Transcription and Translation1.
Sigillum Aureum e Collectione Nobillisim[i] D.ni D.ni / Eduardi Comitis Oxon & Comitis Mortimer.
Golden Seal from the Collection of the Most Noble Lord / Edward, Earl of Oxford and the Earl of Mortimer.
Obv. EADMVNDVS : DEI : GRACIA : SICILIE : RE[X]
Edmund King of Sicily by the Grace of God
Rev. EADMVNDVS : NATUS . REGIS : ANGLIE : ILLVSTRIS :
Edmund, son of the illustrious King of England
Royal or Pavillon.
in Museo Brian Fairfax, Arm:
From the collection of Brian Fairfax, Esquire.
Obv. ED : PO : GNS : REG : ANGL : PNPS : AQVI.
Edward First Born Son of the King of England Prince of Aquitaine
Rev. DNS : AIVTO :: PTECIO : ME : IIPO : SPAVIT : COR : MEVM : B
“Dominus adjutor et protector meus et in ipso speravit cor meum”
“The Lord is my strength and my shield, and my heart hath trusted in Him” (Ps. 28.7)
B. for Bordeaux
in Museo Tho: Granger, Gen:
In the collection of Thomas Granger, Gentleman.
Obv. ED * PO * GNS * REGIS * ANGLIE * PNS * AQITANIE
Edward First Born Son of the King of England Prince of Aquitaine
Rev. DEVS IVDEX * IVSTVS * FORTIS * & * PACIENS * B
“Deus judex justus, fortis et patiens”
“God is a righteous Judge, strong and patient” (Ps. 7.11)
B. for Bordeaux
Penes Jacobum West, Arm:
From the collection of James West, Esquire.
Obv. HENRICVS : DEI : GRA : FRACORV : & : AGLIE : REX
Henry King of France and England by the Grace of God
AVE [MARIA] (written upwards on scroll)
Rev. XPC * VINCIT * XPC * REGNAT * XPC * IMPERAT
Christus Vincit Christus Regnat Christus Imperat
“Christ Conquers. Christ Reigns. Christ Commands” (ritual acclamation of French Kings)
Angelot in Museo Com.t Pembrokiae.
In the collection of the Earl of Pembroke
Obv. HENRICVS : FRANCORV : ET : ANGLIE : REX
Henry King of France and England by the Grace of God
Rev. XPC : VINCIT : XPC : REGNAT : XPC :IMPERAT
Christus Vincit Christus Regnat Christus Imperat
“Christ Conquers. Christ Reigns. Christ Commands”
Hen. VII. Rose Noble.
Penes Jacob: West, Arm.
From the collection of James West, Esquire
Obv. HENRIC * DI * GRA* REX * ANGLI * FRANC * DNS * IBAR
Henry King of England, France and Ireland by the Grace of God
Rev. IHC * AVTEM * TRANSIENS PER MEDIV * ILLORV’[M] IBAT
“Jesus autem transiens per medium illorum ibat”
“Jesus passing through their midst went his way” (Luke 4:30)
Mintmark: cross fitchée
MANI TECHEL PHARES. 1494
in Museis Comitis Pembrokiae H:Bar: de Colerane et Johan Evelyn Bar.ti
In the collections of the Earl of Pembroke, Henry, Lord Coleraine, and John Evelyn, Baronet.
Obv. DOMINE * SALVVM * FAC REGEM
“Lord, Save the King”
Rev. MANI TECHEL PHARES. 1494
“Mene Tekel Peres” (Book of Daniel, 5:25-28)
8. Tournay Groat.
Penes Jacobum West, Arm:
From the collection of James West, Esquire
Obv. HENRIC’ x DI’ x GRA’ x REX x FRANC x & x AGLI x
Henry King of France and England by the Grace of God
Rev. CIVITAS : : TORNACEN[SIS]
City of Tournai
Mintmark: a crowned
A Golden Seal formerly appendant to a Bull of Pope Alexander 4th. confirming the Kingdom of Sicily & Apulia to Edmund Earl of Lancaster 2d. Son of Henry 3d. K. of England & c.
The Royal of Gold struck at Bourdeaux in Aquitaine, by Edward the Black Prince.
The Chaise of Gold of Edwd. The Black Prince, struck at Bourdeaux.
The Salvte of Gold struck at Paris by H.6. King of England & c.
The Angelot of Gold struck at Paris by H.6 King of England.
The Rose Noble of Gold by Henry VII. struck in France.
Mani Techel Phares. Silver Coin, struck in Flanders, said to be by Order of the Dutchess of Burgundy for the Use of Perkin Warbeck. Temp.H.VII. [in the time of Henry VII]
The Tournay Groat of Heny. VIII struck there on his taking that City.
Sumptibus Societatis Antiquariae Lond.
(Published at the expense of the Society of Antiquaries of London)
Engraved by George Vertue at the behest of Lord Oxford in 1733 and reissued by the Society of Antiquaries in 1734 (Alexander 2008, 336). The plate forms a series along with Plates 37, 38 and 56.
ObjectsThis print shows eight coins struck in France and Flanders by English princes (and a pretender) from the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries.
- Golden Seal of Edmund, King of Sicily (c. 1254-1261), from the collection of Edward, Earl of Oxford and Earl of Mortimer; only one example of these bullae survives and is currently at the British Museum (Museum number: OA.3017).
- Gold Royal or Pavillon of Edward the Black Prince (c. 1364), from the collection of Brian Fairfax.
