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Undelivered letters written to French sailors during an 18th century war between Britain and France have finally been opened and studied — after more than 250 years gathering dust.

The unread letters have provided a rare insight into the lives of sailors and their families in the 1700s, from the wife of a senior naval officer to an elderly mother chastising her son for not writing.

The Royal Navy seized the messages during the Seven Years' War, a global conflict that ended in 1763 that saw Britain and France lead rival alliances.

"I could spend the night writing to you... I am your forever faithful wife," wrote Marie Dubosc to her husband Louis Chamberlain, the first lieutenant of a French warship in 1758.

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