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Ruled by a Rabbit – The Coinage of the Kingdom of Holland

Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte the Emperor of France, had been appointed king of the Kingdom of Holland. Napoleon intended Louis to run a puppet government, but Louis would go on to be an independent and beloved king. Upon his initial introduction to the Dutch language Louis Bonaparte referred to himself as "Konijn van ’Olland" (Rabbit of ’Olland), instead of his real title "Koning van Holland" (King of Holland).

Napoleon Bonaparte felt the Batavian Republic (The Netherlands) was too independent. To rectify this independence, he appointed his younger brother Louis Bonaparte as king in the newly established Kingdom of Holland. Louis, instead of being the subservient puppet his brother had hoped for, distinguished himself as an independent. He began to learn the Dutch language, which ultimately led to him mistakenly proclaiming his title as a ’abbit.’ Next, he declared himself Dutch and appointed a mostly Dutch court. He forced his French officials to renounce their French citizenship for Dutch and to speak only Dutch. Louis personally oversaw state emergencies such as the major flood of Holland in 1809. This earned him the title of "Louis the Good” by the citizens of the Kingdom of Holland. 

1810 10 Gulden Kingdom of Holland. PCGS MS62+. Click to enlarge.

While King of Holland, Louis tried to serve the people of Holland, not the French Empire. Napoleon had demanded the reduction of French loans from Dutch investors be cut by two-thirds. Fearing this would cause a major economic crisis, Louis refused. Napoleon also demanded troops in the Kingdom of Holland to be placed under his control for the forthcoming invasion of Russia. Louis again refused, causing Napoleon to withdraw most of the French forces. This left Louis unable to defend the Kingdom from the impending English invasion. Napoleon, angry with the ongoing noncompliance, demanded Louis abdicate the throne. Louis refused and instead declared the French occupation of the Netherlands unlawful. Napoleon then annexed Holland into France, while Louis to fled to Austria.

1808 50 Stuivers Kingdom of Holland. PCGS MS65. Click to enlarge.

While the Kingdom of Holland only lasted a short four years, they still produced coinage. Silver and gold coinage featuring Louis was minted. These coins were produced from 1807 until 1810. Some coinage during his reign remained unchanged from its standard designs, as it was integral as trade coinage.

While Louis successfully fled, he never again ruled Holland or The Netherlands. Nevertheless, when he was in exile, he requested the crown be returned to him, but his brother refused. In 1840, he traveled under a false name to visit the Netherlands with permission from King William II of The Netherlands. When his presence discovered by the people, a crowd formed outside his hotel to cheer his name. His coinage serves as a reminder that even a rabbit puppet can stand up to an emperor and prove himself a king for doing what is best for his people.

1809 Rijksdaalder. Kingdom of Holland. PCGS MS64. Click to enlarge.

1810 1 Ducat. Kingdom of Holland. PCGS AU58. Click enlarge.

1809 1 Ducat. Kingdom of Holland. PCGS MS62. Click to enlarge.

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