Napoleon's vow to blow up Kremlin in letter for sale

Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:02pm EST
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By Johnny Cotton

PARIS (Reuters) - A rare, graying letter from Napoleon Bonaparte vowing to "blow up the Kremlin" goes up for auction in Paris this weekend, providing an insight into the French Emperor's ill-fated Russian campaign.

Written in code and dated October 20, 1812, the spidery missive reads as a series of figures, signed hastily from "Nap".

The original transcript, translated by secret services for foreign minister Hugues-Bernard Maret in Vilnius, also goes on sale, with its first fateful sentence: "I'm going to blow up the Kremlin on October 22, at 3 o'clock in the morning."

The letter is part of a collection of over 400 Napoleonic artifacts to be sold off by auction house Osenat on December 2, where it is expected to fetch between 10,000 and 15,000 euros ($13,000-$19,500).

"It's magical, we've actually got a piece of history in our hands... I wouldn't miss this for an Empire," said Jean-Pierre Osenat, head of the auction house.

The letter was written at a difficult time for Napoleon, towards 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.

When Napoleon finally entered Moscow, he found the Russian Tsar had already evacuated and the city was in tatters. It was then he began the disastrous Great Retreat from Moscow, ordering the Duke of Treviso to destroy the Kremlin as he went.   Continued...