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Burmese Letter to King George II Deciphered After More Than 250 Years

Written by Autograph Collector's Daily on Mittwoch, 25 Januar 2012. Posted in General Autograph News

telegraph - The letter, sent by King Alaungphaya, was an effusive and gushing appeal for camaraderie and trade with Britain. 

A letter made from pure gold that was sent to King George II from a Burmese king in 1756 has finally been deciphered by experts.

 The Golden Letter at the Leibniz library in Hanover

The letter has languished there, in the Leibniz library, for more than 250 years as nobody could read it. But historians who have spent three years examining the document have now unravelled its contents.

Amid the valuable gems and flowery language, King Alaungphaya confirms his permission for a harbour to be built in the city of Pathein to encourage trading co-operation between the two countries. Written in Burmese script, it is addressed to "the most meritorious and supreme [king] master of all the parasol-bearing kings ... lord of ruby, gold, silver, copper, iron, amber and precious stone mines, lord of white elephants, red elephants and elephants of various colours".

It goes on to convey "kindest greetings to the English king who rules over the English capital".

The letter, which was contained in an elephant tusk, referred to the presence in Burma of Henry Brooke, a British envoy working for the British East India Company who was in charge of the settlement in Pathein.

It went on: "Following the humble request of your esteemed Highness' envoy, Mr Henry Brooke, We have granted the site for your ships in Pathein at the place he wanted.

"A sealed royal order was sent to the officer of the English king and the governor of Pathein was instructed to measure and hand over [the piece of land] in Pathein.

"When close friendship prevails between kings of different countries, they can be helpful to the needs of each other that we are eager to fulfil."

Dr Jacques Leider, a Luxembourg historian and Burma expert, said the letter was sent at a time when Burmese royal power was threatened by foreign invaders. King Alaungphaya hoped to procure guns and cannon through fostering close trade relations with Britain.

As war raged, the letter was taken to Madras, India, and then forwarded to London before being handed to King George II by William Pitt, the Secretary of State. King George II sent it to the royal library in Hanover, where it was lodged in March 1758, and no official reply was ever made.

Danish King Christian VII damaged the letter during a visit in 1768, making it harder to decipher.

Georg Ruppelt, director of the Leibniz library, said: "As far as we know, the golden letter is a one-off."

It will be formally presented to the library on January 18 but is deemed too valuable to be displayed permanently.

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