Clock that belonged to Napoleon’s mother inherited by State in 1984

Suggestion clock be displayed for Mitterrand ‘if we can be sure he doesn’t want it back’

An 18th century French gilt clock that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte's mother became the property of the State in 1984, according to documents from the Department of the Taoiseach.

It was bequeathed by Italian aristocrat Marchese Peter Malacrida, an interior designer who lived on Shrewsbury Road, Dublin, and died in April 1983. Best known for his art-deco work at a stately home, Eltham, in southeast London in the early 1930s, he spent his later years in Ireland.

In his will, he bequeathed the government “a large clock” that belonged to Madame Mère, the mother of Napoleon, which was on display in the hall of his Dublin home. He also left the government three small Italian chests of drawers from the 17th and 18th century that were in his bedroom.

Mitterrand visit

In a note prepared for the secretary to the government, a civil servant said the Italian chests of drawers contained woodworm and needed to be treated.

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The clock, while “large”, was not a grandfather clock “but rather a model which could be located on any reasonable sized mantelpiece. The Taoiseach might wish to consider further if he would like to have the clock placed here in his office.”

A note, written at the side of the typed message and dated February 20th, suggested the clock “might be placed somewhere visible” for the visit of then French president François Mitterrand “if we can be sure he doesn’t want it back!”

The clock was eventually given on long-term loan to the Waterford Museum of Treasures and is on public display in the Bishop’s Palace Museum.

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