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The livre (French for "pound") was the currency of Kingdom of France and its predecessor state of West Francia from 781 to 1794. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.
The livre was established by Charlemagne as a unit of account equal to one pound of silver.[ citation needed ] It was subdivided into 20 sous (also sols), each of 12 deniers .[ citation needed ] The word livre came from the Latin word libra , a Roman unit of weight, and the denier comes from the Roman denarius. This system and the denier itself served as the model for many of Europe's currencies, including the British pound, Italian lira, Spanish dinero and the Portuguese dinheiro.
This first livre is known as the livre carolingienne. Only deniers were initially minted, but debasement led to larger denominations being issued. Different mints in different regions used different weights for the denier, leading to several distinct livres of different values.
"Livre" is a homonym of the French word for "book" (from the Latin word liber ), the distinction being that the two have a different gender. The monetary unit is feminine, la/une livre, while "book" is masculine, le/un livre.
For much of the Middle Ages, different duchies of France were semi-autonomous if not practically independent from the weak Capetian kings, and thus each minted their own currency. Charters would need to specify which region or mint was being used: "money of Paris" or "money of Troyes". The first steps towards standardization came under the first strong Capetian monarch, Philip II Augustus (1165–1223). Philip II conquered much of the continental Angevin Empire from King John of England, including Normandy, Anjou, and Touraine.
The currency minted at the city of Tours in Touraine was considered very stable, and Philip II decided to adopt the livre tournois as the standard currency of his lands, gradually replacing even the livre of Paris, and ultimately the currencies of all French-speaking areas he controlled. This was a slow process lasting many decades and not completed within Philip II's lifetime.
The result was that from 1200 onwards, following the beginning of King Philip II's campaigns against King John, the currency used within French speaking lands was in a state of flux, as the livre tournois was gradually introduced into other areas.
Until the thirteenth century and onwards, only deniers were actually minted as coin money. Both livres and sous did not actually exist as coins but were used only for accounting purposes.
Upon his return from the crusades in the 1250s, Louis IX instigated a royal monopoly on the minting of coinage in France and minted the first gold écu d'or and silver gros d'argent , whose weights (and thus monetary divisions) were roughly equivalent to the livre tournois and the denier.
Between 1360 and 1641, coins worth 1 livre tournois were minted known as francs. This name persisted in common parlance for 1 livre tournois but was not used on coins or paper money.
The official use of the livre tournois accounting unit in all contracts in France was legislated in 1549. However, in 1577, the livre tournois accounting unit was officially abolished and replaced by the écu, which was at that time the major French gold coin in actual circulation. In 1602, the livre tournois accounting unit was brought back.
Louis XIII of France stopped minting the franc in 1641, replacing it with coins based on the silver écu and gold Louis d'or. The écu and louis d'or fluctuated in value, with the écu varying between three and six livres tournois until 1726 when it was fixed at six livres. The louis was initially (1640) worth ten livres, and fluctuated too, until its value was fixed at twenty-four livres in 1726.
In 1667, the livre parisis was officially abolished. However, the sole remaining livre was still frequently referred to as the livre tournois until its demise.
The first French paper money was issued in 1701 and was denominated in livres tournois. However, the notes did not hold their value relative to silver due to massive over–production. The Banque Royale (the last issuer of these early notes) crashed in 1720, rendering the banknotes worthless (see John Law for more on this system).
In 1726, under Louis XV's minister Cardinal Fleury, a system of monetary stability was put in place. Eight ounces (a mark) of gold was worth 740 livres, 9 sous (so, one ounce of gold was worth approximately 4 Louis or 93 livres); 8 ounces of silver was worth 51 livres, 2 sous, 3 deniers. This led to a strict conversion rate between gold and silver (14.4867 to 1) and established the values of the coins in circulation in France at:
A coin of value 1 livre was not, however, minted. Yet in 1720 a special coin minted in pure silver was produced and assigned an over-value of 1 livre. Additionally, France took Navarrese 20-sou coins minted in 1719 and 1720, re-struck them as 1⁄6 écu (between the years of 1720 and 1723) essentially creating a coin worth 1 livre. These re-struck coins, however, eventually were assigned the value of 18 sous.
A kind of paper money was reintroduced by the Caisse d'Escompte in 1776 as actions au porteur , denominated in livres. These were issued until 1793, alongside assignats from 1789. Assignats were backed (in theory) by government-held land. Like the issues of the Banque Royale, their value plummeted.
The last coins and notes of the livre currency system were issued in Year II of the Republic (1794). In 1795, the franc was introduced, worth 1 livre 3 deniers (1+1⁄80 livres), and the first one-franc coin was struck in 1803. Still the word livre survived; until the middle of the 19th century it was indifferently used alongside the word franc, especially to express large amounts and transactions linked with property (real estate, property incomes or "rentes", cattle, etc...).
The livre had also been used as the legal currency of the Channel Islands. The Jersey livre remained legal currency in Jersey until 1834 when dwindling supplies of no-longer minted coins obliged the adoption of the pound as legal tender.
Today, France uses the euro as its currency.
The franc is any of several units of currency. The French franc was the currency of France until the euro was adopted in 1999. The Swiss franc is a major world currency today due to the prominence of Swiss financial institutions. The name is said to derive from the Latin inscription francorum rex used on early French coins and until the 18th century, or from the French franc, meaning "frank".
