The Gold Angel: legendary coin, enduring amulet

For an historian of the English Reformation interested in Catholicism, survivals of catholic imagination and practice into the post-Reformation period are always particularly fascinating. One such survival, which was given the highest royal and official approval, was the trope of St Michael the Archangel on gold coins and the impression that continued to accompany this legendary coin, known merely as the Angel. The popularity of this mint as a cultural artifact is evidenced by the survival, in many towns and villages throughout England, of hostel, public house and hotels named ‘ The Angel ’. In most cases, the stream owners and patrons of these establishments have forgotten that it was originally named not after the celestial being but after the coin ( apart from the Angel Inn, Reigate which has an visualize of the mint on its public house sign ). No other coin attained the popularity of the Angel, which has a strong claim to be the most digest mint in English history. First struck under Edward IV in 1465, the Angel remained in circulation until 1642 but continued to be minted from 1660 onwards as a ‘ touchpiece ’ – an amulet to cure the ‘ King ’ s Evil ’ – until the early nineteenth hundred, although by the conclusion Angels were no longer being struck in amber. other amber coins, such as the Sovereign, had similarly retentive lives – the Sovereign, first strickle in 1489, is still being struck today but went out of circulation between 1604 and 1816. however, the Angel ’ south universe ( apart from the interruption of the Commonwealth ) was continuous. What is strange about the Angel is its transformation from a mere coin to a semi-magical amulet .
The Angel
The Angel first appeared in the reign of Edward IV because a previous gold coin, the Noble ( inaugural minted in 1344 ) had risen in value owing to rising gold prices. The alleged ‘ Angel Noble ’ was a smaller coin introduced to have the like rate as the old Noble ( 6s 8d, a third base of a sudanese pound ) and was inspired by a french mint, the Ange five hundred ’ Or or Angelot, which featured an persona of an saint holding a scepter in one hand and the royal arms of France in the other on its obverse. An Ange five hundred ’ Or had already been issued in France under the authority of the English King Henry VI, who claimed the french throne, and on this issue the angel was holding the arms of England and France together. however, this publish never circulated in England, and the design that appeared on the new English Angel was raw more dramatic and less firm than its french counterpart. On the obverse it featured the Archangel Michael, standing, plunging a spear topped with a cross into a draco representing the devil. The rearward bore a ship superimposed with the royal arms and surmounted by the crisscross and a letter and emblem representing the sovereign .
The imagination of the Angel was potent, drawing on a long custom of St Michael the Archangel ’ s religious protection of the royal person – hence the inscription of the king ’ mho titles accompanied the visualize of St Michael preferably than an image of the king. The ship on the reverse, by contrast, was the embark of department of state sustained by the holy crossbreed, as the inscription made pass : Per Crucem Tuam Salva Nos Christe Rede [ mptor ] ( ‘ By thy thwart save us, Christ the Redeemer ’ ). curiously, the Angel escaped any kind of re-design at the time of the edwardian Reformation ( 1547-1553 ) when other emblems of royalty were thrown into wonder, such as the collar of the Order of the Garter featuring St George. Neither the imagination nor the inscription changed under Edward, when the cult of saints was under sustain approach, possibly because the Angel was indeed popular and possibly because angels were considered less theologically objectionable than early saints – St Michael was, after all, mentioned in the Bible.

One sport of the Angel that made it an specially popular coin was the fact that it was quite little in size and low in respect compared with other gold coins. In 1500, the average laborer earnt around 4d a day, so that an Angel ( at 6s 8d ) represented less than a month ’ mho wages. It is not impossible, consequently, that an ordinary English person might have seen an Angel in circulation from time to fourth dimension. By the reign of Edward VI, however, the rising price of amber led to the Angel ’ s re-valuation at 10s ( half ram ), marked by a little Roman numeral X that appears on later Angels .