- Gold Chaise of Edward the Black Prince (c. 1363), from the collection of Thomas Granger, Gentleman.
- Gold Salute of Henry VI, King of England (c. 1423), from the collection of James West, Esquire.
- Gold Angelot of Henry VI, King of England (c. 1427), from the collection of the Earl of Pembroke.
- Gold Ryal or Rose Noble of Henry VII, King of England (c. 1485-1489), from the collection of James West, Esquire.
- Silver Jeton of Perkin Warbeck, Pretender (c. 1494), from the collections of the Earl of Pembroke, Henry Lord Coleraine, and John Evelyn.
- Tournay Groat of Henry VIII, King of England (c. 1514), from the collection of James West, Esquire.
Commentary by Joshua D. GonsalvesThis plate depicts a golden bulla, or papal seal, issued in the reign of Henry III (1216-1272), for the benefit of his son Edmund (aka Edmund Crouchback; 1245-1296), and seven coins, ranging from the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) to that of Henry VIII (1509-1547). It is part and parcel of efforts by the Society of Antiquaries to document the history of British coinage, or, more expansively, to visually represent the history of Britain through coins, medals and seals (cf. Camden, “Money,” 1870, 191-208). If the plate partakes in what we might call a ‘great man’ historiography, as expressed via the territorial vicissitudes of kingship, it also records this diplomatic-military history in more than narrational, chronological or rigidly textual terms. There is, in other words, no clear indication as to how exactly we are to read the seven objects once we move beyond and below the obviously primary Golden Seal at the top, head or capital of this plate.
The placement of the Golden Seal at the top is historically appropriate since Edward made both the initial and the largest historical contribution to English and Anglo-Gallic coinage: “Edward III’s reign is notable for the introduction of a gold coinage and a new silver coin, the gros or groat, but probably. . . his introduction of both the gold coinage and the silver gros for his French possessions preceded by some years the introduction of a gold coinage and the silver into England” (Hewlett 1906, 269). It is already evident that priorities are all mixed up in so far as Edward’s key influence on English coinage began across the seas in the lands that England would strive and yet fail to dominate over the course of the Hundred Years’ War. How, then, to parse this mélange? Left to right is the most evident pattern in play aside from the slightly less appealing movement of the eye down the double-coin-sided column on the left side-—and then up to the top of the right column and then down again—, yet the placement of object 7, the Rose Noble, disrupts, as we will see, this pattern, resulting in interpretative problems. Where would the Rose Noble be positioned, for instance, if the reader was to read each column from top-to-bottom?
This hermeneutic indecision is not helped by a wholly local bias—to wit, Catholicism. The engraver George Vertue was, after all, a Catholic, alongside Talman, the first director of the Society of Antiquaries, as is stressed by the sympathies and antipathies provoked by their religious adherence. If this is a relevant context then objects 2 through 8 could suggest a clichéd falling away from an Edenic papal belonging of England to Jerusalem, Rome, and the apostolic tradition (see Howe, 2004), an appurtenance that the final King depicted on the plate would violently rupture, setting the stage for the persecutions and exclusions that targeted, by definition, Catholics like Vertue, Talman and Alexander Pope (who would have heard, for instance, a screaming effigy of the Pope stuffed with stray cats being burned alive as a child). On the other hand, the prominence of the papal seal may be no more than a way of recognizing, flattering or appeasing Harley, whose father Robert was a patron of two of the founding members of the Society of Antiquaries: Bagford and Wanley.
The title of the plate, “Coins struck in France and Flanders / relating to the History of England,” counter-indicates that such interpretations might not be the way to go, since it announces that the focus of the plate will not be on an intimate history of England, as in other plates in the Vetusta Monumenta, but on the kingship’s fraught relations with the continent, the Crusades, the Papacy, and France, as well as with the continental territories claimed by English kings: Calais, Aquitaine, Sicily, and so on. The field of scholarly inquiry that governs the choice of these particular numismatic specimens is determined both by their “rar[ity]|” (Snelling 1776, 9), as well as by the story that they tell about political and geopolitical (national and international, roughly speaking) developments in British history. Overall, the plate concerns English attempts to extend rule over France and Flanders, and the continent more generally, even though the plate chooses to bypass Calais, the continental site where English rule extended from 1347 (surrendered in 1360 to Edward III by the Treaties of Brétigny-Calais along with Aquitaine on condition that he renounce the throne of France and content himself with the sovereign title “Lord of Aquitaine” or “Dominus Aquitanie,” as opposed to the pre-1360 title of “Duke of Aquitaine,” or “Dux Aquitanie”) to its loss in 1558 under Mary I (1553-1558): “the popular tale, retailed by Foxe, that she declared Calais to be written on her heart, has an authentic sound to it” (Loades 1989, 300). Raphael Holinshed quotes Mary as saying, “when I am dead and o|pened, you shall find ‘Calis’ [sic] lieng [lying] in my heart”; 1587, 6.1160). The objects on this plate both memorialize, in short, the geopolitical power they anticipate and, at times, actually extend, as well as indicating how the historical dissemination of these coins literally articulated the assertion and consolidation of territorial possession. It is also worth noting that Calais had parliamentary representation in London, as opposed to lands granted under the aegis of the French King (i.e., feudal territories), or nominally French lands held either de facto (Henry V) or de jure or both (Henry VI) by an English King (i.e., regal territories). Since the seaside position of Calais ensured it could always be provisioned perennially and thereby serve as a logistical base for subsequent continental operations, the traumatic loss it anticipates would be repeated vis-à-vis America and then India—that is, the Indies as a compensation for a lost settler colony.
