Coeur, Jacques

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Cœur, Jacques

Cœur, Jacques (zhäk kör), c.1395–1456, French merchant prince and adviser of King Charles VII, who made him chief of finances and sent him on important diplomatic missions. His reforms restored order to the confused financial situation brought about by the Hundred Years War. Cœur established French trade in the Levant, employed agents throughout the Orient, owned factories and mines in France and abroad, and rivaled the great Italian merchant republics. Through his monopolies he amassed a fabulous fortune, but he spent a large part of it to finance the campaigns that ultimately drove the English from France. In 1451 he was arrested on the charge, concocted by his debtors and enemies, of having poisoned Agnès Sorel. He was sentenced (1453), after an unfair trial, to imprisonment and a fine of several million francs. In 1454–55 he escaped to Rome. He died in Chios while leading a papal fleet against the Ottomans. His house in Bourges, which still stands, is one of the finest examples of secular medieval architecture.


See A. B. Kerr, Jacques Cœur (1927).

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Coeur, Jacques


Born c. 1395 in Bourges; died Nov. 25, 1456, on the island of Chios. French merchant, financier, and statesman. The son of a wealthy merchant.

Coeur began his career as a coiner of money and then turned to commercial operations in the Mediterranean, chiefly in the Levant. He accumulated a colossal fortune. Coeur built up a chain of silver, copper, and lead mines and founded textile factories. He established commercial offices in Lyon, Rouen, Tours, Paris, Bruges, Florence, and other European cities. Coeur became a creditor to the French king Charles VII, financing French military operations against the English, particularly in Normandy. He also lent money to many highly influential seigniors of France. The considerable privileges he received from the king facilitated his further commercial success. In the 1440’s he acquired great political influence. Upon being appointed royal treasurer (minister of finance), Coeur carried out a number of administrative and financial reforms. In 1441 he was made a nobleman; in 1442 he was included in the royal council. Coeur bought up the huge estates of impoverished nobles in Berry, Bourbonnais, and elsewhere. Court nobles who were in debt to him arranged for Coeur’s arrest in 1451 on charges of high treason. His property was confiscated, but in 1454 he managed to escape from confinement and found refuge in Rome. Pope Callistus III placed him in command of a fleet sent against the Turks. Coeur died on the expedition. Louis XI rehabilitated him posthumously, and part of his property was returned to his heirs.


Les Affaires de J. Coeur: Journal du procureur Dauvet, vols. 1–2. Edited by M. Mollat. Paris, 1952–53. (With bibliography.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.