Gold Ecu

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What is the Ecu d'Or / Gold Ecu?

Prior to its referring to a type of silver French coin minted prior to the Revolution (the ecu d’argent / louis d’argent, or simply ecu, the latter being used to differ it from the latter type of gold coinage referred to as the louis d’or) it was a type of gold coin that was minted during the reign of Louis IX of France in 1266.

The name ecu is closely related to other European currencies that would later model themselves from it such as the escudo. Etymologically, ecu is the French term for the Latin word scutum or escutum,[1] which meant shield, so called due to the obverse symbol of a shield bearing a coat of arms of six (in some examples one or three) fleur de lis on the obverse side of the ecu d’or accompanied by the Latin phrase ‘LVDOVICVS DEI GRATIA FRAN ET NAVA REX’ (‘Louis, by the Grace of God, King of France and Navarre’), and a highly ornately stylized cross fleury or a cross cerclee accompanied by the motto ‘XPC VINCIT XPC REG XPC INPERAT’ (‘Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands’).

There were more than one type of gold ecu and not all of them were created by a reigning monarch under the name of Louis. Some ecu d’or was even minted by minor nobility such as counts and dukes, with varying mottos on the obverse side denoting their hierarchical status.[2] A number of ecus d’or even featured the personal coats of arms of local nobility who minted it as a type of coin of the realm in the stead of it being national currency. From its creation in 1266 until the latter part of the 1700s, many ecus d’or were created by various reigning monarchs and some minor nobles, all of which bore the status of legal tender. These were used as general currency throughout the varying regions of France as well as abroad, for trade and general international commerce. Each issue by a different monarch (with the exception of every monarch named Louis) bore different obverse and reverse faces and inscriptions; while those issued by kings bearing the name of Louis bore the stylized cross on the reverse side and the shield with the fleur de lis on the obverse. Later examples of ecus d’or prior to its revamp as exclusively silver currency bore the bust of the then reigning monarch on the obverse side.

Ecus d’or circulated alongside silver ecu d’argents and both of their values generally fluctuated depending on the current economical status of the nation as brought about by the good or bad leadership of the current king as well as the fiscal and monetary laws imposed by the monarchy. The value of the ecu d’or, much like the value of the later louis d’or was never wholly standardized until later on; that, along with the weight and purity of the gold used to make the coinage under different monarchs.[3] Eventually, the ecu d’or circulated with newer types of ecu – large silver coins of equally fluctuating values, until, by the early 1600s, the production of ecu d’or had ceased and was forever replaced by silver ecus until its subsequent abolishment during the French Revolution and eventual replacement with the silver franc.[4] However, the name ecu was still in common use so that 5 franc coins minted after the Revolution onwards were still referred to as ecus.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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