The Golden Seal visually presides, as already indicated, over the other objects on this plate. The reign in which it emerged was marked by kingly struggles with the barons to reassert a sovereignty that the enforcement of the Magna Carta on King John had eroded in favor of the great lords; i.e., the first and second Baronial Wars (1215-1217; 1264-1267). Henry III wanted to go on crusade for both personal and political reasons—to wit, he was both pious (simple-minded is a less generous designation) and wanted to reinflate the power of the kingship by displaying it on a wider geopolitical and theological map. Pope Alexander IV, in the meantime, wanted to reassert his power against the Hohenstaufen claim to Sicily. In 1250, the Holy Roman emperor Frederick II “died, leaving only his sons Conrad IV and Manfred to defend Hohenstaufen claims in Italy and Germany. Although the curia initially entered into negotiations with Conrad, by 1252 it began to look for a papal champion willing to put the Hohenstaufen’s deposition into action, and to conquer Sicily on behalf of the Holy See” (Weiler 2001, 129). Alexander IV also “gave permission that the funds collected for Henry III’s crusade, proclaimed in 1250, be used for Sicily instead,” hence the issuing of the papal bull that granted Henry’s second son, Edmund, rule over the Kingdom of Sicily and Apulia (131). While some argue for a specific date (Church 2017; Carpenter 1987), the seal, a literal apparatus of Edmund’s never actualized authority, is usually more generously dated 1254-1261. Recent reinterpretations have stressed that Henry III wasn’t the simpleton he was long thought to be, but simply couldn’t accept that absolute kingship, widely conceived, was already on its way out in England (see Church 2017 and Weiler 2001).
Henry met pecuniary resistance from the barons and was not able to fund the military forces that would have allowed his son Edmund to seize Sicily. The bull therefore cannot help but record the gradual undoing of kingly authority thanks to Henry III’s dependence on the City and the Lords for monies. Edmund Crouchback was known as “crossed-backed” in reference to his involvement in the Ninth Crusade (Lloyd 2004), and the dominant position of the bull on this plate duly foregrounds England’s far-flung involvement both on the Continent and in the Middle East, even as reading the remaining objects left-to-right complicates, as we will literally see, this apparent emphasis on royal sovereignty as the alpha and omega of political and geopolitical power. There can be no doubt, in contrast, where the series ends—namely, on Henry VIII in anticipation of his decided break with the Papacy and the monetary autonomy that this act granted him. This retroactive endpoint is not visible on the plate as such, yet its spectral presence implicitly stresses how Henry III, unlike the later Henry, attempted to use the papacy to bolster his fading authority. So too, the retrospective optic that the plate relies on to signify anticipates, as far as eighteenth-century audiences were concerned, an on-going turn to the Americas, and, after their loss in the late eighteenth century, towards the East in the eyes of later readers. The seven coins emphasize, in contrast to later geopolitical developments, a gain of power on the continent in the shadow of its imminent loss.
The first two coins, a Gold Royal or Pavillon and a Gold Chaise (c.1363-64), were both meant to authorize Edward the Black Prince (1330-1376) in relation to his paternally-granted right to rule Aquitaine as a feudal territory or sovereign principality, as opposed to Calais, which was cleared of locals, replaced by Englishmen possessing rights in Parliament and held as a sovereign territory until the mid-sixteenth century: “In 1362 Edward raised the province of Aquitaine into a Principality, and appointed his son, Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Aquitaine. He gave him also the right to strike money for the Principality in his own name” (Hewlett 1906, 269). In other words, unlike the papal seal, this coin as well as the ones that follow it—excluding the Pretender Perkin Warbeck’s ceremonial jeton, were meant to circulate: to disseminate authority throughout the interstices of the social body. Recent scholarship stresses that Edward held, according to the treaties of 1360, “a much enlarged Aquitaine, to be held in sovereignty” and “‘perpetual liberty,” whereas the “feudal interpretation” was a retroactive imposition following the English defeats and the deaths of the Black Prince and his father in 1376 and 1377, respectively (Allman 1988, 96, 112-3). It is noteworthy that the left-to-right placing of Edward’s coins actually reverses their historical order, placing the later coin first and anticipating the narrative contingency to come—that is to say, an interpretative situation in which narrational-chronological-textual order is contradicted and problematized by visual patterns.
I will return to this disruption in the commentaries below. For now, it can be noted that this literally preposterous ordering of these two coins bodes ill for the trope of proper succession that lies at the basis of royal claims, counter-claims and pretenses to sovereign legitimacy. As a supplement to this point, it is also worth noting that the frame which should be as regular as possible to prevent such slippages of signification lacks, in the top right angle, the nailed down decorative element that graces the other three corners of the cartouche. I have no explanation for this apparently random contingency, yet I would add that the band decorated with an AR (Anglie Rex) that binds the two-sided depictions of coins on this plate maybe another way to preempt contingency in advance. It is, in other words, impossible to truly re-present both sides of a single coin on a flat surface, an impossibility that is falsely solved by kingly fiat. Other impossibilities will not, of course, find themselves so easily amenable to visual resolutions of this kind.
