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Plate 1.20: Medals of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, and James I
Scholarly Commentary with DZI View for Vetusta Monumenta, Plate 1.20. Commentary by Crystal B. Lake.
Plate: Engraved by George Vertue (1684-1756) in at least three states between 1723 and 1731. Vertue began engraving a version of the gold medal of Elizabeth I (c. 1588) (“Dangers Averted” or “Armada Medal”) and the Phoenix Jewel (c. 1570-1580) with the motto from a silver medal of Elizabeth I (c. 1575) in 1723 (Alexander 2008, 298). The Society of Antiquaries of London balloted to have the gold and silver medals of Elizabeth I officially engraved in 1725 (SAL Minutes I.144) and the Phoenix jewel in 1726 (I.190). In 1727, Vertue engraved the coronation medal of Edward VI (1547) on a second plate and added the gold medal issued by James I in 1604 (I.206) to the plate that included the Elizabethan medals. The final addition of a silver crown struck during the reign of Henry VIII (c. 1545) to the plate featuring Edward VI's coronation medal appeared in 1731 (I.265). Plate 1.20 combines the two plates of coins and joins Plates 1.37-1.38, 1.43, 1.55, and 1.56 in reflecting the Society’s efforts to produce a Metallographia Britannica: a comprehensive history of English coinage.
1. Silver Crown of Henry VIII (c. 1545), from the collection of Browne Willis. This coin is currently located at the University of Oxford as part of Willis's bequest.
2. Coronation Medal of Edward VI (1547), from the collection of Samuel Mead. A copy of this medal is currently in the British Museum (G3,EM.1), but the current location of Mead’s specific medal is unknown.
3. Gold Medal of Elizabeth I (1589), also known as the “Dangers Averted” or “Armada Medal,” from the collection of Henry Hoare I. The medal was designed by Nicholas Hilliard. A copy of this medal is currently in the British Museum (M.6903), but the current location of Henry Hoare’s unique, enameled version is unknown.
4. The Phoenix Jewel (c. 1570-1580) with the motto from a silver medal of Elizabeth I (1574), both from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane. The jewel and medal were both designed by Nicholas Hilliard. The Phoenix Jewel is currently in the British Museum (SLMisc.1778). A copy of the Medal of Elizabeth I (1574) is also in the British Museum (1927,0404.3).
5. Struck gold medal of James I, commemorating the Peace with Spain (1604) from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane. A copy of this medal, like Sloane's, is currently in the British Museum.
Silver Crown of Henry VIII (c. 1545):
Label: Moneta Argentea Anglice Crown Piece / penes Browne Willis Armig.
Obverse: HENRIC 8 DEI GRACIA ANGLIE FRANCI [&] HIBERN REX
Reverse: ANGLICE [&] HIBERNICE ECCLESIE SVPREMVM CAPVT
Coronation Medal of Edward VI (1547):
Label: penes Sam. Mead I.ctm
Obverse, Outer Circle : EDWARDVS VI DG ANG FR E HI REX FIDEI DEFNS
Obverse, Center Circle: E IN TERRIS ANG E HIB ECCLE CAPVT SVPREMVM
Obverse, Inner Circle: CORONATVS EST MDXLVI XX FEBRVA ETATIS DECIMO
Reverse: [Greek and Hebrew translation of text on obverse]
At the Center of the Print: Sumptibus Societatis Antiquariӕ Londinensis.
Gold Medal of Elizabeth I (1589):
Label: Auro hoc Encaustus depinguitur ELISABETHAE / Vultus; Materiem nobile vincit Opus. / penes Henr. Hoare, Ar.
Obverse: DITIOR IN TOTO NON ALTER CIRCVLVS ORBE
Reverse: NON IPSA PERICVLA TANGVNT
The Phoenix Jewel (c. 1570-1580) with the Motto from a Silver Medal of Elizabeth I (1574):
Label: penes D.m Hañs Sloan Barñt.
