Jacques Coeur

JacquesCoeur

Contents

Early Life 2

Early Life

Jacques Cœur was born (1,2) in a house near St Peter’s church, in Rue de la Parerie, (11) Bourges (1,2) in Berry. (6) He was the son of (3,11) Pierre Cœur, (10,11) originally a person of moderate means (11) OR He was already a rich furrier (12) from Saint Pourçain, 60 miles SSE in the Allier, (8,11) who had moved to Bourges (8) a cloth-producing commercial town, (9) to grow his business. (8) Pierre married Madame Bacquelier, the widow of a butcher; this immediately raised his status, because the butchers’ guild was particularly powerful. (11) Pierre became a rich furrier (3,7) of the town (3) and supplied John Duke of Berry. (8) The date of Jacques’ birth was 1395 (4,8) OR c. 1395 (1,6) OR c. 1400 (2,5) OR in 1400, (3) and so he was a contemporary of Joan of Arc (5,11) and Gilles de Rais. (11) Little Jacques spent his early childhood in this area of the Rue des Toiles and Notre Dame Church, by the town wall. (11) He then went to live at the corner of the Rue des Armuriers and the Tambourine d’Silver, in front of the superb house belonging to the family of (11) Lambert Léodepart, provost of Bourges, (4,7) former Valet de Chambre of John, duke of Berry. (10,11) Jacques’ teenage years were spent near Duke John’s Palace, close to Sainte Chapelle where he was educated. (11) It is probable that he was first destined for the Church, for he studied as a cleric and received the tonsure, but he preferred commerce. (12) Duke John was a patron of the arts, a clever politician and a great builder, with more than 15 castles. (11) We owe him one of the most beautiful works of literature: the ‘Tres Riches Heures’. (11) France was suffering the effects of war, made worse by epidemics of plague and the activities of ‘routiers’ and other criminals. (11) Jacques Coeur was 15 when the Battle of Agincourt took place, causing the death of a large number of lords, and the occupation of a large part of France by the English. (11) In 1418, the dauphin, the future Charles VII, fled from Paris to escape from John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. (11) He went to Bourges in 1418, (7,8), and was given the contemptuous nickname of “the little king of Bourges”. (11) It is an ill wind which blows nobody any good, and the presence of the Dauphin and the court will stimulated the commercial life of the city. (11) The Berry bourgeoisie saw the opportunity to gain places in his entourage. (8) Jacques is first heard of around 1418 (10,12) OR in 1420 (7) when he married (4,5) Macée (5,12) OR Mace (8) de Léodepart, (5,8) Lambert’s daughter (4,7) Her family had powerful connections. (5,7)

Start in Business

Either Jacques’ father (5) OR Lambert Léodepart’s wife (who was married to a Bourges moneyer (11) and the daughter (7) OR daughter-in-law (12) and sister of two moneyers (7) taught him about business (5,7) OR Coeur himself acquired his own training through experience in financial operations (9,12) involved in managing one of the twelve exchanges in the city in the Place Gordaine (11) under the direction of Ravant Ledanois. (12) OR with his associates, Godard (11,12) a moneychanger at Bourges (12) and Ravant le Danois. (11,12) In 1427 (12) he was in trouble (8,11) for falsely exaggerating the denominations of minted coins (11) of too little weight; (12) OR for speculating on the amount of precious metal contained in the coins he made. (8) This was a serious offence for which he could have been imprisoned or sent to the galleys. (11) He was fined, but on December 6th 1429 he obtained, (32) a royal pardon (8,11) by a bribe of 1000 livres tournois: he was allowed, fortunately, to continue his activities. (12) He entered the mint in 1429. (8) and formed a commercial partnership with two brothers named Pierre and Barthélemy Godard. (10,12) He was a remarkable businessman. (3) His coinage speculation enabled him to establish the beginning of his fortune, (4,7) from which he entered trade. (5,6) For the duration of his association with the Godard Brothers, which ended in 1439, Jacques Coeur undertook, on his own account, other larger operations in the Levant. (12) He went to Syria to carry and search for goods. (12) His first trip to the Levant countries took place in 1432. (10,11) We do not know what he brought back, (11) OR he was at Damascus, (10,12) buying and bartering, and transporting the wares of the Levant—gall-nuts, wools and silks, mohair, brocades and carpets—to the interior of France by way of Narbonne. (10) In the early 1430s, he became a supplier to the court, which he supplied with these Levantine products. (8) His journey to the east in 1432 (7,8) OR 1433. (12) ended in a shipwreck (8,11) off Calvi; he was taken prisoner, but ransomed for a low price, suggesting that at that he was not considered an important figure. (11) This adventure gave him good commercial insights. (9,11) He probably dreamed of competing with the Medici of Florence or the merchants of Genoa or Venice. (11) He founded a trading house which soon did business on a colossal scale. (12)

