GENEVA A Russian collector living in Monaco paid a record 120,000 Swiss francs ($128,700) for four letters written by the last Tsar, Nicholas II, during World War One, a Swiss auction house said this week.
The letters, which had been estimated to fetch 9,000-14,000 francs, were sold on Monday night by Nicolas Romanov, the tsar's 90-year-old second cousin, a member of the former Russian imperial family living in Switzerland.
"It gives me great pleasure to know that these documents have been purchased by a single bidder who is keen on history. The fact that he is Russian makes it doubly satisfying," he said in a statement.
Romanov, in an interview with Reuters Television two weeks ago in his home in the Swiss Alps near the resort of Gstaad, said: "Of course I am sorry to part with them, but I am 90. I have taken a decision which means that before the festivities of next year for the centenary of the family, perhaps these letters will get in the hands of a historian or biographer or somebody who's writing something.
"I am not capable of doing that nor have I the time and I should have started doing it much before," he said.
The unpublished signed letters reflect the tsar's involvement in the brutal war and his deep concern for the well-being of his army, according to the Hotel des Ventes Geneve, the auction house that conducted the sale in the Swiss city.
"Each of these letters established a world record for letters by Tsar Nicolas II," it said.
"The buyer of these letters, of a large number of imperial photographs and of Grand Duke Nicholas' helmet is a Russian collector based in Monaco who is keen on history," it said.
The campaign helmet, which netted 26,700 francs, was the object of a fierce competition by bidders in the auction room and Russians bidding by telephone, it said.
The sale, which netted nearly 1.3 million francs, included Faberge silverware and photographs of the Russian imperial family, especially the Tsarevitch Alexei, the only son of Nicholas II who was shot dead along with the rest of the family by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Souvenirs from the personal collection of Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, grandmother of the present King Juan Carlos, fetched 180,600 francs of the total, the auction house said.
They included photographs and a fan decorated with her royal monogram and encrusted with diamonds, rubies and an emerald.
($1 = 0.9325 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Signe Grejsen Nissen, editing by Paul Casciato)