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Rare Napoleon letter sold

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By Reuters
Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 9:34 p.m.

PARIS — A rare letter in which French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte vowed to “blow up the Kremlin” fetched 10 times more than expected at an auction in France at the weekend.

The code-written letter, signed “Nap” and dated Oct. 20, 1812, sold for $244,400 in all at a sale organized by Osenat auction house near Paris.

Initial estimates indicated it would fetch 10,000 to 15,000 euros. When the hammer came down, a telephone bidder for a Paris-based manuscript museum snapped it up for $195,879, or a final total of $244,400 when additional costs are included.

Manuscript expert Alain Nicolas explained the significance of the letter.

“It's entirely coded and signed, normally they weren't signed but this one was so important it was signed anyway,” he said.

“We also have the transcription, and obviously that amazing first sentence: ‘I'm blowing up the Kremlin at three o'clock in the morning,' which provoked a bidding war, an explosion of bids, and a record for an extraordinary letter written in Moscow,” he said.

The missive was written at a difficult moment for Napoleon, toward the end of his 1812 Russian campaign, in which more than 300,000 French soldiers died.

The battle outside Moscow in September is considered among the bloodiest day of action in the Napoleonic Wars, with at least 70,000 casualties.

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