Obverse of the Silver Medal, Outer Circle: HEI MIHI QVOD TANTO VIRTVS PERFVSA DECORE NON HABET ETERNOS INVIOLATA DIES
Obverse of the Silver Medal, Inner Circle: ELIZABETHA DG ANG FR ET HIB REGINA
Reverse of the Silver Medal, Outer Circle: FELICES ARABES MVNDI QVIBVS VNICA PHŒNIX PHŒNICEM REPARAT DEPEREVNDO NOVAM
Reverse of the Silver Medal, Inner Circle: O MISEROS ANGLOS MVNDI QVIBVS VNICA PHŒNIX VLTIMA FIT NOSTRO TRISTIA FATA SOLO
Struck gold medal of James I, Commemorating the Peace with Spain (1604):
Obverse: IACOBVS DG ANG SCO FR ET HIB REX
Reverse: HINC PAX COPIA CLARAQ RELIGIO
At the Bottom of the Print: Sumpt Societatis Antiquariӕ Lond:
Silver Crown of Henry VIII (c. 1545):
Label: Silver English Coin Crown Piece / From the collection of Browne Willis, Esquire
Obverse: Henry VIII by the grace of God King of England, France, and Ireland
Reverse: Supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland
Coronation Medal of Edward VI (1547):
Label: From the collection of Samuel Mead
Obverse, Outer Circle : Edward VI by the grace of God King of England, France, and Ireland and Defender of the Faith
Obverse, Center Circle: Supreme Head of the Church in England and Ireland
Obverse, Inner Circle: Crowned 20 February 1546 at the age of ten
Reverse: [Greek and Hebrew translation of text on obverse]
Gold Medal of Elizabeth I (1589):
Label: This encaustic work of Elizabeth’s face is painted with gold. The work exceeds the noble material. / from the collection of Henry Hoare, Esquire
Obverse: No other circle in the whole world more rich
Reverse: Not even dangers affect it
The Phoenix Jewel (c. 1570-1580) with the Motto from a Silver Medal of Elizabeth I (1574):
Label: From the collection of Sir Hans Sloan, Baronet
Obverse of the Silver Medal, Outer Circle: Alas, that virtue endued with so much beauty, should not uninjured enjoy perpetual life
Obverse of the Silver Medal, Inner Circle: Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland
Reverse of the Silver Medal, Outer Circle: Happy Arabs whose only Phœnix reproduces by its death a new Phœnix
Reverse of the Silver Medal, Inner Circle: Wretched English whose only Phœnix becomes, unhappy fate, the last in our country
Struck gold medal of James I, Commemorating the Peace with Spain (1604):
Obverse: James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland
Reverse: Hence peace, plenty, and pure religion
Commentary by Crystal B. Lake: This plate depicting one coin and four medals reflects the ongoing attempts members of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) made to document the history of British coinage. These particular specimens, however, do not perfectly fit into the Society’s schema for their Metallographia Britannica project. As such, they represent both the sheer difficulty of assembling a numismatic history of Britain as well as the Society’s interest in rare, politically significant, and aesthetically compelling numismatic objects. In other words, while the SAL debated and deployed various strategies for cataloguing British coins and establishing their worth, they also engaged in collecting and documenting unique examples of numismatic pieces that were notable because they were scarce, because they illustrated a facet of British history, or because they were beautiful.
In the case of Plate 1.20, there appear to be three areas of scholarly inquiry and concern that governed the assemblage of these particular numismatic specimens. Firstly, all of the numismatic objects are rare, notable either as singular objects (the gold medal of Elizabeth I and the Phoenix Jewel), as the first of their kind (Edward VI’s coronation medal), as unusually pristine for their type (struck gold medal of James I), or as one of only a very few known extant copies (the silver crown of Henry VIII). Secondly, although not all these objects can easily be attributed to the Elizabethan portrait miniaturist, Nicholas Hilliard (c. 1547-1619)—and although Hilliard’s hand in their creation may not have been explicitly known to members of the SAL—all of the objects on the plate except for Edward VI’s coronation medal are, in fact, Hilliard’s design or are palpably linked to his portrait work and artistic influence. Finally, several of the objects on the plate shed light on political developments in British history. These include the terms on which the monarchy proceeded in the wake of the establishment of the Church of England (illuminated by the inscriptions on the silver crown of Henry VIII, the coronation medal of Edward I, and the Phoenix Medal), the circumstances of England’s ongoing relationship with Scotland (illuminated by the inscriptions on the silver crown of Henry VIII, the coronation medal of Edward I, and the Phoenix Medal), and England’s conflicted relationship with Spain (illustrated by the gold medals of Queen Elizabeth I and James I).
