Letter Shows Napoleon Was Secret Anglophile

Letter Shows Napoleon Was Secret Anglophile

As England and France were preparing for their Euro 2012 football showdown, it emerged that France's greatest leader was a secret Anglophile.

A letter written in English by Napoleon Bonaparte a year after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo fetched 325,000 euros (almost £263,000) at auction near Fontainebleau, south of Paris.

The document shows that far from hating the people who had deposed him and forced him into exile, he was an admirer of all things British.

The letter was written in 1816, as the former Emperor of France was living as a prisoner on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, and was composed as part of his English homework as he tried to learn the language of the enemies he once dismissed as "a nation of shopkeepers".

Jean-Pierre Osenat, of the Osenat auction house which sold the document, said the Corsican-born general had mixed motives for learning English.

"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."

But Mr Osenat said there was a degree of vanity behind Napoleon's studies. "Of course, he was always very worried about his image. He wanted to read what was said about him in the English press."

The document was bought by the Paris Museum of Letters and Manuscripts, for five times its estimated price, underlining its historical importance.

The letter, addressed to his English teacher, the Count Las Cases, suggests the victor of Austerlitz and Marengo had some way to go in his studies.

It begins: "It's two o'clock after midnight, I have enow sleep, I go then finish the night with you."

It is addressed to the Count "at his bonk" - thought to be the word "bunk" misspelled.
Alain Nicolas, an expert in 19th century manuscripts, said: "It's very moving, since it's one of the last pieces of writings in English before his death.

"At the end he's written: 'Four o'clock in the morning,' so he wrote that in two hours. He took some time to write it. ... It shows he couldn't sleep and took his time. He had painful cancer in the stomach. He was an insomniac."

One of history's greatest generals, Napoleon conquered most of Europe, though his plans to invade Britain were wrecked by defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

After his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, he was finally defeated and captured after Waterloo three years later.

He died in exile on May 5, 1821, aged 52. Scholars have since disputed whether he died of stomach cancer or through poisoning by arsenic.