A Scion Society of The Baker Street Irregulars
“… relics of the French Emperor.”
– The Adventure of the Six Napoleons (SIXN)
It seems only appropriate that we discuss the numismatic items featuring Napoleon Bonaparte as we celebrate all things Six Napoleons this month.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on August 15, 1769. An artillery officer in the French army at the outbreak of the French Revolution, he was able to orchestrate several military victories and increase his political power among the military and the citizenry of France. In 1799 he led a military coup of the Directory and effectively ended the French Revolution. Initially Napoleon served as First Consul and then appointed himself as Emperor in 1804. For the next ten years, Napoleon effectively consolidated power over the European continent and redrew the map as won many victories during the Napoleonic Wars.
Unfortunately for Napoleon, he overextended his resources when he invaded Russia in 1812. This encouraged many of the remaining European powers to join forces and attack his forces in the spring of 1813. Napoleon’s troops were defeated at the Battle of Leipzig during October 16-19, 1813 and the coalition forces invaded France in the Spring of 1814. Napoleon was forced to abdicate his throne on April 11 and was exiled to the island of Elba.
Napoleon would escape from Elba and return to France in February 1815. He reestablished himself as Emperor on March 20th and would only reign until June 22nd. The same coalition forces that defeated him in 2014 teamed up again and decisively defeated him at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th. This time, the British exiled Napoleon on the south Atlantic island of St. Helena, where he passed away on May 5, 1821 at the age of 51.
Above, we have pictures of French coins of Napoleon as First Consul and as the Emperor. The Bank of France would later honor Napoleon on their 1963 issue of the 100 New Francs banknote.
In 2014, as part of their “From Clovis to the Republic” series honoring 1,500 years of French rulers, the Monnaie De Paris issued a silver 10 Euro and gold 50 Euro honoring Napoleon. The silver coin weighs 22.2 grams, measures 37 millimeters in diameter and has a mintage limit of 10,000 coins. The gold coin weighs 8.45 grams, measures 22 millimeters in diameter and has a mintage limit of 1,500 pieces.
We have previously discussed many of the 2015 coins that were struck to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. We did not include this .999 fine gold 50 pence coin that had 500 struck for St. Helena. The reverse design has Napoleon standing in front of Longwood House, where he spent the remainder of his life guarded by over 2,500 British troops.
This 41 mm bronze medal was struck to commemorate the deposed Emperor being transferred to St. Helena aboard the ship Bellerophon. This medal is also known in silver.
Napoleon, as First Consul, would visit the Monnaie De Paris in 1802. The MdP struck this 38 mm bronze medal to commemorate his visit.
This 26 mm bronze medal was struck shortly after Napoleon’s coronation and has the Emperor presenting new battle flags to his troops.
The capture of Berlin, Warsaw and Konigsberg in 1806 and 1807 was the topic of this 41 mm bronze medal. The goddesses of each city has the key to the city defenses in their hands.
Remembering happier times, this bronze medal from 1810 commemorates Napoleon’s second wedding, this time to Marie Louise of Austria. She was the eldest daughter of Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor.
This 41 mm bronze medal was struck to celebrate the birth of their child, Napoleon II on March 20,1811, who would be the future King of Rome.
This just scratches the surface of medallic art featuring Napoleon Bonaparte and I would say that his various portraits might be more numerous than any of his contemporaries.