1. Silver Crown of Henry VIII (c. 1545): This object is the only one of the five on the print to feature later in Martin Folkes’s (1690-1754) Table of English Silver Coins and as such, it illustrates the connection between this plate and the Society’s ongoing and fraught attempts to construct a history of British coinage (1745, 26). This is also the only item on the plate that can officially be designated as a coin rather than as a medal.1 The Society’s interest in documenting the history of British coinage, which the silver crown belonging to Henry VIII reflects, began in earnest in 1721/2 when the minutes record that “it was propos’d it would be much for the honour of the Kingdom, particularly of the Society, to attempt a Compleat description and history of all the Coyns relating to Great Britain from the Earliest times to our own” (SAL Minutes I.112). Although Joan Evans claims that the SAL lacked focus and direction in the 1720s, their plan for the history of British coinage likely proved too vast, in terms of assembling the necessary objects as well as arranging, dating, and explicating them, ever to be completed; the SAL nevertheless proceeded to strategize methods for accomplishing a complete and accurate history of British money. In 1724, the SAL returned again to their Metallographia Britannica based on the influence of Maurice Johnson (1688-1755). According to John Nichols, Johnson (the founder of the Gentleman’s Society at Spalding, who frequently corresponded with the SAL) conceived of the idea of divvying up “all the Legends and accounts of Coins that relate to Britain info five areas” (1815, 6.157). In April of 1724 in the spirit of Johnson’s schema, the SAL formed five committees for the project—tasked with compiling the history of British, Roman, Saxon, Danish, and English coins—to be led by William Stukeley (1687-1765) and Lord Winchilsea, Roger Gale (1672-1744), Humfrey Wanley (1672-1726), Samuel Gale (1682-1754), and Lord Hertford (1684-1750) and Peter Le Neve (1661-1729), respectively
Although the project was never completed, the display of numismatic specimens was a constant aspect of the Society’s meetings, and a foremost feature of their publications.2 Browne Willis (1682-1760) exhibited the silver crown of Henry VIII to the SAL on 11 February 1731, and it was the last numismatic specimen to be engraved for this plate (SAL Minutes I.265). The SAL directed it to appear alongside the Coronation Medal of Edward VI, and the crown was printed with the Coronation Medal and issued as a stand-alone print (see, for example: RCIN 600977). This arrangement meant that the plate proceeded vertically in order from the oldest object to the most recent. Pairing the silver crown of Henry VIII with the Coronation Medal also highlighted the history of their shared inscriptions, discussed further below. It seems likely that this coin also contributed to the history of portraiture suggested by the print, given that images of Henry VIII on his coins were often drawn from Hans Holbein’s portraits and, consequently, inspired Hilliard’s style who based his own technique on direct study of Holbein's works. In this sense, the crown piece may be taken as a commentary on Hilliard’s style of representing Elizabeth I on the gold medal that follows on the plate.
Willis is well known for his work on England’s cathedrals; he is less well known for his numismatic collections and publication. In her affectionate description of his eccentric character, Catherine Talbot notes that along with “one of the honestest hearts in the world,” Willis had “one of the oddest heads that ever dropped out of the moon. Extremely well versed in coins, he knows hardly any thing of mankind” (quoted in Nichols 1815, 6.205). Willis published A Table of The Gold Coins of the Kings of England (1733) based on his private collection, and, according to Nichols, he was responsible for the “making” of Plates 1.37-1.38 (6.198).3 In 1741, Willis donated his entire cabinet of English coins, “at that time looked upon as the most complete collection in England,” to Oxford University, with the stipulation that it be displayed and visited annually on the 19th of October (Nichols 1815, 6.191). The collection is still there and includes the silver crown depicted on this print. Today, the crown is notable as one of the earliest examples of its kind and as an illustration of Henry VIII’s fraught attempts to manage the nation’s finances by minting new coins and determining their valuation. In this way, this coin speaks to the SAL's interests in debasement and examples of new coinages also evinced by Plate 1.56 of Vetusta Monumenta.
