Charles I established his headquarters in Oxford during the English Civil War. His mint was here with him from 1643 to 1646. The King’s presence in Oxford is caught on this remarkable coin. He is shown proudly mounted on his horse over the Oxford cityscape. The coin describes him in Latin as ‘Charles, by the grace of God King of Great Britain, France and Ireland’. The king lived at Christ Church, the queen at Merton College.
The crown gives us a view of Oxford at the time of Charles I. A detailed picture of a city like this is without parallel on English coinage. In the foreground is the city wall and moat. On the left is Magdalen Tower. The two central spires belong to All Saints Church (reconstructed since the time of Charles I, and now Lincoln College library) and the University Church of St. Mary on the High Street.
War needed money. A mint was set up in Oxford in New Inn Hall, at the present site of St. Peter’s College. This managed to cover Charles’ ample needs by coining college silver and re-minting foreign money. The Oxford Crown is very rare and represents only a fraction of this output. The writing in Latin across the coin advertises Charles I’s war aims – to uphold the Protestant religion, the laws of England, and the freedom of Parliament, Oxford 1644. The writing around the coin is from Psalm 68: “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered”.
The engraver of the Oxford Crown was Thomas Rawlins, who had been appointed ‘Graver of Seals, Stamps and Medals’ at Oxford in 1643. Rawlins was a gifted young writer and poet. He is thought to have been the pupil of Frenchman Nicholas Briot, the favoured coin engraver of Charles I. Rawlins mirrors Briot’s style, but we know this crown is by Rawlins as he signed it with his own mark, a cross made of lilies.
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22 May 2012