The Monnaie de Paris has announced (June 22) the issue of a new commemorative coin marking the centennial anniversary of the birth of Francois Mitterand (1916 – 1996), remembered in France for being the country’s longest serving president of the Fifth Republic, as well as for being the first president elected from the Socialist party. Mitterand succeeded Valery Giscard D’Estang to become France’s 21st president, serving from 1981 to 1995 in two consecutive seven-year terms.
Born on October 26, 1916 in the town of Jarnac, France, François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand was one of eight children in the Mitterand family, which was described as middle-class and conservative. In 1934, at the age of 18, Francois moved to the capital to further his education at the University of Paris, where he studied law and political science. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Mitterand joined the French army, but was wounded and captured by the Nazis soon after, becoming a prisoner of war.
Mitterand managed to escape his captors a year later and made his way back to German-occupied French territory. He took an official post within the Marshall Petain government to aid former prisoners of war and would be later criticized in his political career for not disclosing his involvement in the Vichy-backed government, but he strove to avoid the label of collaborator and asserted that the focus should remain on his involvement in the French Resistance.
With the end of the Second World War and a return to civilian life, Mitterand secured a place in the post-war interim government of General De Gaulle, going on to win a election for a place in the national assembly in 1946. He held a number of government posts over the years, including the post minister for war veterans, minister of the interior, and minister for justice, but his opposition to the De Gaulle’s policies leading to the creation of the Fifth Republic in 1958 brought Mitterand’s political career to a halt; he lost his Assembly seat in the election of the same year.
In private life, Mitterrand remained such a stalwart opponent of De Gaulle that he even put himself up as a candidate in the 1965 presidential elections, which he lost. He later turned his attentions to unifying the French Left, and he became secretary of the Socialist Party in 1971. Francois Mitterrand declared his candidacy for the presidency for the second time in 1974, but lost this time to Valery Giscard d’Estaing by a narrow margin. However, seven years later he defeated the incumbent d’Estaing and was appointed to France’s top political post.
The Socialist party lost their majority in the National Assembly with bi-elections in 1986, which prompted Mitterrand to collaborate increasingly with the country’s political right, particularly with Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, who would succeed Mitterand as president in 1995. Mitterrand was able to keep his place as French head of state when he was re-elected president in 1988 and became the first French politician to win election twice by popular vote in the country’s history.
The 1988 re-election saw Mitterand embark on a series of reforms to the French economy as well as a program of social and political reforms. In keeping with the philosophy and election promises of the socialist party, he sought to nationalize private and commercial banks and other businesses, and improve workers’ pay, while stimulating job creation in an attempt to combat stagnation and unemployment. Together with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, he is remembered as having forged the Treaty of Maastricht, which outlined the basis of the newly structured European Union in 1991.
Mitterand is also remembered for having appointed Edith Cresson as Prime Minister. Although she only remained in the post from May 1991 to April 1992, she remains France’s first and only woman to hold the position. Mitterrand’s last years as president of France saw increasing economic problems as well as social unrest. He also battled health problems and underwent two operations for prostate cancer while in office.
After Mitterrand’s retirement from public life at the end of his presidency, revelations emerged in the popular press of his friendship or association with wartime Vichy collaborators, political corruption, and extra-marital affairs, which for many tarnished his post-war reputation. He died in Paris on January 8, 1996, at the age of 79. He was survived by his wife, Danielle, their two sons, Jean-Christophe and Gilbert, and his daughter Mazarine, from his relationship with his mistress, Anne Pingeot.
The coin, which includes a portrait of the President facing toward the right, is based on an actual photograph taken of a pensive Mitterand during the earlier years of his presidency. The portrait is partially encircled with the text FRANCOIS MITTERAND, and also includes the centenary dates 1916 and 2016.
|2 €URO||Bi-metallic||8.5 grams||25.7 mm.||circulation||10 million pieces|
|2 €URO||Bi-metallic||8.5 grams||25.7 mm.||Select BU||10,000 pieces|
|2 €URO||Bi-metallic||8.5 grams||25.7 mm.||Proof||10,000 pieces|
The coin also marks the 20th anniversary of Mitterand’s death, which occurred in 1996. The coin will be available from September 12 in Proof and BU for collectors; ten million circulation quality coins will also be issued. For more information on this and other coins offered by the Monnaie de Paris, please visit their Web site’s products page. Sales will be dispatched where applicable.