Lock of Charles I's hair sells for £3,910

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The Independent Online

Arts Reporter

Locks of hair belonging to Charles I, Henry IV and Napoleon sold at auction yesterday for more than £5,500.

All three were bought by American John Reznikoff, a Connecticut dealer in manuscripts and autographs of famous people. He believes he owns the world's most valuable private collection of locks of hair.

He paid £3,910 for the red-brown lock of hair belonging to Charles I - far above its original estimate of up to £500. The lock was removed in 1813 from Charles I, 164 years after his death, after workmen building George III's tomb at Windsor accidentally broke through the wall of the vault.

The Prince Regent immediately authorised the vault to be opened to verify historical details of Charles I's burial and watched while his physician, Sir Henry Halford, removed the hair from the beard and right temple of the corpse.

Sir Henry later described its appearance. "The forehead and temples had lost little or nothing of their muscular substance; the cartilage of the nose was gone; but the left eye, in the first moment of exposure, was open and full, though it vanished almost immediately; and the pointed beard, so characteristic of the period of the reign of King Charles, was perfect."

Sir Henry gave the gruesome memento to Hans Busk, the eldest son of a Radnorshire landowner, whose descendants consigned it for sale.

The auction at Bonhams also included a lock of Napoleon's hair, which Mr Reznikoff bought for £345, and another from Henry IV's beard, which he bought for £1,265.

The proud owner said yesterday: "My collection includes locks from George Washington, Geronimo and Marilyn Monroe. Apart from Charles I's, hers is the most macabre because it was removed at her embalming in 1962. She was bloated and they had to make an incision at the back of her neck and the hair was in the way.

"But I don't really go for that angle. I see a lock of hair as a relic, a piece of the being of a long-gone hero. As far as I'm concerned the lock from Charles I is the most important because it's from the only monarch of England who had his head cut off and there's kind of an association with his losing all his hair in one fell swoop."