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DonnaML's Top 11 British Coins and Medals for 2023


DonnaML

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I realized that I bought too many world coins and medals this year that I really like, to be able to winnow them down to a single "best" list. So I'm going to be posting two lists: one British, and the other mostly (if not entirely) French. As with the Roman Provincial list I recently posted, my choices within each category -- coins and medals -- are listed chronologically, rather than according to which ones are my favorites. Again, any and all comments and opinions are welcome.

British Coins:

1.  Henry VII, AR Groat, profile issue, regular issue, 1504-1509, London Mint. Obv. Crowned and draped bust right, wearing arched imperial crown with triple band, HENRIC' · VII' · DI' · GRA' · REX · AGL' · Z · F' [Henry the Seventh by the Grace of God King of England and France] / Rev. Royal shield of arms over long cross fourchée, POSVI DEV . · A DIVTOR E' : MEV' [abbreviation of POSUI DEUM ADJUTOREM MEUM; I have made God my helper]. Mintmark pheon [barbed arrowhead pointing downward] on both obv. and rev., saltire stops (mixed on rev.). S. 2258. 26 mm., 2.98 g., 9 h. Purchased from Noonans (Noonans Mayfair Ltd., London, UK), Auction 270, 9 Mar 2023, Lot 2097; ex Clive Dennett Coins, Norwich, UK (retail purchase 1991).*

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*See Peter Seaby, The Story of British Coinage (1985) at pp. 83-84 (ill. 106 at p. 83 shows a specimen of S. 2258 with mintmark pheon), describing the introduction under Henry VII of an individualized profile portrait of the king, instead of the facing image of a generalized monarch that had previously been featured on the obverses of English coinage, representing “a step moving from medieval to Renaissance style, . . . perhaps coinciding with the appointment of Alexander de Brugsal, a German goldsmith, as engraver to the mint.” Thus, “in 1504, there were produced at the London mint coins with a profile portrait which compete for excellence with the finest portrait pieces issued by the Italians. This new coinage consisted of testoons of twelve pence (the first of this denomination to be issued), groats and half-groats, though only the last two coins appear to have been minted in any quantity. These portrait pieces have been attributed to Alexander de Brugsal, though as he moved to Antwerp in 1504 it is possible that they were the work of some other engraver.” The author notes that Henry VIII retained his father’s portrait on his own coins for the first fifteen years of his reign.  

2. George II AR Crown 1746, Obv. (Type C) Old-head; mature bust, left, wearing armor with the face of a mature lion on his shoulder epaulette, GEORGIVS • II • – DEI • GRATIA •; LIMA below bust [“LIMA” = provenance of Spanish silver captured by Admiral Anson during his round the world voyage, 1740-44] / Rev. (Type 3) Crowned cruciform shields, plain in angles, Leg. around from 1:00, ∙M∙B∙F∙ET∙ H∙REX∙F∙D∙B∙ET∙L∙D∙S∙R∙I∙ A∙T∙ET∙E∙17-46 [King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire and Elector] / Edge DECVS • ET • TVTAMEN •  [An ornament and a safeguard] ANNO REGNI • DECIMO • NONO. S. 3689, ESC 1668 at p. 238 (ill. p. 237) [Maurice Bull, English Silver Coinage since 1649 (Spink, 7th ed. 2020)]; old ESC 125 [H.A. Seaby & P.A. Rayner, English Silver Coinage from 1649 (Seaby, 4th ed. 1974). Purchased Jan. 12, 2023 at NYINC 2023 from Baldwin’s [A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd.], London, UK.

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3. George III AE Penny 1806, S. 3780 (variety with no incuse hair curl by tie knot), by Conrad Heinrich Küchler, Soho Mint. Obv. Short-haired, laureate, and draped bust right, GEORGIUS III • D: G • REX., date 1806 below / Rev. Seated figure of Britannia facing left, with olive branch in raised right hand, left hand holding trident and resting on shield bearing Union flag, sea behind with ship to left, legend BRITANNIA above; the word SOHO engraved below lower right of shield, at 45 degrees. 34 mm., 19.27 g. Purchased from Noonans Mayfair (formerly Dix Noonan Webb), London, UK, Auction 271, 4 Apr. 2023, Lot 415.

