The Golden Letter - witness to a diplomatic manouvre and a priceless work of art in its own
right. King Alaungphaya of Myanmar had the letter drafted in 1756 and sent the richly
adorned work to King George the Second.
Matthias Wehry – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library
„Alaungphaya, who had ascended to the throne just a few years earlier in 1752, was trying
to strengthen his position, by establishing contacts with England and the East India
Company, hoping than in so doing he could obtain ammunition and canons which he could
use against the French and against other hostile attacks on his country. He had just ended
the country's foreign domination. That's what he was trying to do."
The letter was precious back then too. 55 cm long, 12 cm deep, made of almost 99
percent gold, and decorated with rubies. The script is very finely engraved. It was sent in a
container made of ivory. And the Golden Letter took two years to arrive at its destination.
George II acknowledged the letter, but immediately sent it to the library in his home town of
Hannover. The letter again awakened the interest of a king when Christian the VII of
Denmark requested a viewing and damaged it in the process. And then the letter was left
in peace for 250 years.
Dr. Georg Ruppelt – Director Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library
"People still knew about the letter, people knew that such a letter had been sent from
Myanmar to London. That's documented in the archives. But the original was forgotten."
Starting in 2007 the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library initated further research into the
letter and established that it was indeed the original. Something of a sensation.
Dr. Georg Ruppelt – Director Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library
"It really was a global press event, reported in many languages. We didn't manage to
document all the coverage it got. We put the letter on display twice, for one day each time.
As many as 15 thousand people came to see it."
That enthusiasm persists, as does the interest of researchers, because there are still
unanswered questions.
Dr. Georg Ruppelt – Director Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library
"We want to look into events surrounding the letter: how did it actually get to London, and
then to Hannover? And who was involved in it? Are there any eyetwitness accounts? We
know parts of the story, but we hope to find out much more about this unique, golden
Some 250 years ago, the Golden Letter created a bridge between Myanmar and Europe.
And it continues to promote that connection today. With the key support of the German
Foreign Office, a complicated 3D animation of the letter was created which is on display in
Myanmar. Together with the cultural ministry in Myanmar and the British Library, the
Leibniz Library in Hannover has applied for the Golden Letter to be designated a world
heritage document by UNESCO.