London’s St James’s Auctions has announced the sale Sept. 29 of one of the great rarities of English hammered gold, a Rose Ryal of James I, S-2632. And it is not just any Rose Ryal. Not only is it in superb condition but its provenance is impeccable: ex-Montagu Collection, Lot 138, Plate III.
The Ryal comes from James’s Third Coinage (1619-1625). It is among the last of the Tower Mint’s hammered coins to possess a highly detailed design, the work of William Halle. As with the Second Coinage Rose Ryal of 1604-1619, the obverse follows the style of Tudor gold sovereigns. It shows the monarch enthroned with detail massed at every point.
The king holds scepter and orb. The back of his throne is ornately flowered. The field on either side is decked with lis and roses. His feet rest on a portcullis. The legend between two dotted circles reads: IACOBVS D : G : MA BRI : FR : ET HIB : REX.
On the reverse are the Royal arms on a cross fleury, surrounded by a double circle of dots within which, and within each angle of the cross, are a lis, a lion and a rose. Above the shield the value is given as XXX. The legend, from Psalm 118, reads A DNO : FACTVM EST ISTVD ET EST MIRAB : IN OC : NRIS. [This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes].
The mintmark of spur rowell appears on both obverse and reverse. The Montagu catalog gave the weight as 194 grs. [12.57 g.]
The Rose Ryal was the largest denomination struck for King James. It was introduced as part of his Second Coinage. A large Tudor rose on the reverse of that first issue gave the coin its name.
It was valued at 30 shillings (one and a half pounds) but in 1612 its value was raised by 10 percent to 33 shillings. With James’s Third Coinage its weight was reduced to 12.66 g and its original value restored. Mint records give its fineness as consistently 23 karat 3½ grains corresponding to .995 fine.
The denomination would not survive James’s death. The turbulent years of his son’s reign would see it supplanted with the Unite and, eventually, the Guinea.
Historically the Ryal is among the first British coins to show Royal arms that incorporate both the lions passant guardant of England with the lion rampant of Scotland. Intriguingly the King’s titles in the legend refer to him as the Monarch of Britain [MA BRI] rather than of England and Scotland [ANG SCO]. At the time the thrones were distinct.
For readers who may be a little vague when it comes to British monarchs, James I of England was also James VI of Scotland. He was the first monarch of the House of Stuart to rule in England. He is the guy who gave us the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. And he also had a settlement in Virginia named after him: Jamestown.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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