A thaler is one of the large silver coins minted in the states and territories of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg monarchy during the Early Modern period. A thaler size silver coin has a diameter of about 40 mm and a weight of about 25 to 30 grams, or roughly 1 ounce. The word is shortened from Joachimsthaler, the original thaler coin minted in Joachimstal, Bohemia, from 1518.
The Louis d'or is any number of French coins first introduced by Louis XIII in 1640. The name derives from the depiction of the portrait of King Louis on one side of the coin; the French royal coat of arms is on the reverse. The coin was replaced by the French franc at the time of the revolution and later the similarly valued Napoléon. The actual value of the coins fluctuated according to monetary and fiscal policy, but in 1726 the value was stabilized.
The Swiss franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is also legal tender in the Italian exclave of Campione d'Italia. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) issues banknotes and the federal mint Swissmint issues coins.
The franc, also commonly distinguished as the French franc (FF), was a currency of France. Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money. It was reintroduced in 1795. After two centuries of inflation, it was redenominated in 1960, with each new franc (NF) being worth 100 old francs. The NF designation was continued for a few years before the currency returned to being simply the franc; some mostly older French residents continued to reference and value items in terms of the old franc until the introduction of the euro in 2002. The French franc was a commonly held international reserve currency of reference in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The solidus, nomisma, or bezant was a highly pure gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. Constantine introduced the coin, and its weight of about 4.5 grams remained relatively constant for seven centuries. In the Byzantine Empire, the solidus or nomisma remained a highly pure gold coin until the 11th century, when several Byzantine emperors began to strike the coin with less and less gold. The nomisma was finally abolished by Alexius I in 1092, who replaced it with the hyperpyron, which also came to be known as a "bezant". The Byzantine solidus also inspired the originally slightly less pure dinar issued by the Muslim Caliphate. In Western Europe, the solidus was the main gold coin of commerce from late Roman times to Pepin the Short's currency reform, which introduced the silver-based pound/shilling/penny system.
The livre tournois, French for the "Tours pound", was one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages, and a unit of account used in Early Modern France.
£sd is the popular name for the pre-decimal currencies once common throughout Europe, especially in the British Isles and hence in several countries of the British Empire and subsequently the Commonwealth. The abbreviation originates from the Latin currency denominations librae, solidi, and denarii. In the United Kingdom, these were referred to as pounds, shillings, and pence.
The lira was the currency of Italy between 1861 and 2002. It was first introduced by the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1807 at par with the French franc, and was subsequently rolled out by the different states that would eventually form the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. It was subdivided into 100 centesimi, which means "hundredths" or "cents". The lira was also the currency of the Albanian Kingdom from 1941-1943.
The term écu or crown may refer to one of several French coins. The first écu was a gold coin minted during the reign of Louis IX of France, in 1266. Écu means shield, and the coin was so called because its design included the coat of arms of France. The word is related to Catalan escut, Portuguese scudo or Castilian escudo. The value of the écu varied considerably over time, and silver coins were also introduced.
Pistole is the French name given to a Spanish gold coin in use from 1537; it was a double escudo, the gold unit. The name was also given to the Louis d'Or of Louis XIII of France, and to other European gold coins of about the value of the Spanish coin. One pistole was worth approximately ten livres or three écus, but higher figures are also seen. The derivation is uncertain; the term may come from the Czech píšťala, or from the Italian town of Pistoia; either way, it was originally spelled pistolet and originated in military slang, and probably has the same root as pistol.
The Reichsthaler, or more specifically the Reichsthaler specie, was a standard thaler silver coin introduced by the Holy Roman Empire in 1566 for use in all German states, minted in various versions for the next 300 years, and containing 25–26 grams fine silver.
The Kronenthaler was a silver coin first issued in 1755 in the Austrian Netherlands and which became a popular trade coin in early 19th century Europe. Most examples show the bust of the Austrian ruler on the obverse and three or four crowns on the reverse, hence the name which means "crown thaler" (also Brabanter and crocione.
The livre parisis was a standard for minting French coins and a unit of account. Like the livre tournois, which was divided into 20 sols tournois each of 12 deniers tournois, the livre parisis was also divided into 20 sols parisis each of 12 deniers parisis, but the livre parisis was worth 25 sols tournois. Each sol parisis was thus worth 15 deniers tournois, and each denier parisis worth 1+1⁄4deniers tournois.
The Geneva thaler was a coin equivalent to the French silver écu, containing 26.67 g fine silver and valued at 123⁄4florins, which was issued by Geneva until 1798 and between 1813 and 1839.
The livre was the currency of Guadeloupe until 1816. It was subdivided into 20 sous, each of 12 deniers, with the escalin worth 15 sous. The Guadeloupe livre was a French colonial currency, distinguished by the use, in part, of Spanish coins.
The livre was currency of Jersey until 1834. It consisted entirely of French coins.
The sol, later called a sou, is the name of a number of different coins, for accounting or payment, dating from Antiquity to today. The name is derived from the solidus. Its longevity of use anchored it in many expressions of the French language.
The coinage of Philip IV of France marks the first mass diffusion of gold coinage in the Kingdom of France. Philip however had to resort extensively to monetary devaluations and reevaluations in order to finance his royal budget as well as his war efforts.
A gros was a type of silver coinage of France from the time of Saint Louis. There were gros tournois and gros parisis. The gros was sub-divided in half gros and quarter gros. The original gros created by St Louis weighed about 4.52 g of nearly pure silver, and was valued at one sou, that is 12 deniers or 1/20 of a livre tournois. Unlike the gold écu that was minted in small numbers, mostly for prestige reasons, the gros was a very common coin, and very widely copied by non royal mints.