Great Britain; England. Charles I. 1628 Pattern Halfcrown. PCGS SP40. Silver. 35mm. 14.71gm. North-2673; Bull-497; MI-252/32; Brooker-1258.
A magnificent early pattern struck by Nicholas Briot's screw press during the first year of the use of his machinery in London. On the obverse, the armored King Charles I rides on horseback to the right, a rose mintmark above (for the Tower Mint), the inscription "O REX DA FACILEM CVRSVM" around, and the signature "N. BRIOT F" in the exergue below. The reverse displays the crowned and garnished oblong shield of arms of England, with the text "ATQVE AVDACIBVS ANNVE CŒPTIS" surrounding. When the obverse and reverse legends are considered as a whole, it becomes apparent that they are adapted from "Da facilem cursum, atque audacibus annue cœptis" ("Give me an easy course, and favor my daring undertakings"), from Virgil's Georgics, but with the addition of "Oh King" at the beginning.
This pattern piece is suggested to have been made in commemoration of the proposed second expedition to La Rochelle as part of the Anglo-French War of 1627-29, during which England provided military support to the Huguenots of La Rochelle as they rebelled against the French royal forces of Louis XIII. While the Huguenots were eventually forced to surrender, the war did lead to the interesting event of French engineers isolating the entire city of La Rochelle with entrenchments 12 kilometers long during the 14-month siege that took place. It is particularly telling that Briot would make a coin commemorating a rebellion against the French monarchy, since he had only a few years prior been forced to flee his home country of France after facing much hostility there for his advocacy of the use of machines instead of hammers to produce coinage (it seems they were very serious about this). We also find the motto of "Oh King, give me an easy course, and favor my daring undertakings" to be especially significant, since we are of the opinion that it may be read as a supplication to Charles I to allow Briot to freely implement his new technological ideas, as France refused to – a supplication that was evidently granted, with Charles I eventually appointing him chief engraver of the Royal Mint in 1633.
Rex says: "I've always liked the look of the 'King on horseback' coinage of Charles I, but I prefer coins with dates and the regular circulation issues are often dateless. Additionally, circulation issues are often weakly struck on jagged flans, but this piece, having been struck during the initial year of Briot's employment at the Tower Mint, must have been one of his first designs there, and indeed one of the first British coins struck in a collar whatsoever, and as such is an important example of early machine-milled (rather than hammered) coinage, displaying a pleasingly round planchet not often encountered on coins of the time period. Although this specimen displays clear wear from age, it is evident that the strike is even and strong, and the appearance is overall unmarred by cleaning, tooling, or improper treatment or handling of any sort. There are some small die cracks around the edges due to the amount of pressure applied to the metal from Briot's screw presses, but this is typical for the era and I think it just adds to the overall character and wholesomeness of the piece."
PCGS Certification Number: 37075549
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