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Napoleon's homework finally done right and 'checked'

Published time: June 11, 2012 09:39
Edited time: June 11, 2012 13:39
A fragment of the letter written on the island of St. Helena. (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

A fragment of the letter written on the island of St. Helena. (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

Napoleon once conquered most of Europe, but learning English proved to be a real challenge for the French military guru. One of his rare letters written in broken English sold at auction for $405,000, five times what was expected.

­In fact, it's one of only three such letters left by the French Emperor. Sealed with the imperial eagle wax stamp, the 1816 homework exercise was sent to the Count Las Cases, Napoleon's English teacher, for correction.

"It's two o'clock after midnight, I have now sleep, I go then finish the night with you," Napoleon wrote, struggling with the language he started learning late in life.

It took him two hours to write the “midnight letter” created after the defeat at Waterloo, while a captive by the British in the island of Saint Helena.

"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," Jean-Pierre Osenat, of the the Osenat auction house, told AP.

"He had a lot of moments to sit and reflect in Saint Helena. Learning English was a way to fill his time. It was near the end of his life: he used it as a time to think about his life, his campaigns, regrets and remorse," 19th-century manuscript expert Alain Nicolas was quoted as saying.

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