Elizabeth I, sixth issue, ryal, mm. -/escallop (1585-87), queen standing in ship, holding orb and sceptre, rose on ship’s side, E on flag at stern, ELIZAB D G ANG FRA ET HIB REGINA, rev. IHS AVT TRANSIENS PER MEDIV ILLORVM IBAT, rose on spur rowel in centre of Royal cross, crowned lions in angles, pellet stops, wt. 7.26gms. (S.2530; N.2004; Schneider 785; Brown & Comber B6), slightly short of flan, very fine, exhibiting a particularly sharp image of the queen, and extremely rare
*ex Glendining, 14 June 1967, lot 12
SNC, December 1970, 13697
Glendining, 6 June 1979, lot 7
Purchased Knightsbridge Coins, 1998
Valued at the time of its issue at 15 shillings and made of .995-fine gold, this coin has long been a favourite among collectors because of its stunning obverse. The sovereign peers at the observer from amidships of a man o’ war, wearing her crown and ruff and jewelled dress. Her flag flutters to her right, and the Tudor rose appears among the vessel’s cannon. On the reverse, the religious legend in Latin surrounds the classic royal cross with another rose imposed on the central sun, which emanates rays. It is tempting to suggest that this ‘ship ryal’ was somehow relevant to English preparations for what they knew was to be a Spanish invasion of their shores. The Spanish Armada was to stage an immense attack which could not be kept secret, leaving England with months to prepare for defence. This coin was minted just at this time of getting ready for war. Another historic event beckons, too: Mary Queen of Scots had been imprisoned for eighteen years when Elizabeth wrote to her, in October 1586, saying ‘You have planned in divers ways and manners to take my life and to ruin my kingdom . . . I never proceeded so harshly against you; on the contrary, I have maintained you and preserved your life with the same care which I use for myself’. But a plot of that year revealed to Elizabeth that Mary, from prison, had conspired with the Scots and Spanish to assail the English ruler and remove her. To end the threat, in what has been called an ‘agony’ of reckoning, Elizabeth had Mary beheaded in February 1587. The plot had in fact been intended to coincide with an uprising of Catholics across the kingdom to overthrow Elizabeth at the same time the Armada was set to invade. Few of Elizabeth’s beautiful ‘ship ryals’ have survived the centuries. They remain hard testaments to their historic setting.