The next two coins are not feudal but regal or sovereign, a Gold Salute and a Gold Angelot marking the rule of Henry VI, both as King of England (1422-1460; 1470-71), and thanks to his conquistador father Henry V (1413-1422), as the disputed (or merely de facto) King of France (1422-1453). The next coin, a Rose Noble or Ryal, jumps ahead to the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). If the plate’s textual-visual logic wants to leave geopolitical contentiousness behind, geopolitical conflict is exactly what the next coin signifies in defiance of claims that a proper order of succession has been maintained—that is, the invasion of a pretender funded from across the seas, Perkin Warbeck. This coin, probably minted with the connivance of Margaret of Burgundy, a supporter of Warbeck, reemphasizes the highly contested status of kingship in this period, undercutting its universal, papal or continental basis in favor of more localized struggles—namely, Warbeck’s efforts to gain ground via the support of Scottish, Irish and English lords, some of whom would end up as dead as the Pretender.
The violent contingency marked by the Warbeck jeton stresses the close interrelationship between coinage and kingly authority, a historical tension already there in the first object due to Henry III’s perpetual problems with clipped or adulterated coinage. This tension is underlined on the Warbeck coin (more accurately defined as a medal) by a motto from the Book of Daniel, a warning to the neo-Babylonian King Belshazzer (died circa 539 BCE) expressed in Aramaic in metaphoric reference to coinage (see further below). Historical tensions are also visually re-marked by the decision to place Henry VII’s coin in the lower middle of the plate in-between two highly orderly columns of three horizontally-doubled objects each. The Rose Noble is, in contrast, vertically doubled. Symmetry is ruptured. Do we read Henry VII’s eye-catching coin after Henry VI’s angelot or after the Pretender’s jeton (1494)? Royal bands are, in either case, unbound. Who comes first, and which coin is false, which one true? I will return to this interpretative hiccup below.
The undeniably final coin in the series was minted at Tournai after Henry VIII seized the town in 1513 in collaboration with the Holy Roman emperor, Maximillian I, in what is known as either the Battle of the Spurs or the Battle of Guinegate. Papal authority no longer underwrites continental possession à la Henry III, but is actualized by a king who was soon to unilaterally wrest control of the Church and its revenue-producing lands from the Pope in adherence to the old saw: “The sinews of war [are] infinite money” (nervos belli, pecuniam infinitam; Cicero, Fifth Philippic).
There is, however, no attempt on the plate’s part to make what at this point would be a historically logical leap to the loss of Calais. The sensible objection that Calais is a sovereign territory at this point in history holds little water since Aquitaine was also on its way to being a sovereign territory until it too was lost. This loss is literally not allowed, like Henry V’s great victory, to enter the hybrid textual-visual logic of the plate. The objection that Henry V’s coins were hard to find or authenticate in the early eighteenth century is more thought-provoking, since such detective work was, after all, the raison d’être of the Society of Antiquaries, thereby stressing its powerlessness to recover the history of Britain by visually re-presenting bits of matter ground down by time. This double loss is, in any case, undeniable by the time that this plate is being inserted into the Vetusta Monumenta. It nevertheless passes through their midst as it wends its way.
Interpretation is, as a result, left hanging by the disturbances to both narrative order and left-to-right legibility that this plate insists on undermining. A possible motivation for this decision might be that an undue focus on Henry V’s unsurpassable victory would have magnified loss into an unmanageable abyss. If this reading of the dark backward and abysm of historical time seems too speculative, nay melodramatic, recall that this plate (43) forms a series with plates 37, 38 and 56. The former two plates are dry-as-dust lists in keeping with the gestural objectivity that was being consolidated as a consensus in the eighteenth century (see Poovey), while the image-rich plate 56 cannot help but reengage the unworkable tension between textual-narrative order and visual patterns that this plate repeatedly reactivates. The 13 (!) objects on plate 56 re-represent a selection of the kings and coins alluded to and represented by this plate (43) yet in a decidedly more lop-sided way (i.e., the wayward placement of object 6, the Angel of Henry VI, on plate 56, as well as the over-assertive centrality of object 9 on the same plate). Plate 56 reminds us of the difficulties in extracting an overall logic for either plate. The indeterminacies of each adulterate the other, suggesting neither a typological nor a comprehensive approach (i.e., an intention to exhibit one of every type of coin minted on the continent). Both plates retroactively anticipate that the attempt of the Society of Antiquaries to visually represent the history of Britain via the documentary detour of coins, medals, jetons and seals may be no more than a fool’s errand: Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie.
1. Golden Seal:Edmund was offered the throne of Sicily on March 6, 1254. The “household accounts show,” according to David Carpenter,
that sometime between January 1255 and April 1256 two marks of gold were used ad facienď bull' ad opus Eadmundi filii regis. Referred to here were the gold bullae or seals with which Edmund was to authenticate documents as king of Sicily. The papal letter of May 1254 ordered Edmund’s seal to be made ‘immediately’ […] but difficulties followed over the latter’s candidature and there is nothing surprising in the bulla not being made until Henry III’s return to England at the end of 1254” (Carpenter 1987, 110).
The failure of Henry III’s expansionist project was compounded on the king’s return from France in 1260 when he put down baronial resistance through military might even as the fate of his own seal registered the decline of kingly sovereignty. Indeed, “the silver matrix for Henry III’s old seal, which had proclaimed him to be ‘By the Grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou’, was [subsequently] broken into pieces and given to Robert Walerand to be distributed to the mendicant poor,” signifying a concurrent loss of power both at home and on the continent (Church 2017, 110).