Business Empire

In 1432 he established himself at Montpellier, (5,9) and there began the gigantic operations which have made him famous among financiers. (10) He began to move into trade (9) around the shores of the Mediterranean, (4,7) the Orient (7) and in countries of the Levant, (1,4) Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. (6) He seized an opportunity of profiting by trade in precious metals between Europe eager for gold and the East greedy for money, and began trading with the Levant. (7) This was key to Coeur’s fortune; it was not due entirely to the sale of fabrics or furs to the nobles of the court, nor in the manufacture of gold from base metals as was whispered by alchemists. (11) He simply profited from the differences in gold and silver prices between the West and the Levant. (11) In the West, bi-metallism was de rigueur, but there was a shortage of gold, while the silver-lead mines were prosperous. (11) Conversely, the Levant “was full of gold” and the price of silver was at its highest. (11) It was then simple for an adventurous financier to exchange silver from the West for gold. (11) He had 300 managers in his employ (10) in France and abroad (12) and a staff of travelling salesmen, (9,12) drivers, and especially ship owners who supplied his communications and transportation needs. (9) Trading with the Levant became very profitable. (11) The Mediterranean (5,8) was covered with his ships (10) OR He had a large fleet of (5,11) four (8) OR six (5) OR at least seven (9) OR a dozen (5) galleys which operated from his (5,8) original base at Aigues-Mortes (7) where he started a shipyard. (5) He built ships on like Genoese ones, after copying one he had bought; this turned out to be fraught with difficulty. (11) Eventually the silting of the port led him to (7) transfer his activities to a base at Marseilles, (5,7) outside the kingdom (7,8) (thus escaping the tax on imports. (7)) His many ships were everywhere competing with those of Barcelona, Lisbon, Genoa, Venice. (12) His commercial operations were constantly expanding. (12) Within a few years he had begun financial operations in (4,6) all the chief cities (10) of France, and invested in various sectors of activity (4,6) (banking, (4,5) currency exchange, (4,6) precious metals, (4,6) mines, (3,4) (he obtained a concession for, lead silver (7,12) and copper mines in Beaujolais and (12) the Lyonnais (7,12)) spices, drapery, (4,6) salt, wheat, wool, canvas, furs, (7) shipping (11) armaments (5) a paper mill in Bourges (12) and trafficking women. (6) Thanks to his marriage, he became the master of the mint (4,7) in Bourges in 1435, by then the capital of Charles VII, (7) and held on to the post. (12) He built up vast business interests (3) in trade. (2,3) Starting from the Loire Valley, (7) he directed a commercial empire with interests in all European markets (4) including France. (6,7) He had offices in (5,7) (in Limoges, Lyon (a financial centre for Italian commercial matters), (6) Marseille (5,7) Montpellier, (6,7) Paris, (6,12) Rouen (6) Bruges, Toulouse, Bordeaux (7) Tours (11) and Geneva in Switzerland. (7) To assist his men moving about France, the castle of Boissy, near Roanne was set up a staging post between Bourges and the south. (11) Coeur also augmented his fortune by dealing in salt on the Loire and the Rhône rivers, in wheat in Aquitaine, and in wool in Scotland. (9) He had, and the cities of Genoa, Florence, and Barcelona, as well as the popes, who authorized his trade with the Muslims in Alexandria. (9) He had an office in Avignon (then under Papal rule). (6) He did business in Italy (6,7) (in Genoa (7,8) and Naples,(7) Florence), Flanders (6,7) (in Bruges) (6,7), England,(7,12) (in London) and the Baltic countries, (7) Italy, Turkey, Asia, and Africa. (12) He also conducted business in Spain, (6,9) in Barcelona, (7) with the political support of Alfonso V, king of Aragon. (9) In Florence he was registered in the Arte della Seta (Silk Makers’ Guild), and owned a workshop for the manufacture of silks. (9) Like the Italians, Coeur set up individual companies for each branch of trade. (9) He financed his businesses with credit (bills of exchange) that he obtained at fairs in Geneva, Avignon, Florence, and Rome, and by using recettes fiscales (fiscal receipts) from the king. (9) He organized his commercial network from Marseilles and Montpellier. (5) As his biographers write, “He was a creator, unknowingly, of multinational corporations and multi-branch companies”. (11) He is mentioned by Fulcanelli in Le Mystère des Cathédrales (1926) where the “master alchemist” speculates that Cœur was a successful alchemist or associated with alchemists and that he was a silversmith in the literal sense, i.e. that he could transmute base metals into small quantities of silver. (10) He made huge profits. (7,9) Details are wanting; but it is certain that in a few years he placed his country in a position to contend fairly well with the great trading republics of Italy.(10) He possessed the most colossal fortune that had ever been amassed by a private Frenchman. (10) Though he always appeared to be short of money, he was rich enough to (9) render material assistance to the knights of Rhodes and to Venice itself, (10) be able to lend the king funds necessary for the reconquest of Normandy in 1450 (5,6) and to become creditor for a large part of the aristocracy. (6,8)

