French Liard
French Liard

This French coin, dated 1656, was minted under the rule of French King Louis XIV. On the obverse, the bust of the king facing to the right is encircled by the legend: L. XIIII. ROY. DE. FR. ET. DE. NA (meaning “Louis the Fourteenth, King of France and Navarre”) and the date 1656.

The reverse very clearly indicates that this is a Liard de France and includes three fleur de lis, the royal armorial symbol of France. Between the fleur de lis and barely visible to us now is the letter B. This letter indicates that the coin was minted in Rouen.

This coin at the time of its use was worth three derniers, equal to three English pence. It is interesting to note that the roman numerals XIIII are used, and not the more familiar XIV.

Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great or the Sun King reigned from 1643 to 1715. The marriage of Louis XIV’s parents, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria is commemorated on a jetton, also found at Jamestown. And, coinage of Louis’s uncle and father-in-law Philip IV, King of Spain has also been recovered from the site.

In 1656, Louis was only 18 years old and unmarried. French exploration of North America had begun, and in 1663 the King established New France as a royal colony. In subsequent years of Louis XIV’s reign, New France expanded significantly, extending as far north as today’s Nunavut territory of Canada and as far south as today’s state of Louisiana of America. La Louisiane or French Louisiana, a district of New France later purchased by the United States, was named for King Louis XIV. England and France became the main European competitors for land in North America under Louis XIV’s rule.

It is unclear how this coin came to be at Jamestown, particularly during this time of conflict between England and France. It was found in a cellar of a building that may have once been owned by William Drummond. Drummond was politically connected and economically active, and perhaps this coin was one of his belongings. By the late 1650’s, Drummond was the sergeant-at-arms of the General Assembly, a group that met at Jamestown. This coin may have fallen from his pocket during a stay during a General Assembly meeting, or as he emptied the building with a brick-lined cellar before burning it as a supporter of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676.

Artifacts such as this highlight the complex political, economic, and social interactions that continued throughout the 17th century at Jamestown and globally.