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French codebreakers finally have decoded a letter signed by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1547, revealing juicy details involving royal intrigue during an era of religious and strategic conflict in Europe, Business Insider reported.

The three-page letter – with parts written in normal script and others in mysterious code – had languished for more than five centuries in the Stanislas Library in the French city of Nancy.

Cryptographer Cecile Pierrot and her colleagues sought to crack the centuries-old code to understand what the most powerful man in renaissance Europe was confiding to his ambassador at the royal French court.

The letter showed that Charles was worried about a potential assassination by an Italian mercenary and was prioritizing his relationship with King François I of France.

The Holy Roman emperor ruled over a large swathe of European territory that included Spain, the Netherlands, southern Italy and some parts of the recently discovered Americas.

The letter was written during a period of continental wars and religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The team explained that the warring period made it all the more necessary to hide confidential information.

Camille Desenclos, a historian who participated in the decryption, told Agence France-Presse the letter “confirms the somewhat degraded state” in 1547 of relations between François I and Charles V, despite a peace treaty having been agreed between the two states three years earlier.

The document includes around 120 encrypted symbols. Codebreakers have yet to issue a complete translation.

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