Gold French Francs
The French Franc is one of the most well known gold coins ever produced in Europe. The coin was first introduced in 1360, but it fell out of favour until 1803, when the gold Francs were reintroduced during the Napoleonic period and the rise of the French empire.
The coins depict Napoleon, Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon), Marianne (the national symbol of France), and the Guardian Angel - an interpretation of the Roman 'Genius' which, like a guardian angel, was believed to follow people around all their lives. The suggestion was that this angel or muse was the spirit of the French Revolution.
The Origin of the Franc
King John II of France was at war with Edward III of England as part of the Hundred Year War. In 1356, Edward's forces were struggling after launching a series of raids in southwest France; they were injured or ill and now outnumbered and surrounded by King John, who rode with his army to defend his people. John's military advice was to starve Edward into surrendering, but instead, believing in chivalry and honour, John launched a direct attack on Edward's forces. John lost and was taken as a prisoner of war.
For four years the French ruler was an English prisoner, living in an array of palaces and eventually the Tower of London. Treaties were presented and refused by one side or the other for the next few years, but eventually a deal was reached, and in 1360 King John was released.
As part of his release, King John had hand over replacement hostages (including his son Louis) and he had to pay a ransom - at which point the hostages would be returned. To do this he ordered the French mints to produce gold coins to pay the debt, and this was the birth of the French Franc.
Disputes between the great French houses and nobles meant that conflict was rife and the economy was weak. The ransom levels were unlikely to reached, and furthermore John's son - Louis - had fled the country rather than be an English hostage. In response, John surrendered himself to Edward again. He would eventually die as a prisoner in 1364.
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