2. Coronation Medal of Edward VI (1547): On 29 March 1727, the SAL minutes show that the President, Lord Hertford, exhibited a “fine Coronation Medal of Edward VI in gold very large” that belonged to Samuel Mead (1670-1734) (SAL Minutes I.206). The SAL balloted to have the medal engraved. It was struck in 1547 to commemorate the accession of Edward VI to the throne at the age of 10 (Till 1838, 2). A marginal note, likely in Richard Gough’s (1735-1809) hand, suggests that the original was in Thomas Hollis’s collection, but the engraving, like the minutes, attests that the medal was from Samuel Mead’s collection. It seems likely that there were, in fact, two copies of this coronation medal of Edward VI known to the SAL, despite its relative rarity: Mead’s as well as Hollis’s. As the minutes suggest, Mead’s was a gold medal; Hollis’s was silver (Nichols 1857, 1.ccclx). A gold version of the medal that was known to be in the collection of George III is now in the British Museum. There appears to be no record of the provenance and fate of Mead’s medal in particular, and little is known today about Mead himself, eclipsed as he has been by his younger brother, Dr. Richard Mead (1673-1754).
This medal was presumably of interest to the SAL as the first coronation medal minted in England. Its inscription also linked it to the medal owned by Willis of Henry VIII. In a 1768 letter sent to the London Chronicle documenting an inscription Hollis observed on a large cannon at Woolwich, he makes the connection between the two medals explicit and links them implicitly to the medals featuring Elizabeth I. Hollis claimed that the inscription’s phrase celebrating Elizabeth I, “et Hibernia Regina Fidei Defenser, et in Terra Ecclesia Anglicane et Hibernia Supremum Caput,” “alludes manifestly” to the inscription on the coronation medal of Edward VI, which in turn was derived from a medal issued during the reign of Henry VIII (Blackburne 1780, 2.673). Hollis attests to a clear line of transmission from Henry VIII down to Elizabeth I of the phrase characterizing the monarch as the head of the English church: a phrase that was a belabored compromise between Henry VIII and the clergy.
Hollis, however, likely has in mind a different medal issued during the reign of Henry VIII than the one engraved by the SAL: one noted by John Evelyn (1620-1706) (1697, 88). This other medal features, like the coronation medal of Edward VI, an inscription on its reverse denoting the monarch the supreme head of the Church of England in both Hebrew and Greek. Henry VIII commissioned the medal in 1545 to monumentalize the clergy’s acquiescence to his demands. Evelyn reports that it was famously sold abroad by Charles I “to give the Royal Family Bread” (88). Willis’s 1545 silver crown depicted here on Plate 1.20 also contains the infamous phrase, but only in Latin, on its reverse. It was engraved on a plate featuring the 1545 medal of Henry VIII that Evelyn documents as well as the coronation medal of Edward VI in John Pinkerton’s The Medallic History of England to the Revolution (1790, Plate IV). In Francis Perry’s A Series of English Medals (1762), both medals of Henry VIII appear on Plate 1 while the coronation medal of Edward VI appears on Plate 2. The London Encyclopaedia reports that the coronation medal was worth £20 in 1829, and that copies of the coronation medal were produced during the eighteenth century (1829, 16.57).
3. Gold Medal of Elizabeth I (1589): The minutes from the SAL for 24 February 1725 record that Thomas Serjeant brought in for examination a gold medallion of Elizabeth I that was in the possession of Henry Hoare (1677-1725).4 The minutes note that the medallion, the third object on the plate, is of “an extraordinary high relievo of excellent work” and that the “face and the neck” were likewise “enameld [sic] like flesh” (SAL Minutes I.144). According to the minutes, only six of these medallions were struck. In his Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain, Edward Hawkins identifies numerous medals struck in honor of the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1885, 1.144-49; 1.153-56); this one in particular is described as the “Dangers Averted” medal (1.153-56). Hawkins isolates five variations of the “Dangers Averted” medal. The medal depicted on Plate 1.20 is unique among the five variations for being the only one that features Elizabeth I on the obverse in partial profile rather than full faced. The Society’s engraving appears to be the first engraving to be made of the medal, which notably receives no mention in Evelyn’s earlier Numismata (1697). Following the Society’s publication, the medal was re-engraved for Francis Perry’s A Series of English Medals (1762, Plate V).