Enters Royal Service

He rapidly rose to the top of the social ladder, (2,3) becoming the friend of Kings, Popes and Princes. (3) He acquired such a reputation (10) through his commercial and financial activity (4,7) as to be able, mere trader as he was, (10) to obtain the support of the court. (4,7) Without being a real statesman, he was able to serve the state as much as he served his own interest. (9) He had faithful friends and agents like Guillaume de Varye (3) and his nephew by marriage (10) Jean de Village (3,10) who in 1447, at Jacques’ insistence was charged with a mission to Egypt. (10) He was protected by the king’s (6) beautiful (3) mistress, (4,6) Agnès Sorel, (3,6) whose confidant he was after she moved to Bourges in 1429. (11) It was rumoured that Jacques Coeur’s daughter Perrette, welcomed in her chateau the lovers of Charles VII and the beautiful Agnes. (11) He received privileges that increased his commercial power (7) and came into contact with (5) King Charles VII. (2,3)

Argentier

After Paris was recovered from the English by Charles VII, in that year, Coeur won the confidence of the king and (9) authentic documents prove that he was de facto (12) Royal Treasurer in 1438, (10,12) and was titular Treasurer in 1440. (12) The Argentier (9) was the steward of the royal expenditure (9,10) and banker of the court. (9) It is certain that Jacques Coeur was already lending to the king and that he subsequently lent further considerable sums. (12) His position as argentier was the basis for all his activity. (9) His role was to secure the daily expenses of the sovereign. (8) It gave him not only access to the king and to the clientele of the court but also access to merchandise from every source. (9) He could make advances to the treasury and control the supply circuits of the court. (8) In his stores, located in Tours, (9) he stocked supplies of fabrics (8,10) such as cloth and silk, (8,10) jewellery, (8,10) furniture, furs (8) armour, and spices (9) to sell to the courtiers. (8) He took a preponderant part in the reorganization of the finances of the kingdom, put an end to the alteration of the currencies and was charged with important missions. (12)

Master of the Mint

In 1436, Charles VII recovered control of Paris. (12) Cœur was summoned to Paris by Charles VII, and (10) appointed master of the Mint (6,7) in Paris (7,9) in 1436. (6,7) He abandoned the direction of the Paris Mint for higher functions. (12) OR This post was of great importance, and the duties onerous. (10) The country was deluged with base monies from devaluations over three reigns, carrying assigned values in both French and English, and Charles was determined to make sweeping reforms. (10) In this design he was ably seconded by Coeur, who, in fact, inspired or prepared all the ordinances concerning the coinage of France issued between 1435 and (10) 1451. (6,10) He managed to stop the devaluation of the currency. (11) He restored the coinage (4,6) in 1435, (6) and the issue, in 1447, (4,7) of a pure silver coin, called gros de roi or (4) gros of Jacques Coeur bore witness to the good state of the finances under his management. (4,7)

