A visit to Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home near Melrose in the Scottish Borders by the popular BBC TV show Antiques Road Trip unearthed a long lost treasure from the novelist’s collections – a lock of Napoleon’s hair.
The hair was rediscovered as one of the show’s antiques experts, Anita Manning, and Abbotsford’s Jason Dyer examined a blotter book that had belonged to Napoleon and which had been on show in the library at the historic house.
The hair was contained within a small handwritten note dated 8 November 1827, written to Sir Walter Scott from a Mr Dalton.
In it, Mr Dalton explained that the lock of hair has been given to him by Lt Col Elphinstone who served under 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 in an extremely fragile condition, the note and hair have now been removed from Abbotsford and are being examined by a team of conservation experts. They will go on show again to the public once this important work has been completed.
The lock of Napoleon’s hair is just part of a fascinating collection built up by Scott. Other items include a silver urn gifted to Scott by Lord Bryon, a clock that is reputed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette, Rob Roy’s broadsword, dirk, sporran and gun as well as numerous artefacts collected from the field of the battle of Waterloo.
Scott is known to have travelled to Belgium following Wellington’s victory in 1815 and his poem, The Fields of Waterloo, is based on first-hand accounts of the brutal conflict by soldiers he spoke with at the scene.
While there his collecting instincts must have gone into overdrive.
Other Waterloo discoveries include four flags that were discovered tucked away in a dusty old cupboard at Abbotsford House. The four standards, three French and one English, had been forgotten about and were found rolled up in sheets of brown paper.