The Angel as a touchpiece
The Angel ’ mho popularity as a gold coin little enough to circulate ( higher respect coins functioned as politics bullion ) has been effaced historically by its function for another determination entirely : as a touchpiece. Touching for the King ’ s Evil was an ancient drill of the french kings, and according to legend it was a gift given to the Frankish King Clovis and his descendants. It is probable that the rehearse was taken over by English monarch as a consequence of their claim to the throne of France during the course of the Hundred Years War. however, according to one caption the practice arose after Edward I invited the alchemist Ramon Llull to make gold for him in the Tower, and finding the gold to be the purest ever made it was named ‘ angel amber ’. When the gold was coined it bore the prototype of an saint, and the alchemic gold was found to have healing powers .
The King ’ south Evil is normally identified as scrofula, but it was basically any unpleasant hide disease. originally, kings physically touched sufferers in the impression that the imperial touch had the power to heal the illness, but this was soon replaced by the commit of the monarch handing a gold coin, pierced through to allow it to be worn as an amulet, to the sick person. As a result of the piercing the coin was evacuate as legal sensitive because it was ‘ crack beyond the closed chain ’ ( i.e. the ring enclosing the dedication ). Historians have by and large treated the touchpiece as a bare extension of the royal touch, but there are interesting questions that arise from the fact that one mint in particular ( the Angel ) was chosen as a suitable touchpiece. Why was it thought necessity that the touchpiece should be a gold coin ? And why was the Angel chosen rather than some other coin ? There is no testify that any early mint was ever used – not even the ‘ ten shilling man ’, which was precisely equivalent in prize. The touchpiece was army for the liberation of rwanda more than a token of royal favor, silent less a keepsake of a personal encounter with the monarch, and contemporaneous accounts make clearly that the virtu of the royal touch was thought to remain in the mint throughout the sick person ’ second life. The mint could even be given to another person who had never met the sovereign and was considered equally effective, and the coin was applied in a quasi-medical manner to parts of the body as a remedy for bark disease preferably than merely being worn as an apotropaic amulet to ward off the recurrence of scrofula .
M. R. Toynbee, in an article on Charles I and the King ’ s Evil that appeared in Folklore in 1950, showed that coins touched by Charles I were treated with particular reverence after the King ’ south execution, because he was considered a martyr by Royalists. In 1697, Sir Edmund Warcup described how a gold Angel touched by Charles I had preserved his health as a child and a youthful serviceman, not good because a king had touched it but because the king who touched it was the martyr Charles :
From my parturition to the age of 13 years, I was afflicted with the King ’ s Evil. .. and so ill-famed a diseased person I was, that a memorize doctor of that age requested my don to leave me at his house, to the purpose that himself, with early celebrated physicians might casual consult on my case, there I continued a deplorable object for years, and therefore macerated that my life was much despaired of. At length my father got me touched by that holy martyr who put an Angel of aureate ( coined for that purpose ) about my neck, and within six months after from being carried in arms tho ’ about 12 years previous I got forte, and afterwards by degrees the sores healed, the swellings abated, and a perfect health succeeded : then my church father and friends sent me to travel, and my parents either through the pretend holiness of those times or the fear of losing that piece of aureate, sent me into France without it, when I came to Orleans my sores and swellings renewed, upon which I applied to one Dr. Winstone then resident there to avoid the storms in England, who administered proper remedies, but they not answering his anticipation, he asked me if I had ben healed by the King, I told him yes ; where then is the gold he gave you said the Doctor, I replied in England. He in a fury answered my friends were priggish, and rebels, and would have no more to do with me, but bid me send for the amber. I did sol, and when I had it rubbed the sores and swellings therewith, which perfectly cured me, and the same gold does at times upon respective occasions afford me much ease .
An english Royalist exile in Russia after the Civil War, Mrs Hebden, took with her an Angel touched by King Charles and lent it to an english merchant she met there, who was cured of scrofula, showing that the royal touch worked at second gear hand and that its virtu was thought to be within the coin itself. According to another fib, a don and son who both suffered from scrofula used to pass a gold Angel between them that had been touched by Charles I .
