated by John Reznikoff

Over 15 strands of light brown hair belonging to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), collected ca. 1817, showcased in a lovely display headlined "Napoleon Buonaparte's Hair, one of the most authenticated locks extant." The hair was collected by Dr. Barry O'Meara (1786-1836), Bonaparte's physician while in exile on St. Helena, who in turn gave it to Reverend Richard Boys (1785-1867), a Protestant chaplain on the island.

The hair strands are secured in a plastic pouch at lower left, surrounded by facsimiles of original documents testifying to the item's O'Meara/Boys provenance, as well as an image after Jacques-Louis David's portrait of "Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries" (1812). Handwriting expert and documents examiner John Reznikoff has signed and inscribed the mount at bottom. Also bearing an embossed notary's seal. A few gentle edge wrinkles, else near fine. The hair pouch measures approximately 2.25" square while the mount measures 8.5" x 11."

Reverent Boys was given Napoleon's hair by Dr. Barry O'Meara on July 4, 1817, according to the supporting documents reproduced here.

Dr. O'Meara had been ship's surgeon on the "H.M.S. Bellerophon," the British Royal Navy ship of the line which transported Napoleon to St. Helena in October 1815, and he served as Napoleon's physician from 1815 until his return to England in 1818. O'Meara later wrote a memoir entitled "Letters from St. Helena" (1822), in which he alleged Napoleon had been mistreated while in exile.

Reverend Boys was stationed on St. Helena between at least 1811-1821, a period encompassing the entire span of Napoleon's captivity. He served as junior chaplain after 1811, and senior chaplain after 1815. Island inhabitants knew Boys to be extremely inflexible and sometimes belligerent, functioning in the role of a moral crusader. A version of Napoleon's death mask is also associated with Boys and Boys's grandson Dr. J.O. Sankey.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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