Finance Minister

He became Finance Minister in 1439, (4,5) Because of his flair for business opportunities, Jacques Coeur was able to make use of openings like this (9) which provided a large part of his fortune. (8,9) He introduced direct and indirect taxation and in this way contributed to the development of French institutions. (5) He went far beyond the normal limit of his functions by managing and reorganizing the King’s finances, thus enabling him to consolidate his power. (5) He became a noble when (2,4) in 1440 (4) OR 1441 (5,7) he and his family were ennobled by letters patent. (10) He entered the King’s Grand Council in 1442. (4,5) He accumulated various other official functions (such as a commissioner with the states of Languedoc in 1441). (7)

Commissioner in the Languedoc

In 1436, he was commissioned to collect a thousand gold moutons in tax from the Languedoc for the queen. (12) In this capacity he had to farm the taxes of the province. (8,9) and derived a personal benefit from it. (8) In 1444 (10,12) OR 1442, by now already a councillor and financier of Charles VII (12) he was sent as a royal commissioner to the States of Languedoc, (8,9) to preside over the new parliament of Languedoc (10,12) in Pézenas (10) where his house can still be seen. (10) OR Toulouse It was a position he held until the day of his disgrace. (10) As inspector general (9,11) ‘general visitor’ (12) of the gabelle, (9,11) in the Languedoc and Guyenne, (12) he had extensive control over the salt trade. (7,9) In 1445, he arbitrated a dispute between the Count of Comminges and the local Estates. (12)

Diplomacy

Taking advantage of the scope of his business, he also played a diplomatic role (8) in Italy (8,9) (Genoa) (8) Spain (8,9) (Aragon), (8) and Egypt. (5,7) He was a great administrator and a diplomat in delicate situations, frequenting kings, princes and popes. (11) The king took advantage of his many contacts to entrust him with diplomatic missions: (6,7) he led a diplomatic mission to (7,8) Rhodes to negotiate (7,12) OR his agents in the East negotiated (10) the treaty concluded in 1445 between the knights of Saint-Jean of Jerusalem and the Sultan of Egypt. (7,5) In 1446, he tried with T. du Chastel, to re-establish French influence in Genoa; in 1447, he sent J. de Village, who had just married his niece Perrette, as an ambassador to the Sultan of Egypt and negotiated trading privileges in the Levant which enhanced the French position there. (12) In 1447, too, Cœur (10) was sent by the king (12) on an embassy to Amadeus VIII, former Duke of Savoy, (10) who had been chosen Pope as Felix V (10,12) by the council of Basel (10) to negotiate his abdication and put an end to the schism. (12) He led another one to (7,10) Rome (7,8) in 1448, to visit Pope Nicholas V, and put an honourable end to the schism with Felix V. (7,10) After supplying Finale, he went to Rome, where the French embassy, thanks to him, made a magnificent entrance on July 10th 1448. (12) Pope Nicholas treated him with the greatest respect, lodging him in the papal palace. (10) The Antipope Felix abdicated soon after, in April 1449 (12) and in recognition of his services Pope Nicholas gave Jacques special licence (10) continuing the one he had had from Eugene IV (12) to trade with the Muslims. (10,12)

