4 August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the day Britain, having declared war on Germany, entered the First World War.
It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914 that set in motion a series of events which would lead to the beginning of the First World War. Following the assassination, Austro-Hungary served an ultimatum to Serbia; deeming the response to be unsatisfactory, they then declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.
Will you be celebrating Father’s Day this year in a similar way to Mother’s Day? We all know Father’s Day is not celebrated on the same scale as Mother’s Day generally, and while I’ve read some articles that try to explain why, I think the reason is simple – it’s because Fathers and Mothers are so different! What delights your Mum may well not please your Dad so much, especially those sentimental and openly affectionate gestures usually welcomed by Mums.
I’ve made a sweeping generalisation there, so let’s take a look at how Father’s Day started and see where it takes us…
Benedetto Pistrucci is a name closely associated with The Royal Mint and a familiar one among numismatists. However, I’m sure there are some of you left wondering just who is Benedetto Pistrucci?
Benedetto Pistrucci was born in Italy 231 years ago, in May 1783. Already established as a renowned gem engraver, he moved to London in 1815. His journey with The Royal Mint began the following year, when he was introduced to William Wellesley Pole, the Master of the Mint. Pole commissioned Pistrucci to create models of a portrait of King George III, which he created in red jasper – an unusual material for a model of a coin, but one which Pistrucci, as a gem engraver, preferred to use.
Within the drawers of The Royal Mint Museum lie many rare coins, and the 1937 Edward VIII Gold Proof Sovereign is certainly one of the rarer. Another, of the few in existence, recently made headlines when it went to auction and sold for a record £516,000 – the highest sum ever paid for a British coin! Surprisingly, the Edward VIII Sovereign wasn’t the only Sovereign to shock at this auction; a rare 1953 Elizabeth II Gold Proof Sovereign also fetched a staggering £384,000.
It’s hard to be brief about the treasures held safely for the nation behind the anonymous door that opens to The Royal Mint Museum, but I’m going to try, so here are some snippets:
The Museum holds a cabinet said to be Sir Isaac Newton’swhen he was Master of the Mint from 1699-1727; pistols from the Tower of London that provided the security of those times and literally thousands of coins from all over the world. Plasters of coins and medals from the late 19th Century, wax impressions of the Great Seals of the Realm and other official Seals from the start of the 20th century, are all preserved here.
One of the great treasures, the Waterloo Medal Roll, lists the names of all those who fought at the Battle of Waterloo. Medal-making is an area of our work that is perhaps not very well-known. It began here in 1817 when we made the Waterloo Medals, and continues to this day with production of medals for the Armed Forces and many other organisations.
I’ve felt surrounded by Georges and Dragons lately! So my friends in our Museum have helped me pull together these Top 10 Facts about them, that I think you really need to know…
Our flagship coin, the Sovereign, is known and recognised throughout the world. It’s our most famous coin and shows St George, the patron saint of England for more than 650 years. We are thrilled that in 2013 this is a real tribute to the new Royal baby Prince George!
The legend of St George and the Dragon symbolises the triumph of good over evil. It’s been familiar for many centuries, for instance in colourful wall paintings in medieval churches and on the badges of pilgrims.
The St George and the Dragon design by Benedetto Pistrucci was first used on gold Sovereigns in 1817. His neo-classical depiction is a masterpiece and has appeared on the coinage of every British monarch since George III, with the single exception of William IV (1830-1837).
The Royal Birth £5 Crown is the first time in over 100 years that Pistrucci’s St George and the Dragon has appeared on a silver crown. It was last seen on a silver coin for the Coronation year of Edward VII in 1902.
St George and the Dragon first appeared on the English coinage in the reign of King Henry VIII. These ‘George nobles’ are very rare and much desired by collectors.
Six Kings have been named George, the first four reigning in succession from 1714 to 1830. George V was The Queen’s grandfather and George VI was her father, who died in 1952. Only Henry and Edward have featured more frequently as Kings’ names, both appearing eight times.
George V was the founder of the Windsor Dynasty in 1917. He used a version of St George and the Dragon for his Silver Jubilee crown in 1935.
With the personal approval of George VI (The Queen’s father) a version of Pistrucci’s design was used for the centre of the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian award for gallantry. At the same time another version of St George and the Dragon was used for the reverse of the George Medal, based on the bookplate used in the Royal Library at Windsor.
St George and the Dragon also appeared in 1663 in the design on the reverse of the famous petition crown of Charles II (now on loan from our own collection to the exhibition at the Tower of London).
St George and the Dragon is also familiar as the badge of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s oldest order of chivalry dating back over 650 years to the reign of Edward III. The link with the Royal Family is emphasised by the location of St George’s Chapel within the walls of Windsor Castle.
I hope you now feel much more enlightened about St George, his Dragon and how they relate to sovereigns and Sovereign coins!
To see the 2013 range of gold Sovereigns featuring the original Pistrucci design, take a look at The Royal Mint’s website
Respected, and recognised all over the world, the Sovereign became synonymous with Britain herself.
At the turn of the century it was one of the world’s most trusted and respected coins. Yet even the Sovereign could not fail to be shaken by a conflict as devastating as the First World War which saw the end of the Sovereign as a coin in daily circulation. Production of Sovereigns in Great Britain almost stopped from 1917, only recommencing briefly in 1925. The coin would not be issued in great numbers again until 1957. Continue reading →