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In brief

Josephine Baker honoured on 20-cent coins

20-cent coin featuring Josephine Baker - © Monnaie de Paris

The new coins bearing the star’s effigy will gradually be put into circulation between now and the summer of 2024.

After entering the Panthéon on 30 November 2021, Josephine Baker is being honoured once again. A pioneer of feminist and anti-racist activism and a member of the Resistance during the Second World War, the artist who died almost 50 years ago was an outstanding figure in the fight for minority rights. As well as Baker, two other exceptional women are featured on 10 and 50 cent coins: Simone Veil and Marie Curie. 

© Gaetan Luci / Prince’s Palace

An everlasting bond with the Principality

As you may know, Josephine Baker and the Principality have a special bond. “She was, and will remain, a Monegasque at heart,” Prince Albert II solemnly declared at a ceremony in honour of her induction into the Panthéon. Considered one of the world’s first black celebrities, Josephine Baker was born into poverty in Saint-Louis, Missouri and went on to stardom in Paris, Europe and around the world. In Monaco, her place of eternal rest, she became friends with Princess Grace Kelly.

In the 1960s, Josephine Baker was living in her château in Les Milandes du Périgord with her “rainbow tribe”, and was drowning in debt. With unfailing generosity, she dedicated her time to the tribe’s 12 orphaned children from the four corners of the globe. In 1964, the château was put up for auction, but there was a last-minute reprieve thanks to Brigitte Bardot. Then a few years later, in 1968, when the building was finally sold, the singer and her tribe found themselves without a home. It was then that the actress and wife of Prince Rainier III came to her rescue.

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Josephine Baker and the rainbow tribe at the Villa Maryvonne – © Jean-Paul Bascoul Collection

Princess Grace Kelly moved Josephine Baker and her children into the Villa Maryvonne overlooking the Mediterranean in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. She also enabled the singer to return to the stage. After a number of performances including one at the Gala of the Monegasque Red Cross in 1974, Josephine Baker returned to Paris and began a series of shows at the Bobino. A few days after the show’s premiere, the entertainer suffered a brain haemorrhage and died on 12 April 1975. After a commemoration ceremony in Paris, her body was brought back to the Monaco cemetery, where it remains to this day.