The Bourbons
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Henri 1V (1589-1610)

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AR quart d'ecu, 29mm, 9.58gr. Obv: +HENRICVS.IIII.D.G.FRANC.E.NAVA.REX, croiz feuillue avec quadrilobe ponctue en coeur. Rev: .SIT.NOMEN.DNI.BENEDICTVM_ _L, legend starts at the bottom, central ecu d'France, couronne, acoste de 'II II.' Mint is Bayonne (after 1590). The mint mark 'L' is at the end of the reverse legend. There is one other symbol here also (sword?). This was an early mint for Henri IV. Dup 1224, C 1517v.

Henri ushered in the Bourbon line with the demise of the Valois. He was first married to Marguerite de Valois, his cousin, and subsequently, with papal approval, divorced her to marry Marie de Medici. He was an able ruler and faced the task of rebuilding Paris and the French economy. The Edict of Nantes in 1598 provided religious toleration for protestants. Like his English counterparts, Henri straddled religious commitments to maintain the throne. He was assassinated in 1710 by Francis Ravailac, acting as a Catholic against what was seen as too soft a line on protestantism.

Henri did major building in Paris, including the Place Royale (now Place des Vosges), finishing the Pont Neuf and building onto the Louvre. He maintained international alliances supporting protestants in the Netherlands and encouraged industrial activity in silk and textiles. The civil religious strife that characterized his predecessor's reigns quieted but remained a source of tension.

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Copper double tovrnois, 1606, 21mm, 2.78gr. Oldest milled coin on the site. Obv: R.DE.FRAN.ET.NAV.HENRI.IIII, portrait looking right. Rev: +DOVBLE.TOVRNOIS 1606, with three lis in the inner circle. Mint is Paris - A under portrait. D1273, C1576/7. Contemporary English coin: Elizabeth I.

Henri is commemorated on the Pont Neuf with a statue facing upriver.

Louis X111 (1610-43)

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AR 1/12 ecu, 20 m, 2.17gr.. Obv: +LVDOVICVS XIII D  |  G  FR ET NAV REX, bust right. Rev: +SIT NOMEN DOMINI V BENEDTITVM 1643, central crowned shield with three lis. Paris mint. D 1352v, 3eme type 1642-3 (D does not reflect the 'V' on the reverse legend); C 1667.

Louis comes to the crown at the age of nine. His mother, Marie de Medici acts as his regent and succeeds in smoothing the transition. Louis reaches the age of governance at 14 years and ultimately engages in conflict with his mother, who is exiled from Paris. Marie arranged a marriage with Anne of Austria, a child bride from Spain, in the Hapsburg line. During his reign Cardinal Richelieu became the major royal advisor and assumeed significant power in the French state. Louis died after a long illness in 1642. His chief advisor, Richelieu, had the opportunity to name his successor, Mazarin, who played a similar role for Louis XIV.

Louis consolidated royal authority and modernized the administration of the state. He formed a modern army and continued the modernizing economic policies of Henri IV. These policies contributed to economic prosperity in the latter half of the century. During his reign France was involved in the 30 Years War.

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Copper double tournois, 1619, 20mm, 2.91gr. Obv: R.DE.FRAN.ET.NAV.LOVIS.XIII, portrait looking right, wearing imperial wreath. Rev: +DOVBLE.TOVRNOIS, with three lis in the inner circle. D1358, C1718. Contemporary English coin: James Iand Charles I.

Louis XIV (1643-1715)

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AR douzieme d'ecu, 1644, 21mm, 2.21gr. Obv: D.G.FR.ET.NAV.REX.LVD.XIIII, young portrait facing right, wearing an imperial wreath. Rev: SIT.NOMEN,DOMINI.BENEDICTVM.1644, shield with three lis surmounted by a large crown. Mint is Paris. D1464, C1836. Contemporary English coins: CharlesI , Charles II, James II, William and Mary, William III, Anne and George I.

Louis became king when he was only 5. His reign of 72 years was the longest in French history, and he outlived both his son and grandson. He married Marie-Theresa of Austria. He was known as the Sun King and moved the Court from the Louvre to Versailles. Louis XIV brought absolutism in the monarchy to its peak (l'etat c'est moi), an idea challenged by the Enlightenment. In his youth he led his own troops in battle, and war was a continual activity during his reign.