The British Museum describes the medal as a “golden effigy of the Virgin Queen.” Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd identify it as an “Armada Medal”: a commemorative token of Elizabeth’s victory over the Spanish Armada minted c. 1588. T. Richard Blurton links the medal to the work of the portrait miniaturist, Hilliard (Blurton 1997, 166). Vertue’s notebooks demonstrate the consistent interest he took in Hilliard’s work (“Vertue’s Note-Book” 1931-32, 7-10). Horace Walpole (1717-1797) shared Vertue's fascination with Hilliard; drawing on Vertue's research for his Anecdotes of Painting, Walpole described Hilliard as a “limner, jeweler and goldsmith to Queen Elizabeth and afterwards to James” and associated Hilliard with the painter Holbein (1762-80, 1.148-49). Walpole suggests that Hilliard was celebrated in his own lifetime by quoting lines 3-5 from John Donne’s “The Storm” (1597): “a hand or eye / By Hilliard drawne, is worth an history, / By a worse painter made” (1.149). In addition to collecting Hilliard miniatures, Walpole acquired the only known copy of Hilliard’s important Arte of Limning (c. 1600), an early treatise celebrating the virtues of water-based painting over oil painting. Walpole acquired this manuscript when he purchased Vertue’s papers in 1758, and the copy of Hilliard’s Arte of Limning was in Vertue’s hand.
Walpole was aware that Hilliard not only painted miniatures but designed medals as well, noting that in the collection of Charles I could be found a medal by Hilliard with a “view of the Spanish Armada” (Walpole 1762, 1.150). Blurton identifies Hilliard as one of the “first English artists to make medals in any number,” and before he became known as a portraitist, Hilliard was apprenticed to the goldsmith Robert Brandon (d. 1591), the Queen’s jeweler (1997, 166). Hilliard secured the commission to design the nation’s seal in 1584 and was given a patent by James I to engrave the heads of the royal family with the assistance of Simon de Passe (c. 1596-1647) (Granger 1824, 4.363). The gold medallion represented here in Vetusta Monumenta is cast and chased, illustrative of Hilliard’s aptitude at design, engraving, and finishing; its depiction of Elizabeth I’s eyes in particular link the medallion to the Phoenix portrait of Elizabeth I (c. 1575) (“The Phoenix and the Pelican: Two Portraits of Elizabeth I, c. 1575”).
The Society’s minutes as well as the plate identify the object as belonging to Henry Hoare. How Hoare, the famed banker and owner of Stourhead, acquired the medal is unknown, as is whether or not the medal was kept at Stourhead or at Fleet Street, where the Hoare family conducted its business (Jervis and Dodd 2015, 217). As Jervis and Dodd note, early descriptions from Stourhead’s visitors, including Walpole, never mention the medal. The medal makes its first conspicuous appearance in the 1784 Catalogue of Stourhead, a document prepared by Henry Hoare II (1705–1785) for his heir. There, it is described as being attached to Stourhead's famous Sixtus Cabinet, the “principal ornament” at Stourhead: a cabinet designed for Pope Sixtus V, and purchased by Henry Hoare II on a grand tour in 1740. The cabinet is a lavish miniature model of a sixteenth-century church, featuring three tiers, wax models, paste jewels, enameling, and numerous secret drawers. In 1787 Count Carlo Gastone della Torre de Rezzonico (1742-1796) described the medal as affixed to the bottom of the third story of the cabinet and encased in a special frame (Jervis and Dodd 2015, 216). In both the 1784 Catalogue and a report from 1800, an enameled ornament depicting Saint George and the Dragon is recorded alongside the medal, suggesting it may have been attached to one of its three bottom loops.
Jervis and Dodd speculate that the medal here engraved is, in fact, a unique specimen of the three-quarter Armada Medal—notable for featuring an enamel coat of coloring on top of the gold like the St. George and the Dragon ornament. They argue that its prominence of place on the Sixtus Cabinet illustrated the renewed timeliness of the history invoked by the Spanish Armada in the wake of sightings of French and Spanish fleets off the coast of Plymouth in 1779 and the publication of an anonymous poem, The Spanish Invasion (1780). In short, the medal paired with George and the Dragon, and then attached to the cabinet, exemplified not only a confluence of brightly-colored, contemporaneous objects produced in the last decades of the sixteenth century but also a timely expression of eighteenth-century patriotism and secularism. Here in Plate 1.20, though, the medal appears to be included among these other specimens because it shares in the history of Hilliard’s development as an artist, because it is one of the first and most remarkable and rarest of its kind, and because its inscription illustrates the compromises the Stuarts also made with the clergy in settling their authority to rule. The last known mention of Hoare’s Armada Medal occurs in 1884 when Augusta, Lady Hoare notes in her diary that “Mr. Benjamin came to take away...the Spanish Armada Medal;” its current location is unknown (Jervis and Dodd 2015, 218n31).