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4. United Kingdom, Charles III AV Proof Half-Sovereign 2022 in wood case, Queen Elizabeth II Memorial. Obv. Bare head of Charles III left (by Martin Jennings), CHARLES III·DEI·GRA·REX·FID·DEF· / Rev. The Royal Arms, at its centre a crowned and quartered shield supported by a crowned English lion on the left and a Scottish unicorn on the right (by Jody Clark); beneath shield, DIEU ET MON DROIT, date 2022 below. 19.3 mm., 3.99 g. Mintage: 6,480 total including 3,000 individual proof half-sovereigns in cases. COA No. 0670. Purchased from Britannia Coin Co., Royal Wootton Bassett, UK, March 2023.

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Descriptions of the obverse and reverse designs:

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The specifications:

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The COA:

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The wood box:

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5.  Charles III 2023 AR (.925) Proof Piedfort Five Pounds (Crown), Coronation of Charles III, in case, S. ___; Numista Catalogue # 363645. Obv. Crowned portrait of King Charles III left; around, legend CHARLES III·D·G·REX·F·D·5 POUNDS·2023· [Unabridged legend: Charles III Dei Gratia Rex Fidei Defensor, Translation: Charles the Third by the Grace of God King Defender of the Faith]; small MT below bust truncation [Obverse Designer Martin Jennings] / Rev. St. Edward's Crown with the Sovereign's Sceptres; around, legend THE CORONATION OF KING CHARLES III with date 6 MAY 2023 beneath, both above crown; Designer: Timothy Noad / Edge Plain with incuse lettering; Lettering: • GOD SAVE OUR GRACIOUS KING. Mint: Royal Mint, Llantrisant, United Kingdom. 38.61 mm., 56.56 g. Issued on 24th April 2023 to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on 6th May 2023. Issue Limit: 3,260; this specimen no.: 2,913. Purchased Nov. 2023.

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Medals:

6.  England & Scotland, Charles I, Official AR Scottish Coronation Medal, 1633, by Nicholas Briot. Obv. Crowned bust left, in falling lace collar, ermine, robes, and collars of the Garter and the Thistle, CAROLVS• D:G• SCOTIAE• ANGLIAE• FR• ET• HIB• REX• [both “AEs” ligate] / Rev. Thistle flower growing out of stem with stylized trellised thistle leaves spreadeagled on either side, and three closed buds among the leaves*; around, legend • HINC • NOSTRAE • CREVERE • ROSAE • [both “AEs” ligate] [translation: “Hence have our roses grown,” a reference to the King’s Scottish birth and parentage, i.e., the English roses of the Royal family growing from the Scottish thistle]; in exergue in two lines, CORON•18•IVNII• | •1633• B• [Coronation 18 June 1633, “B” = Nicholas Briot]. 28 mm., 9.35 g. Eimer 123 & Pl. 12 [Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values (2nd ed. 2010)]; MI i pp. 265-266/60 & Pl. xxii, no. 2 [Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I pp. 265-266, No. 60 (1885, reprinted 1969; Plate volume 1911, reprinted 1979)]; Wollaston p. 6, no. iii & ill. 3; see also p. 66 regarding the reverse design [Henry Wollaston, British Official Medals for Coronations and Jubilees (1978)]. Purchased from Simon Monks, Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK, April 2023.**

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Medallic Illustrations identifies the reverse design as a combination of a thistle flower and a rose bush; Wollaston strongly disagrees (see p. 66), stating that it is solely a thistle flower, and that the three buds among the leaves are thistle buds, not rosebuds. Eimer follows Wollaston.

**For an account of Charles I’s 1633 Scottish Coronation, seven years after his English Coronation in 1626, see Jane Rickard, “Stuart Coronations in Seventeenth Century Scotland: History, Appropriation, and the Shaping of Cultural Identity” (Ch. 12, pp. 241-256 at pp. 243-244), in Stuart Succession Literature: Moments and Transformations (ed. Paulina Kewes & Andrew McRae, Oxford 2019):

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See also https://www.burntisland.net/shipwreck/history-1633.htm:

