The Gift of the Emperor

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The Gift of the Emperor is a short story by Ernest William Hornung featuring his popular creation A. J. Raffles. It is included in the original collection of Raffles stories The Amateur Cracksman, first published in 1899.

The events in the story lead to the eventual exposure of Raffles as a thief and contribute significantly to his cynicism about British High Society.


The story was adapted for the 1977 Raffles television series, though the plot was changed significantly. An envoy of the German Emperor Wilhelm II arrives in London, on his way to the South Sea. He is carrying a precious pearl which he is due to present as a gift to a local King. This is regarded with horror in London, by those who regard it as a German attempt to interfere in a British sphere of influence.

Eager to avert this potentially embarrassing situation, a Foreign Office official approaches Gentleman thief A. J. Raffles to steal it back from him while he is in England, staying at a country house. Raffles agrees provided he is permitted to keep the pearl, valued at an estimated £100,000. He travels out to stay at the house with his companion Bunny Manders and waits for a chance to steal the pearl.

He is assisted by Inspector Mackenzie, his long-term rival, who has been ordered by his superiors to aid Raffles. Shunning his help, Raffles successfully manages to steal the pearl by climbing down a chimney and evades an attempt by the Germans to recover it. Raffles ultimately is betrayed by the foreign office official who has Raffles has arrested for the theft, and the pearls are sent back to Germany in exchange for an agreement that they will not be given to the Pacific King. The story ends with Raffles not being exposed as a criminal to the public. He continues to live as a member of High Society.

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