France Used To Torture And Execute Its Finance Ministers For Policies Gone Bad

marigny hangingEnguerrand de Marigny

We recently told you the story of why the world’s first modern central banker was sentenced to death.

As it turns out, executing chief finance ministers appears to have been a relatively common occurrence in pre- and early-modern Europe.

This was most true in France, where between  1314 and 1328 three different treasury superintendents were executed.

With the help of Pierre Clément’s “Trois drames historiques”, André Liesse Evolution of Credit and Banks in France from the Founding of the Bank of France to the Present Time,” and [FR]  we present how they went down:

Counterfeiting was a big problem in 13th century France, and when Philip the Fair took power in 1286, he tried to solve the problem by directly devaluing the realm’s currency.   

But he probably went overboard. In the span of 20 years, French coin was devalued 40 times, and he banned the export of gold and silver.

The kingdom was never in danger of defaulting, with Philip having pledged his personal accounts as collateral for the new currency. 

But everything backfired, and Philip ended up increasing the amount of counterfeiters on the market. By 1313, “weak money” was worth twice as less than “strong money,” which provoked outrage among French.

Appointed at the turn of the 14th century, Marigny already possessed vast amounts of wealth as a courtier, and Philip admired his intelligence.

In 1314, Philip died, and power passed to his eldest son Louis.

Louis recognised Marigny had the best interests of the kingdom in mind. But the rest of the kingdom believed Marigny to be a venal thief.

After Philip’s brother accused Marigny of sorcery, and as the cries among the populace for justice grew, Louis gave in and had Marigny hanged.

It’s hard to say Marigny deserved it. He was responsible for creating the Estates General to raise money more democratically and to give wider support to royal decrees. 

Louis ended up posthumously pardoning Marigny giving his children 10,000 pounds. 

Less than a decade later, an even worse fate befell France’s Gerard de la Guette.

Appointed finance chancellor by Louis’ successor, when that king passed, Charles IV the Fair took power.

Charles quickly realised that the kingdom was facing a deficit of 1.2 million pounds, and fingered  la Guette as the culprit. 

wooden horse

La Guette was subsequently tortured to death by something called “the wooden horse.”

Here at left is an image showing what that may have looked like. 

The last in this unhappy line was Pierre Remy, who historians say really was a crook. He was hanged by Philip VI in 1328.

Between 1300 and 1661, five finance chancellors were ultimately executed or imprisoned.

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