Returning to the seal itself, on the obverse we see Edmund seated on a simple throne holding a scepter and an orb, symbols of secular and spiritual authority (see commentary on objects 2 and 3 in regard to the standing/sitting distinction as well as in regard to the more elaborate throne in evidence on these objects). On the reverse we see the arms of England. Edmund’s Golden Seal presides, in sum, over the other objects on the plate even as it marks a failure to achieve political ends in a top-down manner through the detour of another ruler from above, the Pope. The first object on the plate thereby provides a forceful contrast to the final object and its depiction of Henry VIII’s short-lived continental endeavors as an anticipation of his eventual defiance of the papacy in the name of absolutism (strictly defined).
2. Royal or Pavillon:According to Lionel M. Hewlett, a numismatician who wrote a series of articles on Anglo-Gallic coins for The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society in the early twentieth century, there was both a heavy (average weight 85 grains) and a light (average weight 70 grains) issue for this coin, the issues being distinguishable by the heavy one having a cinquefoil in the center of the cross on the reverse while the other has a letter E. The plate represents the heavier issue. “After his return from his tour through the Principality . . . early in 1364,” “the Black Prince probably turned his attention to the coinage, with the result that a new gold coin, the pavilion [sic] or royal, was issued” (Hewlett 1908, 112, 103).
As for the coin itself, on the obverse we see the prince standing and facing us. He is placed beneath an ornate gothic canopy and wears a fillet of roses, a sword in his right hand, two leopards couchant at his feet, and two ostrich feathers—“his device as Prince of Wales” (Green 2001, 84)—at either side. On the reverse, we see a “cross quernée within ornamented quatrefoil with trefoils in spandrils. Leopard [variant: lion] passant in 1st and 4th angles, lis in 2nd and 3rd angles,” and a cinquefoil in the center of a cross (121). The circulation of this coin was, in other words, meant to reinforce the political possession of Aquitaine that the Black Prince literalized by a tour of the territory, an enforcement that was, to say the least, over-emphatic. Green reports that “the prince was said to force his greatest vassals to wait days to see him and then leave them on their knees perhaps for hours” (221).
Aquitaine was conquered in 1362-1367, lost, and then recouped in 1368-71, only to be finally lost in 1453 with the end of the Hundred Years’ war. The relevance of the biblical phrase on the reverse “The Lord is my strength and my shield, and my heart hath trusted in Him” (Ps. 28.8) will be discussed in the next commentary. The inscription on the obverse—“Edward First Born [Primo Genitus] Son of the King of England Prince of Aquitaine”—stresses, in the meantime, both his primogenitive filiation to his Kingly Father and his Princely sovereignty over the Principality of Aquitaine, thereby extending a paternal claim to rule over contested parts of France—Edward III would redeclare himself “King of France” in 1369, jump-starting the war with his French counterpart once more —as well as echoing Edmund’s earlier extension of his father’s claim to Sicily. At this point a left-to-right reading of the plate seems off to a promising start.
3. Chaise:This “écu, or chaise, was probably struck immediately after the arrival of the Black Prince at Bordeaux, in 1363” (Hewlett 1908, 111). It should, chronologically speaking, come before the pavillon it follows if one is reading the history recorded by the plate left to right. On the obverse Edward is seated in a gothic chair of state with four pinnacles rather than standing. He holds a ducal baton, surmounted by a lily (lis), instead of a drawn sword. His hand rests on his knee. On the reverse we have a so-called “[c]ross collarino, floriated, within [an] ornamented quatrefoil with rosettes in spandrils; leopard in 1st and 4th angles, lis in 2nd and 3rd angles,” and a rosette in the center of cross (117). Pinnacles, gothic flourishes, and roses are, in other words, present on both coins, yet the chaise, which predates the Black Prince’s sovereign self-display via a tour of the territory, arguably represents a less aggressive sovereign than the swordsman depicted on the pavillon.
The biblical quotations register this back and forth between hard and soft forms of sovereignty. “God is a righteous Judge, strong and patient” (Ps. 7.12), the inscription on the reverse of the chaise, stresses the ultimate power of God (and thus Father, Judge, King, Il Principe, and other paternal metaphors of power) before whom one must submit, thereby underwriting an upgrade in sovereignty from feudal Duke of Aquitaine to the perpetual Prince of Aquitaine. The line inscribed on the pavillon—“The Lord is my strength and my shield, and my heart hath trusted in Him”—suggests, in contrast, an inner movement on the part of the King and his subjects—“which shows the work of the law written on their hearts” from St. Paul (Romans 2:15) to Pascal, and beyond to the melodramatic cult of inward persuasion vis-à-vis sovereign personalities. As the Sovereign submits to God’s rule in ruling so too must all inwardly submit to his power as an extension both of God’s rule and, in the Black Prince’s case, of his Father-King’s claims to perpetual rule on the outer edges of the isles.
Filiation, patriarchy and submission rule the day on this coin (i.e. via a primogenitive or wholly proper order of succession), even through the image on the chaise makes the prince appear more ‘wild,’ wavy and inconstant—i.e., less sovereign (cf. Henry VII’s solidified sovereign persona on the Rose Noble below) in comparison with his straight-edged appearance in the pavillon as a result of the parallelism drawn on the latter between his sternly angled drawn sword and his upright body. This parallelism enables raw power and mere being to reinforce each other on the pavillon, thereby enforcing submission to the Father as on the chaise, yet under the soft carapace of a heartfelt union between the Sovereign and his Subjects. Perhaps a need to stress this mutually reinforcing back-and-forth between hard and soft, externally-imposed and internally-coerced power, explains what is otherwise an anomaly in this plate—excepting, of course, the unusually placed Rose Noble—namely, a deviation from a left-to-right chronological order: i.e., the order should be 1363-1364, and not 1364-1363.
