Great Britain. Charles I. ND (1649) Death Medal, NGC MS62. 46mm. Eimer-163; MI-352-210. Edge: Plain.
Very rare in this uncirculated condition. Struck to commemorate the execution of Charles I, this piece combines immense historical importance with a dramatic and morbid charm. On the obverse appears a magnificent bare-headed portrait of the King facing left with the surrounding text, CARL. I. V. G. G. KÖNIG VON ENGEL: SCHOTT: UND IRRLAND / LEYDEN GOTT UND OBRIGKEIT * ("Charles I, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland and Ireland: God and the Sovereign power suffer"), while on the reverse is depicted a rampant seven-headed Hydra, below which the severed head of the King lies beside his crown and sceptre, with the surrounding text, BEY DES PÖFELS MACHT UND STREIT ("By the mob’s right and strength").
The decision by the High Court of Justice to convict and execute Charles I on charges of high treason and other crimes following the circumstances of the English Civil War provided a significant challenge to the traditional concepts of divine right and sovereign immunity. Under these ideologies, monarchs are pre-ordained by the will of God to inherit the crown, and as such derive their right to rule directly from God and are subject to no earthly authorities. The trying of a King in court would be considered a direct contradiction to these beliefs; in the words of Charles I himself, "no earthly power can justly call me (who am your King) in question as a delinquent . . . this day's proceeding cannot be warranted by God's laws; for, on the contrary, the authority of obedience unto Kings is clearly warranted, and strictly commanded in both the Old and New Testament . . . for the law of this land, I am no less confident, that no learned lawyer will affirm that an impeachment can lie against the King, they all going in his name: and one of their maxims is, that the King can do no wrong."
The present medal takes note of these ideas with the phrase, "LEYDEN GOTT UND OBRIGKEIT" ("God and the Sovereign power suffer"), and does not do so with impartiality; by definitively describing "God" as suffering, the engraver asserts his opposition to the execution and his support for the King. Additionally, the representation of the supporters of the execution of the King as a grotesque, many-headed monster towering above the toppled royal crown and sceptre professes a disapproval of their actions and a sentiment of woe towards the fallen monarchy. It is also interesting to observe that the present medal is signed with only the letter "F." below the portrait. While it is customary for engravers to place the letter "F.", for the Latin "fecit" ("he made"), before their own signatures, the engraver of this piece chose to remain anonymous, perhaps due to the controversial and politically-charged nature of the medal's subject. Judging by the German text and the style of the design, however, we may make the conclusion that the piece was likely engraved by the German medallist Sebastian Dadler (1586-1657). It would also make sense that a foreign engraver would be unsupportive of the King's execution. Following the King's public beheading, reactions were split among the English populace, with parliamentarians in full support of the decision while royalists portrayed the fallen figure as a martyr. Among foreign statesmen, however, the reaction was almost universally negative, with the princes and rulers of Europe quick to voice their horror at the regicide.
NGC Certification Number: 2107364-001
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