A rare letter written by Napoleon in English was auctioned off in an intense bidding war in Paris last Sunday, with Paris’ Museum of Letters and Manuscripts taking home the letter for €325,000 ($405,000). The selling price was five times what was estimated prior to the auction. It is one of only three (surviving) English-language letters written by Napoleon.
The letter was written in 1816, while Napoleon was being held captive by the British on the island Saint Helena following his defeat at Waterloo. It was a homework exercise the deposed emperor sent to his English teacher for correction, and was sealed with an imperial eagle wax stamp. Some may find it surprising that Napoleon was studying the language of his nemesis, England, a land he once dismissed as “a nation of shopkeepers”, but Jean Pierre-Osenat, head of the auction house that handled the sale, said that Napoleon “really had a great admiration for England, the rules and history.” Osenat went on to say (more…)