The Abraham Cowley
Text and Image Archive

Charles I militant

Charles I, 1625-49. Declaration half-crown, Oxford mint (1642). Obv.: Charles I riding l., raised sword in hand, three plumes behind, CAROLVS D G MAG BRIT FRAN ET HIB REX / Rev.: Royalist Declaration: REL. PROT. LEG. ANG. LIB. PARL. ("The Religion of Protestants; the Laws of England; the Liberty of Parliament"); surrounding motto: EXVRGAT DEVS ET DISSIPENTVR INIMICI (Ps. 68:1--"Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered"--also used as a motto on coins of James I and of that monarch's mother, Mary Queen of Scots, with her much-hated consort Henry Darnley). Heads or tails, this coin forms a remarkable historical document. The reverse legends here bafflingly hedge defiance with conciliation, an accurate index of how fragile Charles I's hold on his realm actually was. The obverse type, though traditional on crowns and half-crowns, becomes charged with a lethal ambivalence in the era of the English Civil War. Parliament and Charles I both continued to issue coins with essentially the same obverse type until Charles lost his crown; for the Royalists the type was a style of heroic assertion, for the Parliamentarians a threatening vignette of a king armed against his own people.

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