“When his father King James VI and I died in 1625, Charles (pictured left, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London) became the second king of the United Kingdom. Charles I's English Coronation ceremony was held in February 1626, and there was some debate as to whether or not there should be a separate Scottish Coronation. Although born in Dunfermline, Charles was not keen to visit the land of his birth. He even suggested that he might be crowned King of Scots in London. However, the Scottish Parliament insisted on a Coronation in Edinburgh. It took several years for matters to get to the stage where a date could be agreed. Eventually it was decided that the Scottish Coronation would be held on 18 June 1633 in the Abbey adjoining the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The King and his vast entourage left London on the 10th of May, and arrived in Edinburgh five weeks later. The Privy Council had spent significant sums of money on upgrading the roads and bridges in advance of the journey. The noblemen with whom Charles stayed overnight during his journey had been ordered to ensure that their castles were, literally, fit for a King. And the same noblemen also had to feed and entertain him in the style to which he was accustomed. So great were the sums involved, that some of the nobles did not regain their financial equilibrium until years afterwards.

The same was true in Edinburgh, where no expenditure was spared. In return, the citizens were treated to a week of royal pageantry, with processions, royal banquets and a host of visiting foreign dignitaries; plus, of course, the Coronation itself.

Old print of Charles entering Edinburgh for his Coronation:

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The mood soon changed, however. After the Coronation, the King and the Scottish Parliament fell out on a number of issues. The main bones of contention were the Parliament's growing concern that the King was intent on imposing his will on Scotland, and a conviction that he was paying no attention whatsoever to what members of the Parliament were saying.”

 The resentment of the King by non-Anglicans in Scotland continued relatively unabated until the outbreak of the English Civil War.

7.  England, Anne, Official AR Coronation Medal, 1702, by John Croker (from design by Isaac Newton). Obv. Bust of Queen Anne left, draped, crowned with fillet, hair bound with ribbon, ANNA D:G: MAG BR: FR: ET. HIB: REGINA. / Rev. Anne as Pallas Athena, standing right on hill with rays of sun shining upon her, holds bundle of three thunderbolts upraised in her right hand, and, in her left hand, a shield with aegis of Medusa’s head; at her feet to the right, symbolizing her enemies Louis XIV of France and the Jacobite “Old Pretender” James “III,” a Hydra in the form of a two-headed, four-armed serpentine monster (two arms wielding clubs and the other two wielding large stones), fallen to its back, with its lower body covered in scales and eight snakes rising from it in place of legs, one head facing Pallas and the other turned to the side; VICEM GERIT. ILLA. TONANTIS. around [“She is the Thunderer’s viceregent”]; in exergue, INAVGVRAT XXIII AP MDCCII [“Crowned 23 April 1702”]. 35mm., 15.67g. Eimer 390 & Pl. 48 [Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values (2nd ed. 2010)]; MI ii, p. 228/4 & Pl. cxv, no. 4 [Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. II  p. 228, No. 4 (1885, reprinted 1969; Plate volume 1911, reprinted 1979)]; Wollaston p. 8, no. x & ill. 10; see also pp. 70-72 [Henry Wollaston, British Official Medals for Coronations and Jubilees (1978)]; Mitchiner 4966 (ill. p. 1707) [Michael Mitchiner, Jetons, Medalets and Tokens, Vol. 3, British Isles circa 1558 to 1830 (1998)]. (Mintage: Gold 858, Silver 1,200, Bronze number unknown. See Wollaston p. 16.) Purchased from Noonans Mayfair Auction 283, 15 Nov. 2023, Lot 1251.*

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*See https://stuarts.exeter.ac.uk/isaac-newton-and-queen-annes-coronation-medal/: “The reverse depicts Anne as Pallas Athene, striking down a double-headed monster. Recent scholarly consensus has been that the monster is a Hydra representing domestic faction. But [the Master of the Mint, Isaac] Newton, in his own notes on the design, describes it as a symbol of ‘any Enemy with which Her Majesty hath or may have War’. In other words, the monster presents the double threat posed by Louis XIV and James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender. The motto looks back to William and Mary. By describing Anne as a ‘Thunderer’, Newton explains that he was alluding to the coronation medal of 1689, which likewise portrayed William as a thundering Jupiter. In a sentence, Newton explains that the coronation medal ‘signifies that her Majesty continues the scene of the last reign’.” See also the discussion at https://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/35474, as well as these notes to Spink’s auction description of a specimen of the Queen Anne official coronation medal sold on 31 May 2023 (available at https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=11019352 ) :

“Croker's official coronation medal had until very recently been thought the conception of Royal court painter Sir Geoffrey Kneller. However in 2015, a manuscript was reviewed at the National Archives which contained sketches and notes by Sir Isaac Newton, then Master of Her Majesty's Mint. This would confirm that in fact it was he who was responsible for the iconography. This discovery illuminated the reasoning behind the unusual iconography. Newton explained that the scaly, two-headed Hydra was an allegory of the ‘double Catholic threat’ Anne faced at the time of her coronation - King Louis XIV of France, and James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II, who was a rival claimant to the throne.