4. The Phoenix Jewel (c. 1570-1580) with the Motto from Medal of Elizabeth I (1574): Hilliard is also thought to have designed this object: a small, ornate gold pendant featuring a cutout profile of Queen Elizabeth I surrounded by enameled red and white Tudor roses. On its obverse a phoenix rises from the flames, arching towards Elizabeth I’s monogram. A crown under the rays of the sun floats above Elizabeth I’s initials. Today, this object is known as the Phoenix Jewel (c. 1570-1580), although it is occasionally described as a “badge.” As the plate indicates, the jewel was in Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) inimitable collection at the time of its engraving. Sloane’s manuscript catalogue listed it as one of the “Miscellanies” in his collection (Paul 2012, 51). The minute book for the SAL reports that on 27 April 1726 Dr. Scheuchtzer brought the jewel, described as a “very fine profile…in gold adorn’d with enamell’d work curiously done,” to the Society’s attention; they decided immediately to have it engraved on the plate alongside the Armada medal (SAL Minutes I.190). The jewel was a part of the original collection that formed the British Museum in 1753 after Sloane’s death; it is still in the Museum’s collection today.
The Phoenix Jewel’s depiction on the reverse of a phoenix rising from the flames links it to three other important objects associated with Hilliard: a miniature portrait by Hilliard from 1572 of the queen in three-quarters profile, the c. 1575 portrait of Elizabeth I, known as the Phoenix portrait because it prominently features a jeweled phoenix hanging from the Queen’s neck (discussed above), and a silver medal engraved around 1574. These objects illustrate Elizabeth I’s affinity for the emblem of the phoenix (Strong 1987, 82-83). The SAL was likely interested in the jewel as a specimen of Hilliard’s style and, therefore, as a piece of their larger and ongoing history of British portraiture. The jewel is notably a singular specimen.
This portion of the engraving also illustrates the broad network of influence revealed by the history of a numismatic design, and hence the scholarly rewards that a history of British coinage might bring. In her History of Jewelry, 1100-1870, Joan Evans claims that the portrait design for the Phoenix jewel was “cut from the Phoenix medal,” although she does not explain how to align the three-quarter with the profile variants in the two designs (1970, 120). Evans’s claim does, however, explain an unusual feature of the engraving here on Plate 1.20. The obverse and reverse of the Phoenix jewel frame engravings of a motto. The motto is not taken from the jewel itself, but instead appears to be taken from the silver Phoenix medal of 1574: a medal comparable in size to the jewel (around 1.5 inches). The medal, which was described by Evelyn in his Numismata (1697) and then later by Pinkerton (1790, Plate VII) and Perry (1762, Plate V), was also in the possession of Sloane until 1753, when it went to the British Museum. On 19 May 1725, the SAL minutes note that Lord Hertford brought in a “fine high raisd q. Eliz: hoi mihi qd tantu virtus perfuse decore. Non habet eternos inviolate dies” from Sloane’s collection (SAL Minutes I.161).5 A marginal note added later, likely by Gough, confirms that this was “Engraved by the Society by Sir H. Sloane.” This is the motto that appears in between the obverse and reverse of the Phoenix Jewel here on Plate 1.20.
