Women of France continues with Desiree Clary and the fabled Josephine, wife of Napoleon

Now in its third year, the Monnaie de Paris series Women of France continues to work its way through the female icons that have contributed to the rich history of this European nation. Beginning in 2016 with a trilogy of coins featuring Clotilde, Mathilde and Jeanne d’Arc, three more were issued the following year depicting Catherine de MediciMadame de Pompadour and Olympe de Gouges.

Continuing to move forward in time, this year sees the nineteenth century take centre stage and the first two coins of the 2018 trilogy showcase women that lived in orbit of Napoleon Bonaparte. Everybody has heard of Napoleon’s wife Josephine, so her selection is expected, but the choice of Desiree Clary is a little more unusual given she spent much of her life outside of France. There’s no questioning the quality on offer again.

Called a historical strike by the MdP, these coins have an unbound rim, so the metal flows out slightly when struck, resulting in an edge that isn’t perfectly circular and is subtley different each time. The technique debuted with the beautiful From Clovis to Republic range, a set of coins with an almost identical design style as well. Each coin has a portrait/bust of the woman on it, surrounded by her name and dates – for Desiree one based on a painting by Robert Lefevre. The background has a fine repeating pattern struck into it, in this case a tapestry of monogram D‘s. The reverse face shows King Charles IV on horseback in front of the Swedish coat-of-arms, a composition inspired by a mid 15th century depiction of Charles VIII of Sweden.

As has been the case in the past, tehre are two formats on offer. The cheaper of the two is a 0.900 silver coin of 22.2 grams in weight and with a mintage of 5,000. This sells for a reasonable €53.00. The gold is predicatably far more expensive at €485.00 and tips the scales at 7.78 grams (¼ oz) with a mintage of 1,000 pieces. These are beautiful coins, in our view some of the best being produced today. The portrait sides are excellent, but it’s the other face that deserves special attention. There’s one more coin to come this year and that will showcase the author George Sand – real name Aurore Dupin. That one is expected at the end of May and will wrap the series up for 2018.

Born in Marseille, France on 8 November 1777, Eugénie Bernardine Désirée Clary was the daughter of a silk merchant. Meeting the Bonaparte family, her sister Julie eventually became engaged to Joseph Bonaparte and soon after in April 1795, Desiree became engaged to his younger brother Napoleon. In September of the same year however, Napoleon broke it off, marrying Josephine de Beauharnais the following year.

In August 1798 she married the French general and politician, Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte. In May 1804 he was made Marshall of France which also elevated Desiree in French society, something she seems to have been indifferent about. Well respected, Bernadotte was elected heir to the throne of Sweden to replace the childless ruler of the former superpower and Desiree became the Crown Princess of Sweden. In 1818 she became Queen when her husband became King, now called Charles XIV and III John, King of Sweden and Norway. Outliving her husband, she died 0n 17 December 1860.

DENOMINATION €10 Euro €50 Euro
COMPOSITION 0.900 silver 0.999 gold
WEIGHT 22.20 grams 7.78 grams
DIAMETER 37.00 mm 22.00 mm
FINISH Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS Unbound edge Unbound edge
MINTAGE 5,000 1,000
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes