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France 1695-X (Amiens) Louis XIV Half-Ecu

By Bruce A. Walker, World Coin Cataloger

Author: Bruce Walker / Wednesday, July 22, 2015 / Categories: iAuctions

The Stack’s-Bowers Galleries monthly iAuction offers a terrific opportunity to add choice material to any collection, and at what is often times a very attractive price. The eclectic offerings contain something of interest for nearly every collector, be sure you don’t miss out! This month’s featured iAuction coin comes to us from Amiens, France and is cataloged as KM-295.22 by Krause. Struck in 1695 and in the denomination of 1/2 Ecu, it was issued during a year of great turmoil under King Louis XIV in France. King Louis XIV was the longest reigning monarch in European history, ascending the throne upon the death of his father in 1643 and ruling until his own death in 1715 more than 72 years.  Many will recognize his moniker of  “The Sun King,” but he was also known as “Louis The Great.” Most of his major and longest lasting accomplishments occurred relatively early in his reign.

By the last decade of the 17th century, having already consolidated his power in France itself, most of the challenges the king faced were in foreign affairs.  Specifically, The War of the League of Augsburg raged on from 1688 until its conclusion in 1697, precipitated in large measure by the threat other leaders in Europe felt from France’s aggressive foreign policies. For the most part, France was victorious in their military engagements during the war, aided by superior military strategy under the duc de Luxembourg, Francois Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville.  France also possessed vastly superior logistical capabilities, which enabled the French military to prevent invasion in the northern provinces, including the city of Amiens where this coin was struck.

By 1695 the French had already occupied the city of Namur (located today in Belgium) for more than three years.  When the city came under siege by William III (King of England, also known as William III of Orange) a plan was hatched in Paris by Louis XIV to attack Brussels as a diversionary tactic.  While the attack succeeded in completely destroying the city center along with a third of the standing structures in Brussels, it proved useless in defending Namur, which fell three weeks later to the Grand Alliance. 

The bombardment of Brussels remains a dark stain on Louis XIV’s reputation, as a ruthless act carried out against a purely civilian target.  While the number of casualties was very limited, the destruction wrought upon the cultural heritage of the city was devastating.  Some of the greatest artwork ever produced was destroyed, including works by Roger van der Weyden, Rubens, van Dyck and van Orley.  In addition, the city archives was destroyed by fire, and along with it much of the history of the city. Even a century later, Napoleon Bonaparte was to remark that the bombardment was “as barbarous as it was useless.”

And so it was concurrent with these tumultuous events that this remarkable silver ½ Ecu was struck in that same year of 1695.  Close inspection reveals intricate 17th century numismatic beauty. The portrait of Louis XIV in particular, is as resplendent as any seen on a coin from the period. The facial and hair detail clearly expresses the royal prerogative under which the king operated.

The reverse is no less compelling, with evidence of having been overstruck on an earlier ½ Ecu.  The undertype is without question a product of the Rouen Mint, some 120 kilometers southeast of Amiens. Listed as KM-273.2 in Krause, and struck for only two years in 1690 and 1691, it’s anyone’s guess why such a recently struck coin would be overstruck less than five years after its original production.  It is this combination of the known and unknown that makes numismatics so much fun, and which is so well presented in this month’s iAuction coin of the month!

Look for this and other numismatic pieces in our upcoming monthly iAuction at the Browse Auctions link at www.StacksBowers.com. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency for future iAuctions (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors by calling 800.458.4646.