The deep natural harbour of Port-Vendres in Languedoc-Roussillon became the home of the French Navy under King Louis XIV and his military engineer Marshal Vauban and was further developed by King Louis XVI. Known as the 'Sailor King' for his interest in naval exploration, Louis XVI's support and Navy was crucial to the success of the War for American Independence. It was he who ordered the enlargement of the harbour under the direction of Maréchal de Mailly during 1770-1785 and Port-Vendres became one of the largest ports of France. Louis XVI encouraged the growth of Port-Vendres and gave many social advantages to the foreign sailors settling in this newly created harbour. Between 1785 and 1789, over 50 sailors from the coast of Genoa settled in Port-Vendres.
At the request of the inhabitants, King Louis XVI authorised the province to build a monument which would be the first in France to honour his glory. The Royal architect Charles de Wailly (1729-1798) was charged with this project which was later finished by another Royal architect, Louis-Hiver Pons. The monument shaped as an obelisk was made entirely of marble and was over 100 feet (30 metres) high and was applied with four bronze reliefs celebrating the most important achievements of his reign; the restoration of the Merchant Navy in 1776, the abolishment of slavery in 1779, the rebirth of the Navy in 1783 and the American Independence also in 1783. The latter is depicted by a French ship delivering the peace treaty guarantying the independence of the people of America after Admiral de Grasse's victory over Cornwallis (see lot 89) at Yorktown in 1781. The inscription on the obelisk which is engraved on the inside lid of the present box translates as 'From the reign of Louis XVI this port will be forever a monument of his benevolence, a refuge to all nations, a shelter for the Navy and a symbol of recognition towards a monarch who only rules through his good deeds'.