He may have conquered most of Europe but the Emperor Napoleon never quite managed to conquer the language of the nation of shopkeepers.
One of only three surviving letters written in English by Napoleon while exiled on the island of Saint Helena will be auctioned this weekend. The note, written in March 1816 as an exercise for his companion and secret English teacher, Emmanuel de Las Cases, is scarcely intelligible.
The emperor begins: "Count Las Case. It is two o'clock after midnight. I have enow sleep, I go then finish the night into cause with you..."
"Cause" is the French word causer (to chat). Napoleon is saying that he cannot sleep and has decided to show off his English – learned against the wishes of his British captors – by "chatting" in writing to his friend. He goes on: "He shall land above seven day a ship from Europe that we shall give account from anything who this shall have been even to day of first january thousand eight hundred sixteen. You shall have for this ocurens a letter from lady Las Case that shall you learn what himself could carry well if she had co[n]ceive the your occurens. But I tire myself and you shall have of the ado at conceive my."
Napoleon appears to be telling his friend he can expect a letter from his wife when a ship arrives shortly from France. The letter, one a single sheet of yellowing parchment, is estimated to be worth €80,000 and will be sold by the Osenat auction house near Paris in a sale of Napoleonic memorabilia.
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