War letter from King George III sells for £11,430 at auction

King George letter Image copyright Cheffins
Image caption The 1803 letter describes the conduct of France as "unfair to the last"

A letter dating from 1803 in which King George III signals his intention to declare war on France has sold for more than £11,000 at auction.

The handwritten note was sold to a private collector in Cambridge for £11,430 - more than 11 times its upper estimate of £1,000.

Dated 14 May 1803, four days before Britain declared war, it calls France's conduct "unfair to the last".

Auctioneer Charles Ashton said the sale had sparked "nationwide interest".

In the 216-year-old letter, addressed to secretary of state Lord Hawkesbury, the king wrote that he had "perused the dispatch and private letter from Lord Whitworth" - a British politician and diplomat who was then his ambassador in Paris.

Image copyright Cheffins
Image caption The handwritten letter, dated May 1803, is signed "George R"

"Conscious of the Evils that must be entailed on many Countries by the renewal of War," he wrote, "it seems necessary to attend alone to the best modes of repelling the violence with effect, and the attacking those objects which our present means render attainable."

The beginning of the 19th Century was a time of hostility between France and England, marked by a series of wars, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Mr Ashton called the letter "a defining moment of history, showing the king's intention to go to war with France and Napoleon".

He said: "Documents signed by George III come up fairly often at auction, however, letters fully written by the king are infinitely more rare.

"A basic or simple note may cost around £100 at auction, however, what collectors are looking for is extra meaning to these finds. This one gives us an insight into what was going through his mind at the time."

The document was sold by an anonymous private seller who had bought it for £55 in 1966.

Image caption King George III was known for his "madness", however he reigned for almost 60 years

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