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DIE ENGRAVERS

 

 

1667 THE ‘BREDA’ MEDAL OF CHARLES II (56mm wide) by JOHN ROETTIER

 

Engravers were master craftsmen. The milled coinage of Oliver Cromwell was struck from dies made by Thomas Simon, but under Charles II, John (or Jan) Roettier (1631-1700) made them. For Charles II he used a drawing made from the life by Samuel Cooper. John Evelyn watched and held the candle:

 

‘Being called into his Majesties Closet, when Mr Cooper (the rare limmer) was crayoning of his face and head, to make the stamps by, for the new mill’d money, now contriving, I had the honour to hold the candle whilst it was doing; choosing to do this by night and by candle light, for the better finding out the shadows.’

Evelyn Diary, 9 January 1662

 

Like many die engravers, Roettier also produced commemorative medals. These were engraved and struck to a far higher standard than coinage, but since they were made for display they tend to survive in far better condition than coins even though they were made in tiny numbers by comparison. They show just how skilled Roettier was. This 56mm-wide medal (above) of Charles II was issued by early 1667 to commemorate the expansion of the Royal Navy. The reverse depicts Frances Stewart, later Duchess of Richmond (and NOT a mistress of Charles, though she is often described erroneously as such), posing as Britannia. Samuel Pepys describes this medal in his Diary:

 

‘at my goldsmith’s did observe the King’s new medal, where in little is Mrs Steward’s [sic] face, as well done as ever I saw anything in my whole life I think – and a pretty thing it is that he should choose her face to represent Britannia by.’

Samuel Pepys, Diary 25 February 1667

 

It may seem difficult to believe but today this magnificent 56mm-wide medal would cost you about a fifth of the price (or less) of an ordinary silver crown in the same condition. The figure of Britannia, in simpler form, appeared on halfpennies and farthings issued by Charles II and thereafter.

 

Roettier had two brothers: James and Norbert, who joined him in the mint by the reign of William and Mary. But these were not the only die engravers. Others included George Bower (d. 1689 or 1690) and Samuel Bull (d. 1720).

 

 

1689 CORONATION OF WILLIAM AND MARY. Struck for distribution on the day, 11 April 1689. At 34mm wide, the medal is a little larger than a standard halfcrown, and probably used the same puncheon for the portraits as the 1689 halfcrowns issued that year. The medal is now thought to have been engraved by Norbert Roettier, his father John by then being crippled with a muscular disease

 

The reverse shows Phaethon falling out of his chariot while Jupiter hurls thunderbolts from a cloud. The legend means ‘That all is not consumed’, a reference to the monarchs saving the country from ruin after James II fled, and carries the date ‘Crowned 11 April 1689’. John Evelyn was not impressed by the medal:

 

‘the King and Queen’s effigies inclining to one another, on one side, the Reverse Jupiter throwing a bolt at Phaeton, the Word [ie legend] which was but dull seeing they might have had something out of the poet [ie Virgil] something as apposite. The sculpture also very meane.’

Diary 11 April 1689

 

This piece cost £220 in 2003. A halfcrown in equivalent condition would have cost £700-800 yet has no equivalent historical association.

 

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