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CŒNWULF—CŒUR

CŒNWULF, (d. 821), king of Mercia, succeeded to the throne in 796, on the death of Ecgfrith, son of Offa. His succession is somewhat remarkable, as his direct ancestors do not seem to have held the throne for six generations. In 798 he invaded Kent, deposed and imprisoned Eadberht Præn, and made his own brother Cuthred king. Cuthred reigned in Kent from 798 to 807, when he died, and Cœnwulf seems to have taken Kent into his own hands. It was during this reign that the archbishopric of Lichfield was abolished, probably before 803, as the Hygeberht who signed as an abbot at the council of Cloveshoe in that year was presumably the former archbishop. Cœnwulf appears from the charters to have quarrelled with Wulfred of Canterbury, who was consecrated in 806, and the dispute continued for several years. It was probably only settled at Cloveshoe in 825, when the lawsuit of Cwœnthryth, daughter and heiress of Cœnwulf, with Wulfred was terminated. Cœnwulf may have instigated the raid of Æthelmund, earl of the Hwicce, upon the accession of Ecgberht. He died in 821, and was succeeded by his brother Ceolwulf I.

See Earle and Plummer’s edition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 796, 819 (Oxford, 1892); W. de G. Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum, 378 (London, 1885–1893).  (F. G. M. B.) 


COERCION (from Lat. coercere, to restrain), an application of moral or physical compulsion by which a person is forced to do or refrain from doing some act or set of acts apart from his own voluntary motion. Where the coercion is direct or positive, i.e. where the person is compelled by physical force to do an act contrary to his will,—for example, when a man is compelled to join a rebel army, and to serve as a soldier under threats of death,—his act is not legally a crime. Where the coercion is implied, as when a person is legally under subjection to another, the person coerced, having no will on the subject, is not responsible. But this principle is applied only within narrow limits, and does not extend to the command of a superior to an inferior; of a parent to a child; of a master to his servant or a principal to his agent. Where, however, a married woman commits a crime in the presence of her husband, she is generally presumed to have acted by his coercion, and to be entitled to acquittal, but this presumption does not extend to grave crimes, nor to those in which the principal part may be supposed to be taken by the woman, such as keeping a brothel. In civil matters, such as the making of a contract, where the law requires the free assent of the person who undertakes the obligation, coercion is a ground for invalidating the instrument.

The term “coercion” is inevitably somewhat ambiguous, and depends on the circumstances of the case. In a political sense, the application of the Crimes Act of 1887 to Ireland was called “coercion” by those opposed to the English Unionist party and government, as being special legislation differing from the ordinary law applicable in the United Kingdom.


CŒUR, JACQUES (c. 1395–1456), founder of the trade between France and the Levant, was born at Bourges, in which city his father, Pierre Cœur, was a rich merchant. Jacques is first heard of about 1418, when he married Macée de Léodepart, daughter of Lambert de Léodepart, an influential citizen, provost of Bourges, and a former valet of John, duke of Berry. About 1429 he formed a commercial partnership with two brothers named Godard; and in 1432 he was at Damascus, buying and bartering, and transporting the wares of the Levant—gall-nuts, wools and silks, goats’ hair, brocades and carpets—to the interior of France by way of Narbonne. In the same year he established himself at Montpellier, and there began those gigantic operations which have made him illustrious among financiers. Details are wanting; but it is certain that in a few years he placed his country in a position to contend not unsuccessfully with the great trading republics of Italy, and acquired such reputation as to be able, mere trader as he was, to render material assistance to the knights of Rhodes and to Venice herself.

In 1436 Cœur was summoned to Paris by Charles VII., and made master of the mint that had been established in that city. The post was of vast importance, and the duties onerous. The country was deluged with the base moneys of three reigns, charged with superscriptions both French and English, and Charles had determined on a sweeping reform. In this design he was ably seconded by the merchant, who, in fact, inspired or prepared all the ordinances concerning the coinage of France issued between 1435 and 1451. In 1438 he was made steward of the royal expenditure; in 1441 he and his family were ennobled by letters patent. In 1444 he was sent as one of the royal commissioners to preside over the new parlement of Languedoc, a dignity he bore till the day of his disgrace. In 1445 his agents in the East negotiated a treaty between the sultan of Egypt and the knights of Rhodes; and in 1447, at his instance, Jean de Village, his nephew by marriage, was charged with a mission to Egypt. The results were most important; concessions were obtained which greatly improved the position of the French consuls in the Levant, and that influence in the East was thereby founded which, though often interrupted, was for several centuries a chief commercial glory of France. In the same year Cœur assisted in an embassy to Amadeus VIII., former duke of Savoy, who had been chosen pope as Felix V. by the council of Basel; and in 1448 he represented the French king at the court of Pope Nicholas V., and was able to arrange an agreement between Nicholas and Amadeus, and so to end the papal schism. Nicholas treated him with the utmost distinction, lodged him in the papal palace, and gave him a special licence to traffic with the infidels. From about this time he made large advances to Charles for carrying on his wars; and in 1449, after fighting at the king’s side through the campaign, he entered Rouen in his train.

At this moment the great trader’s glory was at its height. He had represented France in three embassies, and had supplied the sinews of that war which had ousted the English from Normandy. He was invested with various offices of dignity, and possessed the most colossal fortune that had ever been amassed by a private Frenchman. The sea was covered with his ships; he had 300 factors in his employ, and houses of business in all the chief cities of France. He had built houses and chapels, and had founded colleges in Paris, at Montpellier and at Bourges. The house at Bourges (see House, Plate II. figs. 7 and 8) was of exceptional magnificence, and remains to-day one of the finest monuments of the middle ages in France. He also built there the sacristy of the cathedral and a sepulchral chapel for his family. His brother Nicholas was made bishop of Luçon, his sister married Jean Bochetel, the king’s secretary, his daughter married the son of the viscount of Bourges, and his son Jean became archbishop of Bourges. But Cœur’s gigantic monopoly caused his ruin. Dealing in everything, money and arms, peltry and jewels, brocades and woollens—a broker, a banker, a farmer—he had absorbed the trade of the country, and merchants complained they could make no gains on account of “that Jacquet.” He had lent money to needy courtiers, to members of the royal family, and to the king himself, and his debtors, jealous of his wealth, were eager for a chance to cause his overthrow.

In February 1450 Agnes Sorel, the king’s mistress, suddenly died. Eighteen months later it was rumoured that she had been poisoned, and a lady of the court who owed money to Jacques Cœur, Jeanne de Vendôme, wife of François de Montberon, and an Italian, Jacques Colonna, formally accused him of having poisoned her. There was not even a pretext for such a charge, but for this and other alleged crimes the king, on the 31st of July 1451, gave orders for his arrest and for the seizure of his goods, reserving to himself a large sum of money for the war in Guienne. Commissioners extraordinary, the merchant’s declared enemies, were chosen to conduct the trial, and an inquiry began, the judges in which were either the prisoner’s debtors or the holders of his forfeited estates. He was accused of having paid French gold and ingots to the infidels, of coining light money, of kidnapping oarsmen for his galleys, of sending back a Christian slave who had taken sanctuary on board one of his ships, and of committing frauds and exactions in Languedoc to the king’s prejudice. He defended himself with all the energy of his nature. His innocence was manifest; but a conviction was necessary, and in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of his friends, after twenty-two