Napoleon’s Napkin, Island of Elba, Italy, 1815

Napoleon’s Napkin, Island of Elba, Italy, 1815

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The Emperor Napoleon gave this table napkin to William Bayard on February 26, 1815, the morning Napoleon escaped exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. The napkin is embroidered in one corner with a small green crown above the letter N and in the opposite corner with the red initials W.B. William Bayard, a wealthy American who traveled widely among the courts of Europe, had called upon the exiled French emperor, who reportedly invited Bayard to join his party returning to France. Instead, Bayard came home with his story and two of the emperor’s napkins.
Bayard gave the two napkins to Lucy Hunter Churchill, the wife of US Army Inspector General Sylvester Churchill. Mrs. Churchill, the future mother-in-law of Smithsonian Secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird, was said to be a keen admirer of Napoleon. The napkin displayed here was bequeathed to the museum by the Bairds’ daughter, Lucy Hunter Baird, in 1914.
Bequest of Lucy Hunter Baird, 1914
Object Name
associated date
associated person
Napoleon I Emperor of France
Associated Place
Italy: Tuscany, Elba
Physical Description
linen (overall material)
white (overall color)
overall: 22 in x 45 in; 55.88 cm x 114.3 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Estate of Lucy Hunter Baird
See more items in
Political and Military History: Political History, General History Collection
Souvenir Nation
Government, Politics, and Reform
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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