It would be the first time that a monarch had been portrayed as a mythical figure on a Coronation medal. [But see references above to the possible depiction of William III as Jupiter hurling James II as Phaethon from his chariot, on the reverse of the William & Mary coronation medal.] The use of allegorical personification is intriguing and begs the ultimate question, why did Anne not feel as though she could be portrayed as herself? Why had she accepted the attributes of the Greek goddess Pallas? Newton explains that even though the new Queen had physical infirmities, such that she was too weak even to walk to her own Coronation much less hurl a thunderbolt, she was strong willed, had a robust foreign policy and expected to defend her kingdom. Having Pallas on her medal, immediately communicated a message of courage and boldness. Newton also explained that by describing Anne as a 'Thunderer', he hoped to hark back to the previous Coronation medal of William and Mary, where a thundering Jupiter featured, demonstrating her continuity of the Protestant rule. No fewer than 1,200 of these silver medals were distributed at the Abbey.

Anne's infirmity at her Coronation was the result of her struggle with gout (induced by a predilection to brandy). As a result, she was carried in the procession upon an open sedan chair by the Yeomans of the Guard. She had a respect for splendour, a taste for ceremony and a strong will to rule. Her vigour and determination were shown when, on arriving at the Abbey, she descended and walked down the aisle to the altar, despite the pain she must have suffered. She wished to convey her relevance to her subjects and to imbue a strong sense of propriety. This act has also led some to compare her to Elizabeth I, not only as they align in terms of their staunch Englishness and Anglican faith, but also in their ability to rise to the occasion despite debilitating physical infirmities. Clearly her presence made an impact as Anne's coronation ceremony was described by one commentator as ‘more magnificent than any in England’, with another detailing how she gave ‘obliging looks and bows to all’ and how the diamonds in her hair ‘at the least motion brill'd and flamed’.”

For an article on this subject by the discoverer of Newton’s notes on the Anne coronation medal, see Joseph Hone, “Isaac Newton and the Medals for Queen Anne,” Huntington Library Quarterly, University of Pennsylvania Press, Volume 79, Number 1, Spring 2016, pp. 119-148 (available at https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/56/article/612988/pdf ) (I do not have access to this article and have not consulted it).

8.  Great Britain, George IV, Official AR Coronation Medal, 1820, by Benedetto Pistrucci. Obv. Laureate bust left, GEORGIUS IIII D.G. BRITANNIARUM REX F.D. / Rev. King enthroned left, crowned by Victory behind him; before him stand Britannia, Hibernia, and Scotia; PROPRIO JAM JURE ANIMO PATERNO around; in exergue, INAUGURATUS DIE. JULII. XIX ANNO. MDCCCXXI. 35 mm., 16.93 g. BHM 1070 (ill. p. 264) [Brown, Laurence, British Historical Medals Vol. I, 1760-1837 (Seaby 1980)]; Eimer 1146a (ill. Pl. 125) [Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values (2nd ed. 2010)]; Wollaston p. 12, no. xv & ill. 24 [Henry Wollaston, British Official Medals for Coronations and Jubilees (1978)]. Mintage in AR: 800 (see Wollaston p. 16). Purchased from Noonans (formerly Dix Noonan Webb) Auction 267, 1 Feb. 2023, Lot 788; ex Sir Gerard Clauson Collection of British Historical Medals [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_Clauson: “Sir Gerard Leslie Makins Clauson (28 April 1891 – 1 May 1974) was an English civil servant, businessman, and Orientalist best known for his studies of the Turkic languages”].*

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(The areas of blue and and other dark coloring turn out to be simply iridescence in hand. Noonans noted the "small dig at top of reverse," which I don't think detracts from the coin all that much, but described the medal as "otherwise extremely fine and toned.")

