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Napoleon's love-letter storms Christie's

A rare love letter, written by Napoleon Bonaparte to his wife Josephine before they were married fetched more than five times its estimate price at Christie's.
None | By DPA, London
UPDATED ON JUL 05, 2007 03:44 PM IST

A rare love letter written by Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine, Viscomtesse de Beauharnais, his future wife, fetched more than five times its estimated price when it sold for £276,000 ($552,000) at auction in London.

The letter is one of only three known correspondences from Napoleon to Josephine before they were married. It had been estimated to fetch a maximum of £50,000.

The letter was sold Tuesday as part of a collection, which includes 570 hand-written manuscripts by notable figures of European history including Lord Byron, Elizabeth I, Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein, Churchill, Oliver Cromwell, Oscar Wilde - and even Martin Luther - at Christie's auction house in London.

The personal and private collection was assembled over 30 years by the late Albin Schram, an Austrian banker who kept the precious documents in the drawers of a filing cabinet in his home.

Among the gems on sale was a letter written by Ernest Hemingway, comparing the virtues of bulls to the vices of society, which fetched more than twice its estimated price when it was sold for £78,000.

In the satirical diatribe, penned by the literary giant on his way to Pamplona, Spain, he said: "Bulls of 25 don't marry old women of 55 and expect to be invited to dinner. Bulls do not get you cited as co-respondent in Society divorce trials. Bulls do not borrow money. Bulls do not expect you to marry them and make an honest woman of them. Bulls are edible after they have been killed," Hemingway wrote.

Schram was born to Austrian parents in Prague in 1926. He was conscripted into the German Wehrmacht, wounded and captured towards the end of World War II and taken to a prisoner of war camp in Kaliningrad, Russia, from where he escaped in the summer of 1945.

In later life, he devoted himself to private studies in legal history, and began collecting autographed letters in 1973.

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