Napoleon I Bonaparte, 1812-A

KM 696.1; Friedberg 505, PCGS graded MS-64

By 1809, the transformation of French franc coinage from a symbol of republicanism and the ideals of the Revolution into a tool of absolute monarchy in a different guise was complete. All coins struck after this date carry the imperial portrait of Napoleon wearing a laurel wreath and name the French Empire on the reverse. Alas, the now-fully realized imperial ambitions of were only a few years away from collapsing. In 1812, the year that the present 40-franc piece and the following 20-franc coin were struck, Napoleon embarked on his disastrous Russian campaign. Although he and the French imperial army defeated the Russians before the gates of Moscow, the Russian scorched earth policy, which included the burning of the capital, forced Napoleon to withdraw in the face of biting cold and starvation. Whereas he had begun the campaign with 400,000 men, the Emperor returned from Russia with less than 40,000. The defeat emboldened Napoleon’s enemies and in 1814, he was at last defeated and compelled to surrender to the Sixth Coalition. He was deposed and sent into exile on the island of Elba while the victorious allies occupied Paris.

Paris. Laureate head of Napoleon I left. Reverse: Denomination within wreath.

Purchased privately from Goldberg, 5 July 2007