DOCUMENT NAMING A CHEVALIER OF THE FRENCH EMPIRE, WITH ILLUMINATED COAT OF ARMS, BOLDLY SIGNED BY NAPOLEON
NAPOLEON. Document signed. Paris, February 14, 1810. Single folio vellum leaf, measuring 20-1/2 by 15-1/2 inches, calligraphically engraved, engrossed by hand and with illuminated coat of arms. Silk matted and framed, entire piece measures 29 by 24 inches. $9000.
Large and striking manuscript document on vellum, a patent of arms conferring the order of Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur on Alexandre-Joseph-Hippolyte De Lachau, boasting fine calligraphic detail, an illuminated coat of arms, and Napoleon's bold signature ("Napoleon").
After the coup of 18th Brumaire (November 9, 1799), First Consul Napoleon faced threats to his rule from both Jacobins and royalists. To ensure the continuity of his rule, he organized a plebiscite that elected him Emperor of the French in 1800. As a hereditary ruler, a mere assassination would not necessarily bring about a restoration of the ancien régime, as he would have an heir to claim the throne. Once secure as Emperor, Napoleon established his own order of nobility that would allow him to cement his power throughout the French Empire. His authority to do so was established by a constitutional decree in 1808 which gave him, as noted in the present document, "the right to give the titles that we would think convenient to those among our subjects who distinguished themselves for services rendered to the State." Prominent figures who cooperated with Napoleon were rewarded with new titles of nobility. Documents concerning Napoleon's awards of nobility are rare (although he granted these titles to over one thousand individuals between 1808 and 1814). As the political winds shifted dramatically within a few years, many who were honored to receive these titles found themselves soon after in an uncomfortable position and would have had good reason to see these documents destroyed. Very few such documents come to market.
This elaborately produced brevet document grants the title of Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur to Alexandre-Joseph-Hyppolite De Lachau, chef d'escadron attaché à l'état major général. (Napoleon himself established the Légion d'Honneur in 1802 as the highest French order for military and civil merits, an order that still exists today.) The ennoblement of De Lachau is listed by de Genouillac in the Dictionnaire des anoblis, 1270-1868. Docketed on verso. With only trace of original wax seal.
Some repair to edges just touching text but not affecting signature. A most desirable item.