Louis was successful in war against the Dutch, but less so later against the HRE, Spain and England.  The Thirty Years War ended with the Treaty of Westphalia, which established the balance of power principle that still characterized European alliances in the 20th C. High taxes to finance the war and a lavish Court came to cause domestic unrest. In 1713, in the Treaty of Utrecht, Louis lost much of the French New World to the English. His life ended without the military glory that characterized the first part of the reign. On the broader European scene, the Turks beseiged Vienna in 1683 and were turned back from Europe. In celebration, the croissant was created, the the pleasure of breakfast lovers everywhere. Larousse Gastronomique attributes it to success against the Turks at Budapest, other sources attribute it to the victory at Vienna.

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AR 4 sols, 19mm, 1.49gr. Obv: LVDOVICVS XIIII DGRA, bust right. Rev: FRAN ET NAVARRE REX 1675, central lis cross with central 'D.' Mint is Lyon. D 1504; C 1957.

Louis XV (1715-74)

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AR dixieme d'ecu (12 sols),, 2.81gr.1741, 21.5mm. Obv: LUD.XV.D.G.FR.ET.NAV, portrait facing left. Rev: SIT NOMEN DOMINI BENEDICTUM 1741, circle with three lis, surmounted by a large crown, shield bracketed by wreath. Mint is Caen - C at bottom of reverse. Mint is Caen - C at bottom of reverse.  D1683, C2127. Contemporary English coins: George I,George II, George III.

 Louis XV, great grandson of Louis XIV, had another long reign of 59 years. This was a time when the earlier absolutism gave way to new ideas of the Enlightenment, and the growing challenge of different groups within French society. He married Marie Leczinska, of the Polish royal family, and had a number of children. Louis was a builder and Paris benefited from this attention. The Pantheon was constructed in response to a pledge he made when ill that if cured he'd build a church. It was built, but not ready until the Revolution, so never functioned as a church.

Wars were expensive, and not successful. In the Seven Years War (the French and Indian Wars to Americans) France ran up large debts and lost additional territory in the New World. Financing the state became increasingly difficult, as regions sought to preserve historical privileges and resisted taxation. France became increasingly factionalized by the end of the reign. Louis apparently realized this, and is quoted as saying "Apres moi, c'est le Deluge." Such was to be the case for his heir.

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Copper demi sol a la vieille tete, 25mm, 5.93gr. Obv: LUDOV.XV.D.GRATIA, head right. Rev:  *FRANCE ET NAVARRE REX.1769, A in the exergue, central ecu avec trois lis, couronne. Mint is Paris. Dup 1700, C 2148.

Louis XV1, (1774-93)

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AR 12 sols, date obscured, 22mm, 2.79gr. Obv: LUD.XVI.D.G.FR.ET.NAV.REX, portrait facing left. Rev: SIT NOMEN DOMINI BENEDICTUM, circle with three lis surmounted by large crown, bracketed by wreaths. Mint is Paris.  D1711,  C2191 1785? Contemporary English coin: George III.

Louis XVI, son of L. XV, had the misfortune to come to the throne when France was riven by financial, political and economic stresses. He was married to Marie Antoinette, who was never popular with the French. Louis was a cultured person, interested in the arts and sciences, but unprepared to deal with the state of the State. From the failure of the Estates Genereaux to the proclamation of a General Assembly through the storming of the Bastille, Louis rode a current that was to unravel the Bourbon monarchy. He was ultimately held a virtual prisoner and forced to sign a Civil Constitution. He remained on coinage as Roi until his execution, on January 21, 1793. In October Marie Antoinette followed him to the guillotine.

Here are statues from their memorials in St. Denis, outside of Paris.


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Copper sol, 1791. Obv: LUDOV.XVI ' D.GRATIA, central portrait left. Rev: FRANCIAE ET NAVARRAE REX, central crest with lis surmounted by crown. Mint is Rouen. D 1714 C 2194 Image courtesy of Tony Dellar.

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Sol, 1785, 29.5mm. Obv: LUDOV.XVI  |  D. GRATIA, portrait looking left. Rev: FRANCE ET (mint mark) NAVARRE REX 1785, shield with three lis surmounted by a large crown. Also have the same, 1791, 1786. As visitor with sharper eyes than mine id's the mint as 'K,' Mint is Bordeaux. D1714.

Demi-sol, 1782. Obv and Rev same as sol above. D1715.

Double sol constitutionnel, 1792. Obv: LOUIS XVI ROI | DES FRANCOIS, portrait looking left. Rev: La NATION LA | LOI LE ROI and underneath in smaller print L'AN 4 DE LA REPUBLIC, staff surmounted by cap. D1722.