The Monnaie de Paris is launching a new range of coins celebrating the French involvement in the American War of Independence. The first issue marks the 240th anniversary of the arrival of the Marquis de La Fayette in Boston aboard the frigate Hermione. Confusingly, it’s also billed as part of the mints Major Landmarks in the History of Humanity range, so it remains to be seen where the series goes from here.
The design apes a period medallion, depicting a profile portrait of La Fayette in a style that coin collectors will be very familiar with. Wearing his uniform, it looks to be a fine effort. A coat of arms takes pride of place on the obverse, comprised of a small image of the Hermione, under a field of Fleur-de-Lys, representing the monarchy. Flags frame the shield on both sides, representing both the United States and France, although they lack the detail that would mark which is which.
Gold and silver offerings make up the four coin range, two of each. While they carry the same design, the bigger variant in each metal has an octagonal form. The silver weighs in at two-ounces, with the fine gold variant coming in at half that. The smaller form is a regular round shape, the silver one of the mints popular 22.2 gram efforts, and the gold a quarter-ounce.
MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Born Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier on 6 September 1757, Lafayette is widely admired in the United States for his aid during the American Revolutionary War. He travelled to America for the first time in 1777, becoming firm friends with George Washington, and fighting several battles against the Loyalists. He returned to France in early 1779 to drum up more support from his home country, and returned the following year on the L’Hermione.
His second stint was more intense, culminating in the pivotal Siege of Yorktown, where his forces were instrumental in breaking the British defence. He returned to France a hero, joining the Society of the Friends of the Blacks, an organisation that successfully advocated the abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal rights. He visited the US in 1784/5 and continued that advocation but with little to show for it.
It was a tumultuous time for France, with the drawn out fall of the monarchy, and a war with Austria, who captured him in 1792. His release was obtained by Napoleon five years later, but he refused to serve in his government. He returned to government after the Bourbon Restoration of 1814, and in 1824 visited all 24 states in the American union. In 1830, during France’s July Revolution, he actually turned down the offer to rule France as a dictator. He died on 20 May 1834, hailed in the two countries closest to his heart, as a hero.
Built in 1779 for the French Navy, Hermione was a Concorde-class frigate designed for speed and carrying 32 guns – 26 x 12-pounders and 6 x 6-pounders. During her first refit, she became only the third French ship to get copper sheathing on her hull. Weighing around 550 tons, with a length of 44.2 metres, she had a normal crew compliment of around 300 and could make around 11 knots when running.
She had an eventful career, fighting off the coast of Ireland and in the Bay of Biscay against the British, taking several prizes. On 24 February 1780, Lieutenant Latouche-Tréville was tasked with taking General La Fayette to America. She arrived in Boston on 27 April and was soon patrolling nearby waters. She had some skirmishes with British ships, and was even the host for a state banquet on 4 May 1781.
After the war for indepenence was concluded, she returned to France, and ended up escorting convoys during the War of the First Coalition. She ran aground off Le Croisic, and despite attempts to refloat her, she could not be saved. Construction of a replica started in Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France in 1997. Also named Hermione, she set sail on a journey to the US in April 2015, arriving two months later. She remains in France, although as recently as 2018 undertook a tour of the Mediterranean.
|DENOMINATION||€10 EURO||€50 EURO||€25 EURO||$250 EURO|
|COMPOSITION||0.900 silver||0.999 gold||0.900 silver||0.999 gold|
|WEIGHT||22.2 grams||7.78 grams||62.208 grams||31.104 grams|
|DIMENSIONS||372.0 mm||22.0 mm||37.0 mm||37.0 mm|
|BOX / C.O.A.||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|
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