Personal Acquisitions

Jacques Coeur was ennobled in 1441, (11,12) taking the title of squire. (12) In 1443, he acquired a piece of land on which to build his Palace. (11) After a brisk start technical difficulties appeared when they discovered they were building on a Gallo-Roman rampart. (11) He bought forty lordships, (7,9) containing twenty parishes or villages. (12) He had many houses, castles and properties in Berry, Burgundy and Beaujolais. (6,7) In addition to the palace in Bourges, he bought land across the Berry region and beyond. (11) On the “Jacques Cœur tourist route” you can walk to Ainay-le-Viel, or to Menetou-Salon, two castles he bought, and at Menetou-Salon, he had vineyards producing an excellent wine for the time. (11) He owned houses and large buildings in many towns, two in Paris, Tours and Lyon, and others at Montpellier, Marseille, Beaucaire, etc. (12) He was commander of (8,12) many strongholds, (8) for example Saint-Pourçain. (12) He married his daughter to a nobleman, (9,10) the son of the Viscount of Bourges (10) and saw his son (8,9) Jean (9,10) promoted to be archbishop of Bourges (8,9) in 1450. (8) In 1450, at the height of his career, the Palace was almost finished, in time to celebrate the elevation of his son, Jean to the Archbishop of Bourges Coeur gave a feast in the hall. (11) This was one of the rare occasions on which Jacques Coeur was able to enjoy his palace. (11) His sister married Jean Bochetel, the King’s secretary. (10) His brother (9,10) Nicholas (10) became bishop of (9,10) Luçon (9,12) OR Lyon. (10) He built houses and chapels, and founded colleges in Paris, Montpellier and Bourges. (10) His superb (3,6) palace at Bourges (2,3) which was begun in 1443 (6) and finished around 1450 (2) OR 1453 (6) is the most beautiful non-religious building (3) of the 15th century (2,3) and one of the finest (9,10) lay (9) monuments of Gothic architecture (9,10) from the end of the European Middle Ages. (2,9) He also built the sacristy of the cathedral in Bourges, and a sepulchral chapel for his family, (10,12) in which his brother Nicholas was buried. (12) On the other hand, while his wealth in real estate and personal property, his luxurious style of life, and his titles, influence, and personal dynamism were impressive, his prosperity was in fact fragile. (9) He had few efficient associates, the risks of maritime commerce were great, and his competitors, especially in Montpellier, were ruthless. (9)

And the Hundred Years War

Thanks to his know-how and his wealth, (6) from about 1449 (5,7) he was able to finance the military campaigns of King Charles VII (5,6) in the resumption of the conflict with the English, (5,6) to enable him to complete the reconquest of Normandy. (7) He lent the king 200,000 crowns in 1449 for the conquest of Normandy and 60,000 in 1450 for the siege of Cherbourg. (12) His loans (3,6) had enabled the ‘Little King of Bourges’ (3) to kick the English out of France. (3,5) OR of Normandy. (10) At this point, the great trader’s glory was at its height. (10,12)

Fall

While all seemed well, Coeur was arrested on the order of King Charles VII on July 31st, 1451 at the castle of Taillebourg. (11) But Cœur’s huge monopoly caused his ruin. (10) Dealing in everything: money and arms, furs and jewels, brocades and wool, a broker, a banker, a farmer, he had absorbed the trade of the country, (10) His successes and conspicuous wealth of the king’s creditor aroused jealousy (4,6) among his fellow merchants in Tours and Montpellier, (8) who complained they could make no profit because of him. (10) He was feared (6,7) because he had lent money to a large number of courtiers, (6,8) to members of the royal family, and to the King (10,11) and queen and their daughter Radégonde. (12) His debtors, jealous of his wealth, were eager for a chance to cause his downfall. (10,12) Perhaps the king got to hear the unflattering saying “The King does what he can, Jacques Coeur does what he wants”. (11) In 1449, after fighting at the King’s side throughout the campaign, he entered Rouen in Charles’ triumphal procession, (10,11) presuming to be the equal of the “great” of the kingdom. (11)

