Franc à cheval, John II


The franc à cheval was ordered issued on December 5, 1360 to finance the ransom of King John II (born 1319; reigned, 1350–64), who had been taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, during the Hundred Years’ War. The ransom totaled a vast 3 million écus, and the fact that the coin was used to secure the release of the king gave rise to the name by which it was known: franc, meaning free. The value of the coin was set at one livre Tournois (Tours pound), so that the word franc came to be a synonym for pound and, at the time of the French Revolution, the franc became the national currency of France. The coin shows the mounted king in armor, galloping to the left, with his sword raised. The reverse side has a fluted cross with leaves emerging from it, and a four-lobed leaf at the heart, in an angled quatrefoil decorated with palmettes and bordered by four trefoils. The franc à cheval of John II was minted until his death in 1364. Charles V continued to issue the coin in 1364–65, but he also minted the franc à pied, showing the monarch on foot, which was continued by Charles VI in 1365–85. The franc à cheval reappeared briefly under Charles VII in 1422, and was imitated by many rulers, principally in the southern Netherlands, but also in Brittany and Orange.

Last updated: January 8, 2018