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Louis XV silver peace medal of "Honos et Virtu" type / French

Essay/Description

Louis XV silver medal with the inscription “Ludovicus XV. Rex Christianissimus.” The reverse side says, “Honos et Virtus,” and shows two figures.

The Honos et Virtu (Honor and Truth) was first used in the early 1720’s and as late as the 1750’s. The design on the front and back of the medal may have been more appealing than British medals of the same period. The portrait of Louis Philippe is more vibrant and the reverse image shows a reaching out between two equals. British medals often depicted Indians as inferiors.

Silver peace medals were given to influential Native Americans as a symbol of friendship and allegiance with the United States government or foreign power. Medals were given on important occasions, like the signing of a treaty, and then only to very influential members of the tribe. The medals held even greater importance than normal during times of war or tension, particularly between the US and Great Britain. The countries would compete for the loyalty and friendship of the tribes, and a chief trading in British medal for a US one signified a change in loyalty (Prucha 2000, xiv). Gradually, the medals original meaning diminished, and they were given as rewards for good behavior. The practice was discontinued in the late 1800s.

Native Americans placed great significance on the peace medals and viewed them not only as a sign of friendship, but of power. A suggested reason for this is the connection they saw between these medals and the shell gorgets worn and decorated to represent power. The gorgets, which typically only chiefs and the elite would wear, held a supernatural power source. Images on a gorget gave the wearer the power of what the image represented. Similarly, to the Native Americans, the image displayed on the medal, the head of the president or king, gave the wearer the leader’s power (Reilly III 2011).

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Title(s): 
Louis XV silver peace medal of "Honos et Virtu" type
Culture: 
French
Date: 
late 1700s
Period: 
American Colonial
Place: 
United States of America
Materials/Techniques: 
silver
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
65.53
Department: 
recto: LUDOVICUS XV REX CHRISTIANISSIMUS verso: HONOS ET VIRTUS.
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