Richest People in History French Merchant Jacques Coeur

About the French merchant Jacques Coeur, history and biography of one of the richest men in history, how much he was worth.



The "Merchant Prince of the Middle Ages" was born around the year 1395 to a prosperous family in Bourges. Simultaneous with Joan of Arc's victories for Charles VII, Coeur found his niche in the money-coining business, a franchiselike operation closely tied to the crown. Appointed an argentier (banker of the court), he used his contacts with the state to further his trading enterprises, which included multinational retail outlets in cloth, silks, jewels, armor, and spices; Coeur's salesmen could be found in all the important shipping centers throughout the world.

Though ennobled by Charles VII, to whom Coeur loaned the funds necessary to reconquer Normandy from the English in 1450, the Merchant Prince soon fell out of royal favor. He was thrown in a palace dungeon in 1451, when jealous rivals for Charles's favors succeeded in bringing charges against him of poisoning the king's mistress. Coeur escaped from the dungeon and fled, first to Florence and later to Rome, but while he was in exile, Charles confiscated his property.

Absolved of any wrongdoing by the pope, the grateful Coeur assumed command of a naval expedition against the infidel Turks. But before he could distinguish himself as a crusader, he was taken ill on the Aegean island of Chios. He died on Nov. 25, 1456.

How Much?

Coeur owned about 40 manors in addition to his magnificent palace at Bourges (still standing), which he filled with tapestries, paintings, and other works of art garnered through his immensely successful international trading centers. His confiscated fortune was estimated at 27 million ecus.

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