Letter Offers Rare Look Into Napoleon’s Mind
Letter Offers Rare Look Into Napoleon’s Mind, The French emperor spent his final years in captivity struggling to learn English. An illuminating letter written by Napoleon in English, sold at auction Sunday for â‚¬325,000 ($405,000), offers a window into the mind of the French emperor, struggling with syntax of the language of enemy Britain.
The standard-sized sheet of paper is a homework exercise Napoleon sent to an English teacher for correction in 1816 and was sealed with the imperial eagle wax stamp.
It’s one of three such English-language letters by Napoleon in the world, according to the auction organizers, and was bought by Paris’ Museum of Letters and Ma**scripts in a dramatic bidding war near the Chateau of Fontainebleau, one of Napoleon’s south of Paris.
The selling price – five times what was predicted – suggests the document’s historic value, as rare proof that Napoleon, who famously dismissed England as a “nation of shopkeepers,” learned to speak the language of Shakespeare late in life.
He wrote the letter while a captive by the British in the remote island of Saint Helena following his defeat at Waterloo, according to the Osenat auction house.
The house’s president, Jean-Pierre Osenat, says Napoleon’s English lessons were “very noble, respectful.”
“He really had a great admiration for England, the rules and history. The English have the wrong idea: Napoleon didn’t hate them, he was just a military man, and the French interests were different to the English,” he said.
But did admiration alone lead the empire-building Frenchman to learn English?
It seems that vanity, too, may have played a role – and though he was stranded on the South Atlantic Ocean island, he still cared about what people thought. (AP)