4. Salute:“On February 6, 1423, the gold salute was ordered to be struck,” but details suggest that this specimen is the result of the ordinance of September 6, 1423 (Hewlett 1912, 364). Both the legend and the type are similar to the salute of Henry V, retroactively stressing, once more, that the all-too-victorious King must be kept off-scene. In any case, on the obverse we see the Virgin Mary on the left, her head surrounded by a nimbus, and the Angel Gabriel on the right. AVE [MARIA] is written upwards on a scroll between them, which is surmounted by the sun’s rays. The two figures are symmetrically placed above two shields positioned side by side. The left bears the arms of France and the right, the arms of France and England quarterly. It was probably struck when Pierre de Landes was still master of the Paris mint, since on “December 14, 1423, Arnoullet Rame was appointed master of the mint, and on the 17th of the same month he was ordered to place an M” in the place of the squiggly M in the IMPERAT (see Hewlett 1912, 383). On this coin, in contrast, the “M” is not yet in evidence.
On the reverse we see stops, a “star of five points” and a long cross, as well as, below, a “fleur-de-lis” to the left, and a “leopard passant” to the right: “The whole within a tressure of ten arches with fleurs-de-lis” (384), a symbol solidly associated with both the French crown and the Virgin Mary since Charlemagne, as well as with the English branch of the House of Plantagenet (1154), and with the English throne up until the time of the early Tudors. Theological figures are evidently being used on the obverse to uphold a landgrab for French territories, as is marked by the enforced mix of English and French signifiers, and as is reinforced by the centered, strongly-lined and well-defined cross that dominates the reverse. It is as if theology is able to unite, in a quarterly manner and in theory, what is not yet unified in practice: the French “fleur-de-lis” and an English “leopard passant” (or lion or lyon passant). Parenthetically, it may interest readers who recall post-structuralism that “mint-marks,” which included variant crosses, cats, and so on, were known at the time in French as “differances” (with an “a”; Hewlett 1912, 375).
5. Angelot:This angelot was probably struck in Paris on 24 May 1427 (see Hewlett 1912, 394). On the obverse we see an angel with outspread wings. He is standing and facing the viewer, holding two shields bearing the arms of France and of France and England quarterly within a beaded inner circle; i.e., in the same set-up as on the salute. On the obverse of the salute France and England are gendered—that is, the “Virgin Mary = France” equation is combined with an Angel as a pun-enriched (Anglo) incarnation of a hybrid equation—“England = St. George-Archangel Michael”—, both of whom are said to have killed “the great dragon”: “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelations 12:9). The crosses on the reverse of both the salute and the angelot also strive to defeat Satan by seeking to prevent the possibility of these equations falling to pieces, as well as by attempting to inoculate the salute’s heresy of coupling the Virgin and an Angel in order to make an ideological point. This reading is supported by objects 6 and 9 on plate 56, the Angel of Henry VI and the George Noble of Henry VIII, which show the Archangel Michael killing the dragon and St. George doing the same, respectively. Indeed, on the obverse of the angelot on plate 43 this all-exterminating, hybridized Angel presides over doubly signifying shields. What else can this signify except a coded or implicit gendering of the ideological opposition between a male England and a female France that the salute explicitly renders. So too, the cross on the reverse of the angelot dominates the lis and leopard symbols, which the cross on the reverse of the salute also aggressively unites by appealing to a quarterly configuration.
Since an angelot is worth two-thirds of a salute, it is possible that the clarity of the ideological message on the former is literally worth its weight in gold—i.e., the coupling of a dominant male and a submissive or virgin female as a unified sign expressing territorial domination. If the angelot effaces the dangerous if not heretical association of the Virgin with conquered French lands visible on the salute, it also gains in communicative clarity as the eye moves left-to-right from the latter to the former. It is as if the less valuable angelot is more truly an angelic, anagogic or alchemical promise of geopolitical unification—a humble figuration literally signifying a sublimation of meaning into truth. These are gold coins, after all, the metallic aim of alchemy. Angels were also said to be androgynous, thereby enabling the angelot to leave behind the unstable gendering of power concretized by the salute in order to rest assured with a reassuring equation: Angleterre = Angelot = (gender- or language-transcending) Angel; or, England = Coin = Transcendental Signified, to invoke Derrida’s term for the unity of signifier and signified (Derrida 1976, 20). Differance is defeated! The slight bump in the passage from left to right (or from the sinister, and therefore, traditionally speaking, less righteous side to its ortho-dox double) effected by the middle-placed coin of Henry VII troubles, in the meantime, this desire to transcend signification. “Truths are illusions about which it has been forgotten than they are illusions,” as Nietzsche writes in “On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense,” “worn-out metaphors without sensory impact, coins which have lost their image and now can be used only as metal and no longer as coins” (Nietzsche 1989, 250).
