Secret code letter by Napoleon boasting forces would blow up Moscow's Kremlin sold at auction for 152,000
1812 letter show history's famed general at one of his weakest moments
02:04 GMT, 3 December 2012
A secret code letter sent by French emperor Napoleon boasting that his forces would blow up Moscow's Kremlin has sold at auction today for almost 152,000.
Its elegantly calligraphic ciphers show history's famed general at one of his weakest moments, telling Paris of his last, desperate order against the Russians.
When Paris received the letter three days later, the Russian czar's seat of power was in flames and the diminished French army was in retreat.
A coded letter signed by French Emperor Napoleon in which he vows to blow up the Kremlin has been sold
The letter, pictured, has been sold at auction today for almost 152,000 – 10 times its estimated presale price
The Kremlin, pictured in 1800. In 1812 Napoleon said he would blow it up
'At three o'clock in the morning, on the
22nd I am going to blow up the Kremlin,' the letter said, laying out his
route of retreat and urging his minions to send rations to the towns to
'My cavalry is in tatters, many horses are dying.'
A Paris museum, the Museum of Letters and
Manuscripts, was finalising its purchase of the Oct. 20, 1812, document today – sold at $243,500 (151,959) – 10 times its estimated presale price of $19,500.
say the letter is unique, written in a numeric code that Napoleon often
used to throw off would-be interceptors – notably when he was conveying
The letter shows history's famed general, Napoleon Bonaparte, pictured, at one of his weakest moments
The letter's content also revealed the strains on
Napoleon of his calamitous Russian invasion.
Napoleon's prolific correspondence
has drawn aficionados from around the world, including from the U.S.,
Britain, Japan and Russia.
Interest appears to be rising as museums like the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts prepare to mark the bicentennial of Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
The Kremlin letter was just one piece in the vast auction at Fontainebleau Auction House today in the south of Paris.
A 310-page manuscript for the 'Essay on countryside fortification,' which Napoleon wrote while exiled on the remote island of Saint Helena in 1818-1919, was also bought by the Paris museum – for $487,000 (303,919), including fees.
Gerard Lheritier, director of the Paris museum, said it already has at least 1,500 letters, manuscripts or other writings linked to Napoleon Bonaparte.
It recently acquired one from Japan that Napoleon had written to the Empress Josephine.
'We have many letters that are much more important' than the Kremlin one, Lheritier said.
He speculated that the Napoleon letter could have fetched as much as $325,000 (202,820).
'This is a nice letter because it's in code, and he's going to blow up the Kremlin – so it's appealing,' he said.
Vladimir Hofmann, a French artist of Russian descent who with his brother Andre also bid today, said they'd wanted to purchase the letter for Russia's famed Hermitage museum.
'Why You know, it's a question of perhaps nostalgia, perhaps patriotism, to return the thing – very important for Russia and for Russian people – to them,' Vladimir Hofmann said.
Referring to such Russian interest in the letter, Lheritier said with a chuckle: 'I prefer that it stays in France.'