N apoleon ordering the invasion of England; Winston Churchill to Lawrence of Arabia, expressing his admiration for Seven Pillars of Wisdom; Ronald Reagan to one of his closest personal allies on the changes he has just witnessed on his visit to Moscow as glasnost took hold; documents bringing to life the folly of the Charge of the Light Brigade; Robespierre ordering arrests during the Terror; Catherine the Great on the construction of St Petersburg’s largest Cathedral; George III writing to Napoleon of “friendship and goodwill”.
These are just a few of the historical moments preserved in this second selection from a remarkable collection of letters and documents, which was assembled by a discerning connoisseur over a period of some twenty years. This final sale, which comprises entirely fresh material, covers four centuries of European history, from Philip II of Spain to the end of the Cold War, but once again has a particular focus on the Napoleonic period. Several important letters by Napoleon are included, from his crucial command in Italy in 1797 to preparations for the defence of France following the disastrous March on Moscow, as are many letters by his Marshals, allies, and enemies. There are letters by monarchs of Britain, France, Russia, and elsewhere – even the powerful Ethiopian Emperor Theodore II. Wider culture, especially of the 19th century, is represented in letters by figures including Oscar Wilde, Monet, Renoir, Voltaire, and others. This is a sale that once again reveals the potency of the autograph letter to convey history in manuscript form.
Ronald Reagan Letters to Senator George Murphy
Probably the most significant and revealing series of letters by Reagan as President to ever be offered at auction. Reagan's letters to George Murphy, the fellow actor and Republican politician he referred to as "my John the Baptist".
"...I am looking forward to putting our mandate into action. I'm aware it will be all uphill but we'll keep climbing..."
This correspondence provides a narrative of a presidential career from his nomination campaign to his departure from office. The most significant letters in the series are undoubtedly Reagan's two letters written after meetings with Gorbachev, but the series also touches on the Iran-Contra affair, Apartheid, the President’s complaints of liberal media bias, and his candid opinions on democratic election hopefuls and political opponents.
George Murphy (1902-92) was the first prominent Hollywood actor to launch a major national political career as a US Senator. The first of these letters dates from 1968 but the relationship between Murphy and Reagan went back to their careers in Hollywood in the early 1940s.
- 1797: the Italian Campaign
- 1798: the Egyptian Campaign
- 1801: the Peace of Amiens
- 1802: uneasy peace with Britain
- 1805: plans for the invasion of England
- 1807: creating a dynasty
- 1809: victory over Austria
- 1813: Napoleon in retreat
- 1819: the prisoner on St Helena
1797: the Italian CampaignLot 76 Napoleon I | Letter signed ("Bonaparte"), as Commander of the Army in Italy, 20 January 1797, £1,200-1,500
Napoleon issued this remarkably detailed order only a week after the Battle of Rivoli (14/15 January), a key victory over the Austrians in the French Revolutionary Wars. It demonstrates Napoleon's meticulous attention to detail; one of his first actions in Italy was to buy 18,000 pairs of boots.
1798: the Egyptian CampaignLot 77 Napoleon I | Letter signed, ordering payments to scientists and artists on the Egyptian Campaign, 1798, £800-1,200
A remarkable feature of Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign was the provision for scholars and artists, described as "a masterstroke of propaganda obfuscating the true motives of the invasion". Nevertheless, great discoveries were made, resulting in a tremendous increase in knowledge about Ancient Egypt, and the enrichment of the great museums in Paris and London. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Pierre-François Bouchard occurred by chance the following year, in 1799
1801: the Peace of AmiensLot 78 Napoleon I | letter signed, to the Minister of War, 1801, £1,000-1,500
This secretarial letter signed by Napoleon as First Consul orders Citizen Minister Berthier to draw up a plan for disarming the fortresses of the Republic now that France was on the verge of making peace with her enemies.
1802: uneasy peace with BritainLot 42 George III | Letter signed, to Napoleon, introducing Lord Whitworth as his Ambassador to France, 10 September 1802, £2,000-3,000
In this exceptional letter the British King introduces his ambassador, Charles Whitworth (1752-1825), who was to remain the British representative in Paris throughout the brief and fragile Peace of Amiens. Neither France nor Britain expected the peace to last, despite the warm words of this letter of introduction, and Whitworth endured a series of increasingly hostile meetings with Napoleon during his months in Paris.
The French leader accused the British of breach of treaty and subjected Whitworth to a tirade of abuse at a public reception at the Tuileries Palace on 13 March 1803. Whitworth left Paris on 12 May and Britain declared war six days later.
1805: plans for the invasion of EnglandLot 79 Napoleon I, letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805, £10,000-15,000
Napoleon gave orders for the invasion of England two months before the Battle of Trafalgar. Napoleon commands Ganteaume to rendezvous with Admiral Villeneuve at Brest, put to sea immediately and make their way into the English Channel, emphasizing that he is relying on his talent, steadfastness and character in such an important enterprise, urging him to come to Boulogne and avenge "six centuries of insult and shame, a cause greater than any other for which his military forces have ever risked their lives".
1807: creating a dynastyLot 81 Napoleon | Autograph endorsement signed, on a letter written to him by Eugene de Beauharnais, 1807, £800-1,200
Napoleon made Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824) Viceroy of Italy on 7 June 1805 and put him in command of the Army of Italy during the War of the Fifth Coalition. Eugene was the son of Joséphine from her first marriage and, from 12 January 1806, the adopted son of Napoleon, although excluded from succession to the French Empire.
1809: victory over AustriaLot 57 Joséphine | letter signed as Empress, to Régis de Cambacérès, about the armistice after the Battle of Wagram, 1809, £1000-1500
In this letter the Empress informs Cambacérès ("Mon cousin") that an armistice with Austria has just been signed following Naploeon’s victory at The Battle of Wagram in Austria (5-6 July 1809). Peace with Austria would lead to Napoleon's attempt to legitimise his dynasty and secure a male heir, by divorcing Josephine in December 1809.
1813: Napoleon in retreatLot 84 Napoleon I | Lettter signed, to Marshal Kellermann, telling him to unite his forces under Marshal Ney, 12 March 1813, £2,000-3,000
This is a lengthy letter by Napoleon discussing troop movements with one of his most important senior commanders. After the debacle and disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812, Napoleon prepared the Grande Armée for a new campaign in Germany. With Prussia about to declare war on him, he was being assailed on all fronts, which possibly accounts for the rather disorganized and prolix style of this letter. Writing to Marshal Kellermann (1735-1820), an esteemed old soldier, it is apparent that Napoleon now looked to Marshal Ney to execute his plans for the defence of France.
1819: the prisoner on St HelenaLot 65 Hudson Lowe | Letter signed, to Count Balmain, 20 May 1819, £800-1200
An angry letter by the Governor of St Helena to the Russian Commissioner on his fraternization with Napoleon’s followers.
The sale features a selection of signed and inscribed photographs of some of the greatest minds and famous faces of the last century including an early signed photograph of Oscar Wilde.
Charge of the Light Brigade
The brave but disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, commemorated in Tennyson’s famous poem, is one of the most famous events in British military history. The current sale includes an archive of military papers of Lord Lucan, who led the British Cavalry in the Crimean War, providing a deep insight into the character of one of those most responsible for the debacle at Balaclava. The sale also includes a memorandum describing the events of the Charge itself written just days later by the Earl of Cardigan, the man who had led the charge into the Russian lines.
This collection reflects our abiding fascination with royalty and includes letters and documents by many of the most famous monarchs from Britain, Russia, Spain, and many other nations.