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Napoleon dynamite: Bonaparte’s 'I'll blow up the Kremlin’ letter for auction

Published time: December 01, 2012 18:15
Edited time: December 02, 2012 21:25
A rare letter written in code (Top) by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte during his Russian military campaign and its decoded version are displayed at a Paris auction house (Reuters / Charles Platiau)

A rare letter written in code (Top) by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte during his Russian military campaign and its decoded version are displayed at a Paris auction house (Reuters / Charles Platiau)

An encrypted letter written by Napoleon has been sold from a private collection for 187,000 euro. The letter details the French leader’s devastation about his failed invasion and secret plans for retribution.

It was initially expected that the letter would be sold for 19.500 euro, which is almost 10 times less.

In October 1812, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte wrote a one-page encrypted letter to a military commander in Moscow instructing him “to blow up the Kremlin”.

"At three o'clock in the morning, on the 22nd I am going to blow up the Kremlin," the French general wrote.
To the naked eye the letter appears to be a set of numbers signed simply 'Nap' but Napoleon expert working at the Osenat auction house,

Jean-Christophe Chataignier, explained its significance to AP.

"This letter is unique. Not only is it all in code, but it's the first time we see this different Napoleon. He went into Moscow in 1812 at the height of his power. He returned profoundly weakened. In Moscow, the Russians had fled days before and burnt down the city. There was no victory for Napoleon, nor were there any provisions for his starving, dying army,"  says Chataignier.

Written the day after his retreat from Moscow the letter shows Napoleon at one of his weakest moments.

"This letter is an incredible insight, we’ve never seen Napoleon emotively speaking in this way before," says Chataignier.

Napoleon used the code only in top-secret letters, which was aimed to disable interception of French army orders by enemies. It was rather difficult to crack the code because it was regularly changed.

The letter was delivered to France’s interior ministry in three days. Supposedly Napoleon engaged his strongest horses and riders to bring the news.

This September, Russia celebrated 200 years since its victory over Napoleon, with the Kremlin holding various celebrations.  The highlight was a re-enactment of the battle of Borodino – one of the bloodiest clashes of the Napoleonic wars.

The letter has been on display in the Paris auction house not far away from the Emperor's final resting place at L'Hôtel national des Invalides.