The caption concerning the Angel ’ s alchemic origin and the way in which Angel touchpieces were used in exercise both suggest that it was some quality in the gold itself – or possibly built-in in the image of St Michael – that mattered to the potency of a touchpiece, a well as the fact that the mint had been touched by the sovereign. The estimate that gold was a autonomous remedy was a familiar one in iatrochemistry and Paracelsan/astrological music, and it is possible that one reason for belief in the potency of touchpieces was the parallelism between aureate as the metallic of the Sun and royalty, which corresponded astrologically with the Sun. Coins touched by Charles I were doubly effective because they simultaneously served as touchpieces for the King ’ s Evil and holy relics of the martyr king .
It is hardly storm, therefore, that on his restoration in 1660 Charles II renewed the rehearse of touching for the King ’ s Evil and minted modern touchpieces, this meter with the ship on the obverse ( with the royal titles as an inscription ) and the image of the Archangel on the change by reversal, with the dedication Soli Deo Gloria ( ‘ To God alone the glory ’ ). This remained the standard design for Angel touchpieces thereafter .
Charles II may well have considered the inscription on Charles I ’ south touchpieces, Amor Populi Praesidium Regis ( ‘ the beloved of the people is the auspices of the king ’ ) to be piercingly ironic, given the destine of his beget, and opted alternatively for the Protestant-sounding Soli Deo Gloria, which harked bet on to the dedication on James I ’ south Angels – A Domino Factum Est Istud ( ‘ this was done by the Lord ’ ). James I ’ mho inscription was a truncation of the inscription on Angels of Mary I and Elizabeth I, A Domino Factum Est Istud Et Est Mirab [ ilis ]. tied the Catholic James II, although he reintroduced the full Latin holy eucharist of touching for the King ’ s Evil from the reign of Henry VII, did not reintroduce the original medieval inscription. There was no royal tint in the reign of William and Mary, but when she came to the enthrone in 1702, Queen Anne revived the practice as a way of demonstrating her authenticity as the daughter of James II, at a prison term when James ’ s son, James Edward Stuart, was regularly practising the royal touch in exile at St Germain and Rome. The baby Dr Samuel Johnson was excellently touched by Queen Anne and wore the touchpiece he received on that occasion for the perch of his life.

Jacobite touchpieces
Although the mint of gold Angels in England ceased on the death of Queen Anne in 1714, and the hanoverian sovereign discontinued the exercise, the Jacobite pretenders in exile carried on commissioning touchpieces modelled after the originals ( although now, reflecting the poverty of the Jacobite court, struck in silver ). For Jacobites, the ability of the pretenders to cure the King ’ s Evil by touching was one of the proof that they were the true kings of England, and ‘ James III ’ and ‘ Charles III ’ continued to mint touchpieces and give them to sufferers. tied the second son of James Edward Stuart, Henry Benedict Stuart, who succeeded as Jacobite pretender in 1788, had the pieces made .
On the last touchpiece minted for an english king, the abbreviated Latin inscription reads ‘ Henry IX by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum [ i.e. Frascati ’. This indicates that the touchpiece was minted before 1803, when Henry became Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals and therefore Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and Velletri. The universe of touchpieces right down to the early on years of the nineteenth hundred demonstrates that they remained in demand amongst Jacobites, although the Cardinal ’ s death in 1807 mean that the mastermind line of the Stuarts died out. This last brought an end to the caption of the royal equal, although good as Dr Johnson treasured the touchpiece he had received from Queen Anne until his death, it is conceivable that baby recipients of touchpieces from ‘ Henry IX ’ treasured them into the former nineteenth century. The enduring cultural impact of the Angel has been even more durable – consider the fact that in J. K. Rowling ’ south Harry Potter books, gold coins used by wizards are called ‘ galleons ’ .
The use of the gold Angel as a touchpiece elided natural magic, Christian holiness and political propaganda in a means that was very probably unique, in a state-sanctioned ceremony and using official currency. The religio-political significance of the royal touch is well known, but by focusing on the rite and commit of touching rather than the touchpieces themselves and the folklore associated with them, it is potential that the strong connotations of natural charming in the tradition of touchpieces has been allowed to fade into the background .

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