*See Sir Gerard's biography from Noonans, published in connection with an auction of his ancient coin collection in 2022, at https://issuu.com/noonansauctions/docs/coins_13_oct_22:

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9.  Great Britain, William IV, Official AR Coronation Medal, 1830, by William Wyon.* Obv. Bare head of King William IV right; WILLIAM THE FOURTH CROWNED SEP: 8 1831.; under head, W. WYON, S. / Rev. Head of Queen Adelaide right, wearing diadem embroidered with a Tudor rose, thistle, and shamrock, her hair coiled in bun high on back of her head, with a string of pearls wound through it, one lock curling down towards nape of her neck and another curling over the top of her head; ADELAIDE. QUEEN CONSORT. CROWNED SEP: 8 1831.; under head, W. WYON, S. 33 mm., 18.25 g. BHM I 1475 (ill. p. 358) [Brown, Laurence, British Historical Medals Vol. I, 1760-1837 (Seaby 1980)]; Eimer 1251 (ill. Pl. 137) [Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values (2nd ed. 2010)]; Wollaston p. 12, no. xvi & ill. no. 25 [Henry Wollaston, British Official Medals for Coronations and Jubilees (1978)]; Till pp. 75-76 [William Till, Descriptive Particulars of English Coronation Medals (London 1837)]**. Mintage in AR: 1,900 (see BHM p. 358). Purchased from Noonans Mayfair Ltd., London, UK, Auction No. 282, Historical Medals, 17 Oct. 2023, Lot 28 (“The Property of a Gentleman”), ex Spink Numismatic Circular Vol. 107 No. 4, May 1999, Lot 2226 p. 129.***

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*Wyon was paid a fee of only £105 as compared with the £500 paid to Benedetto Pistrucci for the George IV official coronation medal (see Wollaston p. 79), and “the Privy Council grudged even this”: “The enormous cost of George IV’s coronation had staggered everybody and led to public complaint. William IV at first was reluctant to have a coronation service at all. On being convinced that a coronation was necessary, he insisted that the cost should be one-tenth of that of George IV. One medal, instead of two for the Queen and himself, and a simplified design instead of an elaborate work of art, were means to that end.” Id.

**The opinion of a contemporary critic in 1837: Till opined that William the Fourth and Queen Adelaide “had only one coronation medal for both; but Wyon certainly made the most of the subject, and produced a faultless medal, so far as regards execution and fidelity of likeness, and in the extraordinary short space of fifteen days (this eminent and talented artist, suffering at the same time from indisposition), exciting a doubt [as to] which is the most worthy of our admiration, the beauty of the medal, or the promptness of its production. The head of the King is pourtrayed [sic] true to nature; no wig, no laurel, or poetically fictionalized ornament; while on the head of the Queen is a splendid tiara, with the rose, thistle, and shamrock, very judiciously introduced. The legend on the obverse, in plain English, records WILLIAM THE FOURTH, CROWNED SEPT. 8TH, 1831 – while the legend on the reverse mentions the same ceremony taking place with the Queen. Time, it appears, was not allowed for two medals, a circumstance to be regretted, as a reverse to each might have been with much propriety found; one illustrative of the king’s services and attachment to the navy; and on the other, his royal consort’s acknowledged virtues.”

***Although the Noonans auction description did not mention any previous pedigree, a handwritten coin ticket that came with the medal, inside an envelope within the Noonans plastic packaging, includes a notation at the bottom stating "SNC 107/4, 2226." I interpreted this notation to mean "Spink Numismatic Circular, Vol. 107 No. 4, lot 2226," and to indicate that the specific specimen I purchased was previously offered and sold as that lot number in that issue.  Although the old Spink Numismatic Circulars are not available online so far as I know (except for some “snippet” views in Google Books), it happens by pure coincidence that I subscribed to the publication for a few years beginning in the late 1990s, and still have that particular issue, namely Vol. 107 No. 4, dated May 1999. Lot 2226, described at p. 129 of the issue, was indeed an example of the William IV 1831 official AR coronation medal. See these copies of the cover of the issue and p. 129, with Lot 2226 marked with a red dot. Although Lot 2226 was not illustrated, this would certainly appear to confirm my interpretation that the notation on the ticket accompanying the medal I purchased from Noonans refers to the medal's pedigree. I have emailed Noonans to ask if they have any further documentation regarding the pedigree.