Trial

During his trial, Jacques Coeur was accused of murder and lèse-majesté. (8) He defended himself with all the energy of his nature. (10) On 9th (12) February 1450, (10,12) the king’s mistress, Agnes Sorel (4,6) had suddenly died. (10) Eighteen months later it was rumoured that she had been poisoned. (10) Coeur was suspected (8) of poisoning her. (4,6) A lady of the court who owed money to Jacques Cœur, Jeanne de Vendôme, wife of François de Montberon, and an Italian, Jacques Colonna, formally (10) but wrongly (6) accused him of having poisoned her. (4,6) Yet he was one of her relatives (8) and her executor. (8,12) He was cleared by the doctor1. (8) Not long after, his compatriot and friend, Jean Barillet, or Saincoins, the Treasurer General, was arrested (in October 1450) and condemned (in June 1451) for being too rich. (12) Jacques Coeur felt threatened, too, (12) and he withdrew to Bourges (6) but he did not believe that the king could be so ungrateful. (12) As late as the 22nd of July, 1451, Charles VII gave him 762 livres tournois “to assist him in the maintenance of his estates”; but a few days later he had him (12) arrested (4,5) at the Chateau de Taillebourg (12) on July (6,8) 31st (8) 1451, (4,5) for embezzlement, (5,6) and about ten more or less serious offences, (11) many involving financial malpractice. (6) He had indeed conducted questionable operations on the royal finances. (6) OR There was no pretext for such a charge. (10)His trial was held in the castle of Lusignan; it dragged on for a year and a half. (8) The affair was investigated by two bitter enemies of Jacques Coeur, Vainly Jacques Coeur claimed the benefit of ecclesiastical jurisdiction; in vain did the bishop of Poitiers, the archbishop of Tours, and the pope himself support this request; he was translated, like Saincoins, before an extraordinary commission, which included several of his enemies. (12) The judges (10,12) chosen to conduct the trial (10) were Extraordinary Commissioners, the merchant’s declared enemies. (10,12) Antoine de Chabannes, Count of Daumartin; (12) was one of his principal debtors, (10,12) and Otto Castellani, treasurer of finance at Toulouse, who aspired to replace him, (12) was a person who had been awarded Coeur’s confiscated lands. (10) The inquiry began. (10) He was accused of having lacked fidelity to the king and of having directly questioned his authority and his honour. (8) He was said to have usurped the identity of the king by imitating his signature and seal. (8) He issued counterfeit money (8,10) when he was in charge of the Bourges mint in 1429 and 1430. (8) He swindled two gentlemen to arrange the marriage of the daughter of Charles VII with the Duke of Bourbon. (8) He had committed frauds and exactions in Languedoc to the King’s prejudice. (10) Above all, he had harmed the interests of the kingdom abroad. (8) He had refused to protect a slave convert to Christianity (8,10) who had taken sanctuary on board one of his ships (10) in order not to harm his business interests. (8) He had kidnapped oarsmen for his galleys. (10) He was accused of having paid French gold and ingots to the infidels: (8,10) it was said that he had exported to the Levant silver ingots stamped with fleur-de-lys, of which he traded the precious metal content; he sold arms to the Saracens despite the threat they posed to Constantinople; (8) The accusations and the conduct of the case were characteristic of the time. (11) The extraction of confessions was no laughing matter. (11) Coeur’s innocence was manifest but a conviction was necessary. (10) Tortured and put to the question, (11) and in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of his friends, after twenty-two months of confinement in five prisons, (10) he confessed all that his detractors asked. (11)

Punishment

He was cleared of embezzlement, but (7) convicted (7,10) of malpractices (7) at Poitiers. (10) His property was confiscated and put into liquidation. (8) He was sentenced to death on May 23rd (11) OR May 29th, (8) OR 5th June (10) 1453. (8,10) It looked as though he would end his adventurous life as in a lurid novel. (11) OR he escaped the death penalty in recognition of the services rendered to the crown and because of the intervention of Pope Nicholas V, who was fulsome in his praise of Coeur. (8) He was condemned to do public penance for his fault, (10) and heavily fined. (6,7) He had to pay the King (10) 400,000 écus, (7) a sum equal to about £1,000,000 at today’s value, (10) and to remain a prisoner (6,10) until full payment of his debts (7,9) OR to be exiled during His Majesty’s pleasure until full satisfaction had been obtained. (10) His fortune was confiscated (4,6) for the benefit of the crown: (6) the King reserved for himself a large sum of money for the war in Guienne. (10)

