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The Treasure of Vendée – Gold coins Louis d’or Louis XVI

In the world of numismatics, history and the kings of France have a privileged place. Very often, there are also men little known to the general public, but illustrious characters of their time, who have constituted great treasures without wanting it. The earl and serviceman Louis-Charles du Chaffault is one of them. We return to his footsteps in order to understand the legend of the Vendée treasure, one of the most prized collections of French royal coins by collectors.

The Admiral du Chaffault’s treasure

A life of battles

Louis-Charles du Chaffault de Besné was a naval officer who served the French royalty from an early age. Born in Nantes in 1708, he was passionate about his profession and devoted his life to it. He sailed throughout his whole career, in pursuit of the British ships of the Royal Navy. He went through three wars, carried out 29 campaigns and held 18 commands. Appointed Admiral at the beginning of the American War of Independence, he was one of the great sailors who restored the glory of Louis XVI’s Navy.

In 1778, he commanded the vanguard of the French fleet at the Battle of Ushant. 27 French ships routed 30 English ships. Wounded during this battle, he retired to his castle of Meslay, in Montaigu. After 69 years of loyal service to the king, he retired in 1790 with a pension of 9,000 pounds. However, he never stopped fighting.

Trésor du chaffault
©wikimedia by Adam Bishop

Coins buried in the Vendée

The lands of Louis-Charles du Chaffault were located in the Vendée, the scene of bloody battles between republicans and royalists during the revolution. The admiral actively participated in the defense of the king against the Republican armies. In 1793, the castle of Meslay was plundered and burned down. The Earl was arrested and imprisoned in the Luzançay prison. He spent the last year of his life there and died in 1794, at the age of 86.

In view of the situation in the Vendée, du Chaffault had decided to hide and bury all his wealth before anything happened to him. Although a small manuscript, hidden in a mass book, attested to this fact, no one really took this document seriously until 1993.

The Vendée treasure

The discovery of the gold coins

Rodrigue, a young man of 23 years old, bought a metal detector a few months before February 8, 1993. That morning, with the agreement of his neighbors, the turner-mill operator set about scanning the land of the Guyonnière estate, the former Meslay. The machine starts to sound, he digs and unearths at 60 cm of depth a gold piece, then two, then three…

In total, 1742 gold coins Louis d’or and double gold coins Louis d’or were shared by the discoverer and the landowners. 15 kilos of gold mixed with nails are discovered, which attest the presence of a chest, destroyed by the course of time.

The Vendée Treasure - Numismatic

A coveted treasure from the Vendée

After the sharing, they informed the authorities of the find. The expertise confirmed that the coins belonged to the Earl of Chaffault. They were given the name of the Vendée treasure.

The gold coins were minted between 1728 and 1789, during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. The set is estimated at 450 000 euros. The majority of the coins are of remarkable quality: the gold coins Louis d’or can be recognized today by their exceptional condition, struck on a so-called “mirror” blank. These bright reflections are typical of the Vendée treasure.

The inventor decided to sell a part of his find at auction. Drouot organized the sale of the Vendée treasure on November 30 and December 1, 1993. One of the descendants of du Chaffault was alerted and opposed the sale, in vain. 5 years later, 77 heirs claimed their share of the Vendée treasure and it was the beginning of a 10-year legal war. In 2004, the final verdict was rendered: the treasure did indeed belong to the discoverers.

In fact, in 1824, a first cache had been discovered in the rest of a wall with a cross of Saint-Louis and the admiral’s sword. In 1890, an honest man found another cache with gold coins that he gave to the authorities, but the coins evaporated… The Admiral’s lands have not said their last word and are undoubtedly waiting for the next lucky person.

Find coins from the Vendée treasure for sale on the store!

Sources :
Catalogue de vente Drouot Richelieu 1993
Ouest France
Archives départementales de Vendée

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