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It would have been destroyed with all the rest had a US officer not decided that it was rather too good for that. How right he was.

His family are now selling it, and when it comes up at James D. Julia's March 11-12 sale in Fairfield, Maine with an estimate of $150,000-£250,000 it will have a full royal pedigree.

It appears to have been commissioned by Louis XV himself from Sebastian Hauschka of Wolfenbüttel in Germany.

It bears the king's cypher and coat of arms as well as the number 464 under which it was recorded in the inventory of the Cabinet d'Armes in 1775.

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