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10.  Great Britain, Victoria, Official AE Coronation Medal, 1838, by Benedetto Pistrucci. Obv. Bust left, wearing plain diadem, with hair tied straight back, VICTORIA D.G. BRITANNIARUM REGINA F.D., initials B.P. under head / Rev. Queen seated on dais facing left, holding sceptre in left hand and orb in right hand, with lion behind her holding thunder of Jove in right paw; standing to left, Britannia, Hibernia, and Scotia, all helmeted,  offer the imperial crown to Queen; ERIMUS TIBI NOBILE REGNUM [You will have a celebrated reign]; in exergue, INAUGURATA DIE JUNII XXVIII MDCCCXXXVIII. 36 mm., 24.23 g. Mintage in AE: 1,871. BHM 1801 [Brown, Laurence, British Historical Medals Vol. II, 1837-1901 (Seaby 1987)]; Eimer 1315 & Pl. 144 [Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values (2nd ed. 2010)]; Wollaston p. 13, no. xvii & ill. 26 [Henry Wollaston, British Official Medals for Coronations and Jubilees (1978)]; Whittlestone & Ewing 88.1 (ill. p. 18) [Whittlestone, Andrew & Michael Ewing, Royal Commemorative Medals 1837-1977, Vol. 1, Queen Victoria 1837-1901 (2008)]. Purchased from Stephen Oatway, Britannia Numismatics, Halifax, Novia Scotia, Canada, Nov. 5, 2023.

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Finally, a Mudie medal with a direct allusion to ancient Roman history:

11.   Great Britain, English Army on the Tagus (Lines of Torres Vedras), 1811 (struck 1820). Obv. Duke of Wellington, as a Roman general (Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, ca. 280-203 BCE, known as “Cunctator” [the Delayer]), seated left in front of his tent, studying open scroll on his knee, “meditating on his future operations” [Mudie, infra, p. 83]; his left hand reaches back to grasp edge of shield decorated with thunderbolt, held upright on ground behind him, his helmet lying next to his shield; in exergue, FABIUS CUNCTATOR / Rev. River god personifying the Tagus River in Portugal, reclining before tents of British army (with tent in foreground flying Union Jack) near town of Torres Vedras north of Lisbon, holding long staff  in right hand and resting left arm on urn from which water flows; to left of tents, orange tree represents Portugal under British protection; in exergue in four lines, LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS | THE ENGLISH ARMY | ON THE TAGUS | 1810 . 1811.   41 mm., 40.43 g. By L.M. Petit / E.J. Dubois. Eimer 1016 (p. 145) [Christopher Eimer, British Commemorative Medals and their Values (Spink, 2nd ed. 2010)]; BHM I 713 (p. 174) [Laurence Brown, British Historical Medals Vol. I, 1760-1837 (Seaby 1980)]; Bramsen II 1138 (p. 31) [Ludvig Ernst Bramsen, Médaillier Napoléon le Grand, ou, Description des médailles, clichés, repoussés, et médailles-décorations relatives aux affaires de la France pendant le consulat et l'empire, Vol. II, 1810-1815 (Copenhagen 1907), available at Newman Numismatic Portal]; Eimer Wellington 8 (ill. p. 21) [Christopher Eimer, Medallic Portraits of the Duke of Wellington (Spink 1994)]; Mudie 17 at Ch. XVIII pp. 80-83 (ill. Pl. 5) [James Mudie, An Historical and Critical Account of a Grand Series of National Medals (London 1820)]. Purchased from Noonans Mayfair (formerly Dix Noonan Webb), London, UK, Auction 271, 5 Apr. 2023, Lot 837 (“the Property of a Gentleman”).*

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*See BHM I 713 p. 174: “During the winter of 1809 Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) had been fortifying a series of lines around Lisbon on the heights of Torres Vedras. Led by Marsha Masséna, the French troops numbering 80,000 men advanced across the Spanish frontier. Met by stiff resistance from the Portuguese, the French suffered heavy losses and were forced to dig into winter quarters in a wasted countryside before Torres Vedras. Hunger, sickness and the increasing scarcity of supplies eventually forced the French to retreat into Spain freeing Portugal from Napoleon. The legend on the obverse of this medal draws a simile between Wellesely and Quintus Fabuius Maximus Verrucosus who, by his tactics in the Second Punic War, kept Hannibal in check for some time without coming to an engagement." 