This troubling bump in the royal road to geo/political truth is augmented on the coin by yet another anomaly. The merely “metal” or less valuable (silver) coin of the pretender insists, as we will soon see, on rupturing the left-to-right reading pattern that problematically upholds the rightful claims of English kings to continental possessions. Both the angelot and the salute are, in the meanwhile, inscribed with the ritual acclamation of French Kings: Christus Vincit Christus Regnat Christus Imperat (“Christ Conquers. Christ Reigns. Christ Commands”), a phrase that was also the “war-cry of the army of the first Crusade, under Philip I of France” (Hewlett 1906, 283). The appropriation of this war-cry underscores the English drive to territorially supplant the French both in Europe and in the Holy Lands, to both be and dominate their double on the other side of a mirroring sea.
6. Rose Noble (aka half-sovereign or ryal; c. 1485-89).Henry VII was both the de facto and de jure King of France and England, as the combination of fleurs-de-lis, regal felines and a sword on the obverse suggest, and as is underlined by his mobile, sea-faring and channel-crossing position on a ship. This vessel sets forth from the harbor of the venerable ship-of-state trope in order to assert Henry VII’s right to dominate this naval figure via coins that circulate between isles and continent. England, as always, is trying to overcome its Greco-Roman-determined degradation as “‘penitus toto divisos orbe,’ wholly divided from all the world,” or outside mare nostrum (Virgil, Eclogues, 1. 66, qtd. in Knapp 1991, 34; cf. Stein 1998). Although he is on an ocean-tossed vessel—as the engraved waviness of the sea emphasizes—the king remains centered, solid and sovereign, as if he is grounded on the earth itself. This expansionist right to rule personalizes a claim to reach across the seas by appealing to the figure of the sovereign—in propria persona—as a historical incarnation of Royal power, since it was in the reign of Henry VII that a “silver testoon or shilling piece was also introduced [circa 1489], perhaps only for a trial period, but notable as being the first English coin to bear a true portrait of the king” (Chrimes 1977, 676). Henry later issued a groat (gros) (1505-09) bearing his portrait, a prefiguration of the final object on this plate, the Tournay Groat of Henry VIII. Chrimes observes that “there had been little change in the design of coins in England since Edward III’s time, and Henry VII’s action in this field has been regarded as a ‘first step in the transition from mediaeval to modern currency’” (676).
This personified claim becomes even stronger on the reverse, where we see three French fleurs-du-lis, a symbol (or Transcendental Signified) first commanded by the French King Charles V in 1376, encased by a magnificently ornate pattern. Although this combination appears to show an English Rose dominating the French lily, lis or lys, and not in a putative unity with it as on Henry VI’s coins, Lawrence states that “[o]nly the French arms are shown on the shield of the reverse” (Lawrence 1918, 233; see Lawrence on the problematic dating of this Rose Noble). In any case, not only is Henry VII personalized on the obverse he is also transcendentalized by a Biblical phrase traditionally associated with travel: “But Jesus passing through their midst went his way” (Luke 4:30).
This polysemous phrase is also associated, as William Camden, one of the founders of the first Society of Antiquaries, notes in his Remains Concerning Britain, with the alchemical transformation of dross into gold, with a charm against battlefield wounds, and with spells against thieves, or, in numismatic terms, against the adulteration of coinage, gold or otherwise, an association first effected by the “rose-noble” of Edward III (see Camden 1870, 205; cf. Selden 1652, 395). The this- and other-worldly majesty of the King is powerfully communicated by the blithe disregard with which his incarnated body—a unification of both his worldly and transcendental authority, according to the theory of sovereignty known as the King’s Two Bodies—passes over and above territorial limitations on his power. This fearsome liquidity was not to last. The step across quickly became a step back as the Continental foothold in France was lost once more. The majesty of sovereignty was then further challenged by an adventurer from across the seas. The sublimely or bathetically named Perkin Warbeck brings criminal contingencies onto the plate that must remain off-scene at all costs: the murder of the princes in the tower by that bad object par excellence: Richard III.
7. Silver Jeton of Perkin Warbeck, Pretender (1494).This medallic coin was issued to support a Pretender to the English Throne, Perkin Warbeck (anglicized version of Pierrechon de Werbecque; born c. 1474 in, so they say, Tournai, and executed 1499 at Tyburn), who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the brother of Edward V, one of the two princes killed, most probably yet not certainly, by Richard III. The coin was likely minted on the continent with the help of Margaret of Burgundy, who, as the aunt of the murdered boys, “made no difficulty about ‘recognizing’ him as her nephew, even though she herself had been out of England for twenty-five years, except for a short visit in 1480, when her real nephew was aged about seven years” (Chrimes 1977, 285). It is, however, “probable that it is a small medal, and not a coin. If a coin it would surely have borne the name as well as the title of the King de jure or de facto, who issued [it]” (Coombe and Hawkins 1826, 38). In other words, the silver jeton was a pledge, promise or prolepsis of rule, issued on credit, as it were, and not the circulatory sign that this rule had been accomplished, in contrast, for instance, to the Black Prince’s territorially-approved pavillon of 1364.
