François Villeroy de Galhau: Monetary sovereignty in the 21st century

Speech by Mr François Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France, at the Council of State Conference, Paris, 14 November 2023. 

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
15 November 2023

Mr President of the Constitutional Council [Laurent Fabius],

Vice-President of the Council of State [Didier-Roland Tabuteau],

General [André Lanata],

Madam Section President [Martine de Boisdeffre],

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honoured to have been invited to take part in this conference on sovereignty. I realise, however, that this has very little to do with me personally, but a great deal to do with the object that I represent: money is the natural and almost obvious participant here. Money has been a standard attribute of sovereignty, ever since the theory first advanced by Jean Bodin in the 16th century that: "only he who has the power to make law can regulate the coinage".i This power to create money was for a long time embodied in the person of the King: In France, Philippe IV the Fair (1285-1314) was the first to mint gold coins bearing his effigy. But it was Louis XIII in 1640 who first named them after himself: the term "Louis d'or" even lasted throughout part of the Revolution, before gradually being replaced by the "Napoleon". Through metonymy, the "Sovereign" is the name of an English gold coin first minted in 1489. This equivalence between money and sovereignty is therefore centuries old, but I would like to revisit it this evening from two angles: (I) first, by looking at the relationship between monetary sovereignty and political sovereignty, and two of its contemporary metamorphoses; and (ii) by examining the most acute, but probably less perceived, challenge that we face today, which is that of the renewed competition from private "currencies" – due to technology – vis-à-vis public money.