See also Mudie Ch. XVII, pp. 80-82, describing in detail Wellington’s scorched earth policy and the “most appalling character” of the French army’s sufferings while they remained before the Allies’ impregnable position. Thus the comparison to “the celebrated Roman general Fabius, who, by protracted delay and avoiding to fight, eventually defeated the greatest general of antiquity – Hannibal; and was therefore called Fabius Cunctator, or Fabius the Delayer.” Id. p. 83. According to Mudie’s rather melodramatic account, Wellington’s plan “in its consequences may be said to have involved the salvation of Europe. It was after Wellington quitted the lines of Torres Vedras, that he commenced his unbroken series of conquests which ceased not till he had planted the flag of England on the soil of imperial France. Had he been compelled to evacuate Portugal, and fly to his ships, who will be bold enough to say, that Europe would have been redeemed from the bondage of Napoleon?” Id. p. 82.

Perhaps ironically, one of Napoleon’s own medals, commemorating his sojourn at Osterode in East Prussia in 1807 following the Battle of Eylau, had previously used a Fabius Cunctator analogy. I suspect that the kind of people who purchased medals in early 19th century Europe were better educated in Roman history than the average collector today, very few of whom, I suspect, would recognize the name. See Bramsen I 631; the engraver of the medal (not mine) was Bertrand Andrieu:

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(David Thomason Alexander explains the analogy in his new book, A Napoleonic Medal Primer (2022), at p. 100, “Severe French losses at Preussische-Eylau necessitated a lengthy layover to rest and reinforce Napoleon’s army before resuming the offensive. Fabius the Delayer was chosen to symbolize Napoleon’s elaborate indifference to British feints near the Netherlands; showing no panic reaction, the Emperor remained seemingly unconcerned in East Prussia.”)

 
Edited by DonnaML
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You're making me want to purchase some English coins!

I've commented on your coronation medals in their own threads you've posted, but my favourite is the Charles I medal, not so much for the design, (though love the portrait of Charles I), but I'm just fascinated by his reign and all the turmoil that surrounded that period of English history.

My mum was English, so always loved England and it's coins, and I'm quite familiar with the types, so your first two coins reminded me of looking through catalogues as a kid at old English coins. To that end the George II Crown is absolutely my favourite, and don't think it will be beaten as my favourite coin of yours this year. Having 'Lima' below the bust adds to the history. Fantastic large coin.

Congratulations on each of your purchases, they are all wonderful.

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23 minutes ago, John Conduitt said:

The Royal Mint had very talented engravers for a couple of hundred years. 

They were surprisingly willing to employ talented "foreigners" like Briot, Croker, Pistrucci, and others like the Roettiers family and Laurence Natter. William Wyon and Thomas Simon were the only notable engravers of coronation medals prior to the 20th century who were English-born.

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Wonderful coin and medal additions, Donna. Thanks for sharing! Your Queen Anne medal has such an interesting reverse design. I am adding this type to my wish list. 🙂

It is good to see your Victoria official Coronation Medal, plus your additional notes. It is one of my favorite designs. I recalled reading that not everybody liked the design, but somehow I do. It is great to hold and feel the really high relief medal. I also like that these medals were actually distributed during the queen's coronation date. Makes it more special by "holding history in my hands".  🙂

 

Edited by happy_collector
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12 hours ago, DonnaML said:

They were surprisingly willing to employ talented "foreigners" like Briot, Croker, Pistrucci, and others like the Roettiers family and Laurence Natter. William Wyon and Thomas Simon were the only notable engravers of coronation medals prior to the 20th century who were English-born.

Even Simon was the son of a Huguenot and the Wyons descended from a German engraver. It would be quite an English thing to believe if you wanted the best engraver they had to be foreign.

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5 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

Even Simon was the son of a Huguenot and the Wyons descended from a German engraver. It would be quite an English thing to believe if you wanted the best engraver they had to be foreign.