The explicit date on the jeton (1494) corresponds to a date in Warbeck’s war against the throne—to wit, his attempt to seize the circulatory contingency of an English Kingship, or royal ship of state, that was soon to further unmoor itself from both Papal and Continental legitimation. The obverse has been interpreted as an allusion to a supposed seal of Warbeck (see Blunt 1951). Warbeck’s war expresses itself on the reverse by combining the York rose, a single fleur-de-lis for the Duchy of Burgundy and a yet to be achieved crown. This combination is encircled by an inscription of the writing on the wall that the prophet Daniel interpreted for Belshazzar as a warning that his kingdom was about to fall to the Persians: Mani (“God has numbered your kingdom and brought it to an end”) Techel (“you have been weighed in the scales and found wanting”) Phares (“your Kingdom is now divided…”; Book of Daniel, 5:25-28). The Aramaic literally refers to weights and measures, or to being numbered, weighed and divided in a manner akin both to coinage and to what coins represent by proxy (DiTommaso 2005, 46), yet the inscription on the obverse—“Lord, Save the King”—is a notoriously doubled signifier in this context, since the Lord could be invoked to save either King from geopolitical perdition. God is, as the Reformation and Counter-Reformation would make all-too-clear, up for grabs as the underwriter of a sovereignty that became truly absolutist, in the strict sense, in response. Kingship emerges, from Balshazzar to the Pretender, as a matter of coinage being taken or mis-taken as a true measurement of political divisions and re-unifications, losses and compensations, the flotsam and jetsam of historical time.
8. Tournay Groat of Henry VIII, King of England (1514)On August 16, 1513, Henry VIII, in collaboration with Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, besieged and seized Tournai, not to be confused with Tours—even though the legend on the reverse of this groat may have recalled the inscription TVRONVS CIVIS used on coins issued by the venerable yet by that time inoperative mint of the abbots of St. Martin at Tours, (see Grierson 1975, 28). The case of Tours, however, provides an instructive precedent: “The gros tournois [ i.e., the groat of Tours]” was . . . introduced in France by Louis IX in 1250,” and had been imitated by earlier English kings, such as Edward III (Hewlett 1906, 276). In spite of Henry VIII’s efforts to both supplant and reincarnate French royal power by possessing Tournai, the city would revert to the France in 1519 (see Davies).
The profile portrait on the obverse of this groat is adopted wholesale from a silver groat of Henry VII, minted at the tower of London in the years 1505-1509. This groat is, like the earlier silver testoon (circa 1489) referred to above, one of the first English coins with a life-like portrait of the sovereign (cf. the 1505 Dutch painting in the National Portrait Gallery, London [NPG 416]; on the many problems involved in dating both coins, see Challis 1978, 48-49). By choosing, however, to assign this originary portrait to the son rather than the father, the plate upsets proper historical chronology as well as undoing the trope of a proper succession of authority from father to son. Henry VII’s personalization of power bring English coinage into the “modern” age, as Chrimes notes, yet the King is not allowed to represent this innovation that would culminate in ethnonationalistic cults of personality in subsequent centuries. Instead, the first born order of filiation is preempted by his son. Just as in the case of the Black Prince’s coins, 1364 (a more valorizing tour of the territory) precedes 1363 in defiance of historical chronology yet in keeping with unstable hierarchies of value. On this coin, Henry VIII’s indebtedness to his father is not allowed to appear in the same way that the losses encoded by Henry V, Calais, and Mary I end up being wholly disavowed on this plate. This undermining of historical propriety is in keeping with the chronological contingencies catalyzed by this plate. The trope of proper succession goes under.
A gros d’écu or écu-coin was struck in 1513 by the mint at Tournai, which was another first—namely, the first English coin (if one leaves out of account Warbeck’s medal-coin) to have a date— whereas the coin on this plate—the so-called ‘portrait coin’—was struck in 1514 (Challis 1978, 66). Flemish coins, as Cruickshank notes, “had been occasionally been dated since the 1470’s,” so this is a good example of the incorporation of local traditions into what would become an English precedent, as had happened with the French-sourced coins of Edward III (142). Recall, however, that Warbeck’s coin preempted the first born status of the écu-coin by being imprinted with the date 1494, re-stressing the pretender-status of both true and false kings that the ambiguous inscription “Lord, Save the King” immortalized on Perkin’s jeton. Perkin’s and Henry VIII’s coins are also the only silver, as opposed to gold, coins on this plate. This sudden dip in value as the time of reading this plate approaches its supposed climax, apotheosis or money shot problematizes, I suggest, the valorizing equation of humility (mere metal) and true sovereignty (metal in which the merely metal quality of the coin is forgotten, effaced and lost in the truth). It was, of course, this sublimatory equation that the hermeneutic see-saw between Henry VI’s salute and angelot effortlessly instantiated. This sublimation now seems, thanks to the difficult temporality of interpretation visualized by this plate, a thing of the past. Both the écu and the portrait coins were meant to uphold Henry VIII’s sovereignty over the city and its circulatory surround even though this personalization of power depends, as mentioned above, on the king’s impersonation of his father’s life-like, true or mimetic portrait on the obverse of the portrait-coin that this plate re-presents. Contingencies abound on both a representational and geopolitical level. The simple open double-lined cross on the reverse counters this instability by neatly quartering the doubled arms of England and France—a Christological trick we have already witnessed working on Henry VI’s salute and angelot—and yet differance remains … unbound.
Envoi Henry VIII would nevertheless lose Tournai in 1519, just as his daughter and eventual successor Mary I would lose Calais once and for all in 1558. In the interim England would split off from the Papacy and become autonomous, for a little while at least: “this favour’d isle / Turn’d flashing,” as James Thomson enthused in Liberty (circa 1733-1736) in and around the time this plate was produced, “from the continent aside” (Thomson 1794, 207; 4.461-2). It is this contingency of power and rights, claims and counter-claims to sovereignty, that the disruptions visited on left-to-right reading patterns register in this plate, plunging us into the undead life of material objects: Remains Concerning Britain without a master plan, design or patron except the historical time of reading history itself.
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