Treasure hunters in UK and France prepare to search for key to Entente Cordiale’s £ 650,000 golden coffin

A photo of the golden coffin

Somewhere in Britain and France lie the two halves of a key to a £ 650,000 golden coffin that sealed the end of nearly 1,000 years of conflict between the two former enemies.

At least that’s what the co-author of the world’s longest treasure hunt claims.

Michel Becker says he bought the solid gold box celebrating the Entente Cordiale agreements of 1904 between the UK and France at an auction and had it authenticated by the jewelers who put it have manufactured.

The French artist is renowned for having sculpted a golden and silver owl in flight buried in mainland France in 1993 and for drawing the illustrations for the book necessary for his research. More than a quarter of a century later, the enigma of The Golden Owl (The Golden Owl) remains unsolved.

While the quest for the Owl continues, Mr. Becker is preparing to launch a new hunt, this time on both sides of the Channel, for the “Golden Treasure of the Entente Cordiale”.

Two books, one in English, one in French contain nine enigmas, which when solved lead to the richly decorated coffin that King Edward VII gave to French President Emile Loubet to seal the Entente Cordiale.

Signed on April 8, 1904, it was actually a series of agreements between Britain and France on issues ranging from colonialism in North Africa to fishing rights in Newfoundland over a century before Brexit.

“It was a really important treaty that literally delayed World War I for 10 years,” said Stephen Clarke, author of 1000 years of annoyance of the French, who wrote the historical account of the Entente Cordiale in the treasure hunt books.

While the text covered “a rather unpleasant colonial territory”, it was an extremely symbolic step marking “the fact that Great Britain and France were now allies and therefore there could be no war. between them, ”he said.

This 1903 illustration shows the Lord Mayor of London presenting President Loubet of France with the coffin - INTERFOTO / Alamy Stock Photo
This 1903 illustration shows the Lord Mayor of London presenting President Loubet of France with the coffin – INTERFOTO / Alamy Stock Photo

Mr Becker, who is due to start the hunt in France and the UK on the anniversary of the agreement, said: “I stumbled upon this coffin by accident. It had been in the Loubet family for a long time and its heirs sold it to a family who sold it to me two years ago.

“I found it astounding that your king handed it over to our president,” he said, adding that he was happy that it was now in the public eye again.

The Entente Cordiale, which came about at a time of great Anglo-French tension, is testimony to Edward VII, Mr. Clarke said, describing the monarch as a “very underrated diplomat” who “missed all of his youth in France hanging out with Can- Can dancers, actresses and aristocratic wives and became a true Francophile.

“We all think of him as the garden parties at Downton Abbey and not seeing the arrival of World War I.

“In fact, he was completely the opposite and spent his entire reign trying to curb the Kaiser [Wilhelm II, German Emperor], his mad nephew who wanted war and was trying to get Edward and the Tsar [Nicolas II of Russia] – another grandson of Queen Victoria – in an Anglo-Russian-German alliance against France.

“Indeed, France may owe its survival as a modern nation to the Entente Cordiale” which was signed “against the grain of history” at the time, he said.

King Edward VII - Paul Popper / Popperfoto
King Edward VII – Paul Popper / Popperfoto

Made by the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company, jewelers by appointment to the crown, the box contained a scroll of parchment inscribed with a text celebrating Anglo-French friendship and, on the lid, a gold sculpture, the allegorical figure of peace crowning France and Great Britain with laurels.

Some would-be hunters might be put off by the fact that the other Golden Owl treasure hunt has still not been resolved. The man who invented this hunt, Alas Valentin, is no longer alive to help. He passed away 11 years ago, leaving his secret in a sealed envelope which is now in the possession of his family.

Some fear that the place where the owl is buried in France was built or that the clues are too evil to be solved, or even that it was all a hoax from the start. A hunter has taken legal action.

Mr Becker, who holds the original owl and coffin in a secret location, admitted that the owl hunt may have been a bit tricky and that its creator may have included “subjective” clues that were almost impossible to resolve. without his help.

A photo of the interior of the coffin, lined with silk
A photo of the interior of the coffin, lined with silk

The new treasure hunt would be eminently solvable as it was created by a professional escape game designer, and the puzzles more based on spot-the-difference style puzzles than some of the mathematically complex codes of the old one. hunt.

He added: “The coffin is in a transparent chest with a rather complicated lock. Half of the key is buried in France and the other half in the UK … There are nine illustrations in each book with the ninth different per edition.

We therefore need a new Accord cordiale between an anglophone and a francophone to be resolved. As for the timing of the launch, he insisted that the current Covid pandemic was not a hindrance as the coffin can be found “virtually without leaving home.”

In the era of Brexit, Mr Clarke said: ‘Anything that can unite our two countries at the moment is great.

“The problem with Brexit is that it is very political. A scavenger hunt is completely the opposite and is sort of in the spirit of the Entente Cordiale because Edward VII was trying to ignore the current politics and to simply say, ‘We are friends.’ “

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