Interesting; I had no idea about Simon and the Wyons. Simon's portrait of Charles II on his 1661 English coronation medal is one of my favorites out of the entire series:

England, Charles II, Official AR English Coronation Medal, 1661, by Thomas Simon. Obv. Crowned and draped bust right, CAROLVS. II. D.G. ANG. SCO. FR. ET. HI. REX. / Rev. The King enthroned, left, holding scepter with right hand, crowned by Peace, flying right above, EVERSO. MISSVS. SVCCVRRERE. SECLO. XXIII. APR. 1661. 29 mm., 7.76 g. Eimer 221 & Pl. 26 [Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values (2nd ed. 2010)]; MI i p. 472/76 & Pl. xlv, no. 725 [Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I p. 472, No. 76 (1885, reprinted 1969; Plate volume 1911, reprinted 1979)]; Wollaston p. 6, no. v & ill. 5 [Henry Wollaston, British Official Medals for Coronations and Jubilees (1978)]. Purchased from Historical Medallions, UK, Jan. 2022.

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16 hours ago, happy_collector said:

It is good to see your Victoria official Coronation Medal, plus your additional notes. It is one of my favorite designs. I recalled reading that not everybody liked the design, but somehow I do.

It seems that the portrait by Pistrucci was widely criticized, with a good bit of xenophobia thrown in for good measure (despite the "Englishness," as pointed out above by @John Conduitt, of believing that "if you wanted the best engraver they had to be foreign"). See William Till, Descriptive Particulars of English Coronation Medals (London 1838), complaining at pp. 81-84 that "never was a generous public more abused, or the medallic art so much satirized as on the issuing of this piece. It is one of the most extraordinary productions of the age -- extraordinary from its inferiority and its demerits. I cannot believe that Signor Pistrucci would willingly insult a nation that has patronized and supported him; but what are we led to believe on examining the coronation medal of Victoria the First, Queen of England? On its obverse, her head is pourtrayed, the face much too old; the hair, with the exception of the knot behind, which is of better work, would disgrace the first essay of any Birmingham die-sinker's apprentice. [Two pages of similar criticisms follow.] . . . . I am sorry for my country, that in the year 1838, a medal should issue from the Royal Mint, which according to the decided opinion of experienced medallists is the very worst in the English series. . . . It may be, that Pistrucci had other business to attend to; that is  no excuse. He is paid by Englishmen, and if as a foreigner, he has no nationality to support, in executing medals relative to Britain, still as he is paid, and no doubt well paid, he has a right to do his best; and if he does not, others should be found who would not permit our inauguration medals of the nineteenth century to be a satire on our taste, and a disgrace to the arts."

At page 92, after quoting extensively from a debate in Parliament(!) about the medal's supposed deficiencies, Till quotes from an angry letter to the Times from "an Englishman," responding to a defense of the medal by a Mr. Hamilton: "Have his Italian prejudices rendered him one of the castrati in common sense and estimation of the towering qualities of the natives of Britain's sea-girded isle, that none but foreigners can serve his purpose, to place them at the head and conduct of our great public institutions? Are we so devoid of genius, or its attributes, that Englishmen cannot, by any possibility, conduct their own business, with any chance of success, but that 'foreigners, at the head of their profession in their own countries, should risk their fortunes and success in life in transplanting their abilities to our shores?' Mr. WYON is a proof that we could well accomplish all we require without the aid of Mr. Pistrucci, or any poverty-stricken Italian who may choose to transport himself hither, with an acquired dexterity in producing minute gimcrackeries, in which foiblesse we have even among ourselves persons equally capable of effecting; but it must be foreign to be approved by such vitiated tastes as those of Mr. Hamilton."

Well, I like it too!

 

Edited by DonnaML
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1 hour ago, DonnaML said:

It seems that the portrait by Pistrucci was widely criticized, with a good bit of xenophobia thrown in for good measure

This is the benefit of choosing foreign engravers on the basis that they are better than the pitiful homegrown ones. You can then slate their work and prove they are not better after all, without producing anything. We’ve done the same with football managers, governors of the Bank of England and Royal Families.

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I will go 1/2/3 in that order!

The Henry VII Groat is stunning/ close behind George II 1746 Lima Crown/ then the 1806 George III penny. The medals are very artistic in their designs.

Thanks for sharing!

I think Pistrucci was the best of the lot/ Briot second/ then Wyon. But I do not think that they could match the master engravers/ mintmasters of the Holy Roman Empire Mints.

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Medals certainly give the artist a bigger canvas to work with and they lend themselves to depicting interesting events. I can definitely see the attraction. These are stunning! Picking a favorite among these coins and medals is neigh but impossible but I'll mention that I spent the most time admiring 8.  Great Britain, George IV, Official AR Coronation Medal, 1820, by Benedetto Pistrucci. 

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