The literary life of EDWARD JAMES, author,reviewer, occasional poet and former pension adviser to the government of Kyrgyzstan


It was in the border at the edge of the lawn, just an inch below the surface, easy to turn up with my trowel.  At first it looked like a 20p piece, but it was clearly made of lead.  I rubbed it between my fingers and there was the classic portrait of Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth Tudor that is) and the date, 1589.  On the other side was the figure of Justice with her sword and scales and a Latin inscription, Nil Nisi Concilio. There was difficulty in reading it, just like something dug up for a TV programme.

I took it to Spinks, the London coin dealers.  ‘It’s not a coin’, they said, ‘they didn’t date coins in those days’.  Their opinion was that it was an ‘unofficial’ coin, minted without official approval to create small change.  Official coins were in silver and thus all high value.

I took it to the British Museum and they decided it was not a coin, even an unofficial one, but a ‘medalette’ to commemorate the Armada – ‘made for political reasons, not as currency’.  I took it to the Small Finds Officer for my county (Kent) and he and the Kent Archaeological Society decided it could not be commemorative medalette for the Armada, or else the date would be 1588.  They thought it was more likely to be a counter, used for reckoning money on a chequer board.  The Latin inscription they considered was ‘meaningless’.  There was also tiny English inscription on the reverse, ‘God Save the Queen’.

My opinion is that the inscription is Elizabeth’s promise at her coronation to rule ‘not without counsel’, something her sister Mary had notoriously failed to do.

So there you have it.  Her are the two sides of the ‘coin’.  Any ideas?




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This entry was posted on July 21, 2014 by and tagged , , , , .
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