5. Struck Gold Medal of James I, Commemorating the Peace with Spain (1604): The final object on Plate 1.20, like the two above it, was in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane. It was presented to the SAL on 12 April 1727—after they had seen and engraved the two objects related to Queen Elizabeth I (SAL Minutes I.207) that were also from Sloane’s collection. It is another specimen of Hilliard's design, whose work continued to be commissioned after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. The British Museum currently has three versions of this medal, one each in bronze, silver, and gold; both the bronze and the gold version of the medal feature loops so that they may be worn as pendants. It isn’t clear whether or not the medal engraved for the SAL was gold, although gold specimens of the medal are the most rare. Currently, twelve examples of the gold medal are known to exist, some with varying degrees of ornament around their borders. Neither the gold nor the bronze specimens in the Museum today, however, can be traced to Sloane’s collection; Hawkins reports that the silver medal he encountered—likely the same one in the British museum today—featured a slightly altered motto than the one here depicted, indicating that the silver medals were secondary issues, struck after the gold medals (Hawkins 1885, 1.194). Consequently, the current location of Sloane’s specific copy of the medal depicted here in Vetusta Monumenta is somewhat in doubt; although Perry’s description of the medal in 1762 records that the medal he describes was then in the British Museum, today the Museum identifies the provenance of their specific specimen as having originated in the collection of the first Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805).
The medal was definitively attributed to Hilliard in 1993 (Barclay and Syson 1993). Walpole reports that Vertue’s manuscript notes attributed the medal not to Hilliard but to James I’s royal engraver, Charles Anthony, about whom—Walpole laments—he can find no information (1762, 2.131). Although a medal attributed to Anthony appears on Plate 1.55, it may be that Vertue suspected that the coin was Hilliard’s design, given the other objects attributable to him on the plate, the resemblance the medal bears to his portraits of James I, and also the fact that Anthony and Hilliard worked together until Hilliard’s death in 1619. The SAL, as Walpole indicates, likely also knew that Hilliard had been granted a patent giving him a monopoly on miniature royal portraits for twelve years in 1617. Walpole reports that this “was of great emolument to him, as about that time he engraved many small plates and sold licenses for others, with the heads of the king and royal family, which were then and are still used for counters” (1762, 1.152). In 1790, Pinkerton reported that the medal was “supposed to be done by Hillyard [sic]” (33).
At the same time, however, the SAL may have been intrigued not only by the medal’s artistry and rarity, but also by the inscription around its border denoting James I as the king of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, using the same phrasing as the inscription on the 1574 Phoenix medal of Queen Elizabeth I. As Hawkins explains, the medal commemorating the Peace with Spain in 1604 would quickly replace “England and Scotland” with “Great Britain” after 20 October 1604. The links between the inscriptions on the Phoenix medal of 1574 and the medal commemorating the 1604 Peace with Spain would place these two objects in a dialogue similar in structure to that between the silver crown of Henry VIII and the coronation medal of Edward VI. The invocation of England’s fraught history with Spain connects this last object to the Armada medal as well (see also Perry 1762, Plate VII).
: A small hole drilled into the right side, still visible in facsimiles of the coin that Willis exhibited to the SAL for this engraving and then later donated to Oxford, suggests that the crown was also used as a medal. Loveday describes the coin as “The Henry VIII Medal or Pattern Crown.” (1904, 140).
: See, especially, Sweet 2004 (14, 92, 212-213) and Evans 1956 (71-72, 95-96) for a summary of the Society’s most controversial debates about specific coins, see Manville 1990.
: Nichols mistakenly identifies these plates as Plate 1.40.
: The medal was likely procured by Henry Hoare (1677-1725) rather than his son, also named Henry Hoare (1705-1785). As Jervis and Dodd note, the younger Henry Hoare was nineteen when his father died, soon after the medal was exhibited to the SAL, and was “at that age more interested in hunting than the arts” (2015, 217). Henry Hoare II would go on, however, to display the medal prominently at Stourhead.
: Stukeley, writing hastily, appears to have made errors in the Latin.
Alexander, David. 2008. “George Vertue as Engraver.” The Volume of the Walpole Society 70: 207-517.
Barclay, Clay and Luke Syson. 1993. “A Medal Die Rediscovered, a New Work by Nicholas Hilliard.” The Medal 22: 3-11.
Blackburne, Francis. 1780. Memoirs of Thomas Hollis. 2 vols. London: John Nichols.
Blurton, T. Richard. 1997. The Enduring Image: Treasures from the British Museum. London: British Council.
Evans, Joan. 1970. A History of Jewelry, 1100-1870 (1953), 2nd edition. London: Dover.
------. 1956. A History of the Society of Antiquaries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Evelyn, John. 1697. Numismata. London: Benj. Tooke.
Folkes, Martin. 1745. Table of English Silver Coins. London: The Society of Antiquaries.
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