Escape

For nearly three years nothing is known of him2. (10) It is probable that he remained in prison. (10) OR With the help of friends (9,10) Jean de Village and two of his old managers (10) he managed to escape (4,5) from his prison (11) in the castle of (7) Poitiers. (7,11) He was pursued, but his friends carried him off (10) via a network of convents, including that of Beaucaire (11) to Tarascon in Provence (10) in 1454, (4,5) after which, by way of Marseilles, Nice and Pisa, (10) OR Florence, (9) he managed to reach Rome, (4,7) where he arrived in March (8) 1455. (8,9) He was honorably and joyfully received by (10) the Pope (4,7) Calixtus III (4) OR Nicholas V (7,8) who sheltered him. (6,7) The Pope had reason to protect this French fugitive, because between 1446 and 1449, enjoying the confidence of Charles VII in his negotiating skills, Jacques Coeur conducted several diplomatic missions. (8) He had led an embassy in Rome in 1448 to put an end to a new schism, contributing to the abdication of the antipope Felix V in favour of the Roman Pontiff Nicolas V. (8) Nicholas V (10) had chartered a fleet in the name of his illustrious guest (11) and was fitting it out for an expedition against the Turks, (10) but Coeur lost his protector a few weeks after his arrival in Rome, when Nicholas V died, (8) and was succeeded by Pope (6,7) Calixtus III, (7,8) the first of the Borgia Popes (HN) Calixtus III continued his predecessor’s policy of launching a crusade against the Turks (8,10) to recover Constantinople, lost two years earlier. (8)

Expedition against the Turks

He immediately proclaimed Coeur’s innocence (7) and invited him to take part in the fight against the Turks. (4,7) Calixtus put (7,10) his guest (10) in command of the fleet to support Rhodes against the Turks. (7,10) Jacques accepted (8,11) and put his talents as a diplomat and financier at the service of the Holy See to the task of preparing the expedition. (8) He embarked with the fleet, leaving Ostia on September 23rd, 1455. (8) The sixteen (10) OR thirty or so ships of the fleet only managed to secure the Aegean islands for a brief period, during which, (8) probably (9) on the island of Chios (1,3) Jacques Cœur (1,3) was taken ill (10) and died. (1,3) OR died at Chios, (1,3) while in command of the Papal force (6,7) fighting against the Turks (6,7) on 25th November (1,8) 1456, (1,3) OR during a naval fight3 with the Turks. (11) His great achievements and his tragic (3) was of the stuff of storybooks. (3) His body was buried in the convent of the Cordeliers, and the remains were subsequently scattered, either by an earthquake or by Muslim looting and destruction. (11)

Posthumous

Coeur’s vast possessions were distributed among the intimates of Charles. (10) Some years later, King Louis XI, Charles VII’s unloved son, rehabilitated Jacques Coeur and returned some of (6,9) OR whatever was left of (10) his property to his family. (6,9) Louis also revived enterprises that Coeur had initiated: the silk workshop in Lyon and the first attempts to set up a company in the Middle East. (9) The concessions which Coeur had obtained greatly improved the position of the French consuls in the Levant, and that influence in the East was thereby founded which, though often interrupted, was for several centuries a major commercial glory for France. (10) His career remains a significant example of the spirit of enterprise and the social progress among the merchant classes in the beginning of the period of the rise of France after the Hundred Years’ War. (9) Jacques Coeur was representative of his generation; his ambitions were traditional: honours, noble rank, land. (9) He differed from his more mediocre contemporaries by the sheer volume and extent of his trade, his audaciousness and tenacity, his self-confidence, his talent for making himself loved or hated, and especially by his flair for seizing opportunities. (9) He understood business opportunities for his generation but was not prophetic. (9) He was the incarnation of the rise of the merchant middle class, imitated in succeeding generations in Lyon and Tours with the same success. (9) The legend of Jacques Coeur remains many-faceted, and history has preserved conflicting images of him. (9) For a long time he was seen as an adventurer, exploiting for his own profit the revenue of the kingdom and deceiving his master. (9) The crowd, hostile to a nouveau riche, brought him down; he was accused of magic. (9) The 18th century, the century of the Enlightenment, took pity on him as a victim of despotism. (9) An eminent 19th-century historian, Jules Michelet, however, was the first to look upon Coeur as the model for a whole generation and a precursor of the powerful bourgeois class of succeeding centuries. (9)

1 in 2005, the remains of the corpse of Agnès Sorel were analyzed and showed a very high concentration of mercury: whether it was a badly prepared medical remedy or poison, remains a mystery. (8)

2 Would take us to 1456, but he is stated to have been in Provence in 1454 (4,5)

3 i.e. during a particular engagement, not merely during a war.

 

[bibliography of sources available upon request]

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