Napoleon a ‘slayed dragon’ as Royal Family 'installed crusader mentality'

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Napoleon a ‘slayed dragon’ as Royal Family 'installed crusader mentality'

Napoleon exposed pharaonic civilisation 'splendours' says expertRoyal Mint this month confirmed it had acquired a 500-year-old gold Sovereign, whic

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Napoleon exposed pharaonic civilisation ‘splendours’ says expert

Royal Mint this month confirmed it had acquired a 500-year-old gold Sovereign, which it expects will fetch more than £1million when it goes to auction in March. The history of the coin dates back to England’s first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, and is the earliest gold Sovereign a collector can buy, with only two other examples of this Sovereign privately owned. Royal Mint’s Rebecca Morgan, divisional director of collector services, said the “survival rates of these gold coins is minuscule”, and that the gold Sovereign on offer once belonged to J. P. Morgan.

The Sovereign itself is steeped in rich history, with the very first ones going as far back as 1489, when Henry VII ordered the Royal Mint to “produce a new money of gold”.

Although it died out under James I, the Sovereign was reintroduced in the form of a gold coin once more in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1817.

Italian coin maker Benedetto Pistrucci helped bring in a new era by designing the coin, which depicted the image of St George and the dragon as part of the revamped currency.

Dr Kevin Clancy, Royal Mint’s museum director, told Express.co.uk, Mr Pistrucci would have leaned heavily on the influences of the time when creating the coins that marked Napoleon’s defeat.

Napoleon a ‘slayed dragon’ as Royal Family 'installed crusader mentality'

Napoleon a ‘slayed dragon’ as Royal Family ‘installed crusader mentality’ (Image: GETTY)

Napoleon in battle

Napoleon in battle (Image: GETTY)

He described how the influence of playwright William Shakespeare and a renaissance with his work helped enthuse the public with the iconography of the patron saint of England.

Dr Clancy said: “The thing to remember about St George is you have to think back to Shakespeare. The Shakespearean plays had been revived by David Garrick in the 18th century, and in the Henry V play there are lots of references to St George, and an England viewed through St George.

“So there is a kind of revivalism of Shakespeare and Georgian identity through the 18th century.

“You got cartoons of George III depicted as St George fighting Napoleon, who is depicted as a dragon. He is in paintings, and is there in the culture of Britain. It dissipated in different media.”

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Royal Mint's Kevin Clancy

Royal Mint’s Kevin Clancy (Image: ROYAL MINT)

He added that the symbols of St George installed a “crusader” spirit in the country, and was a way for George III to bring together the nation after the challenges of war.

One such example that shows this imagery was created by caricaturist James Gillray, which was published in 1805.

Around this time Horatio Nelson was given a state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral, in London.

It sparked a nationwide sense of grief, and patriotism, which was celebrated within art and performance at the time.

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Henry VII piece that is on offer at Royal Mint

Henry VII piece that is on offer at Royal Mint (Image: ROYAL MINT)

Napoleon’s ultimate ambition was to invade England with around 100,000 men from the northern coastal city of Boulogne, but his attempts were crushed by Britain’s superior naval might.

Although he failed, he is considered one of the greatest generals in history, with the Duke of Wellington – who helped defeat him in the Battle of Waterloo – arguing “his presence in the field made the difference of 40,000 men”.

Yet, had Napoleon gone on to claim victory and seize England, the future of the country’s currency – and that of Royal Mint itself – could have been completely different.

Dr Clancy said it was likely Napoleon would have replicated his face on England’s currency, like he had done across other parts of Europe his army had conquered.

Royal Mint coin which is around 500 years old

Royal Mint coin which is around 500 years old (Image: ROYAL MINT)

He added: “You look at what Napoleon did to the rest of Europe, when he invaded Northern Italy and Germany, and tried to get into Russia, but if you think of Italy, he imposed his own identity on those territories.

“So you either had his likeness on the coinage of those territories of members of his family, who took over responsibility for taking over bits of the Napoleonic empire.

“I think the design of the coin would have materially changed. You would have had Napoleonic imagery on it, and whether the names of the coins would have changed it’s entirely likely.

“He would have looked to impose his identity on coins circulating in Britain.”

By 1825, St George’s image was temporarily redesigned for a “more conventional image of the royal coat of arms”, but the public were infuriated with the coin’s “poor state”, and the saint was introduced again during Queen Victoria’s reign.

Royal Family tree

Royal Family tree (Image: EXPRESS)

But the enduring nature of Mr Pistrucci’s work has remained, with his St George design continuing to be replicated on the Sovereign, including as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Royal Mint has remained at the heart of coin creation in the UK, but over the years has expanded into the sale of rare, historic coins, including the one going up for auction on March 4.

This coin shows Henry VII sat down on a wooden throne, in robes, while also holding an orb and sceptre.

Ms Morgan said ahead of the event: “The Royal Mint was originally based at The Tower of London, and this coin would have been hand struck on ‘Mint Street’ – which still stands today. What makes this coin even more fascinating is that we can trace its ownership back to the 1800’s.

“One notable owner of the coin was the world-renowned banker J. P. Morgan, who owned the coin until his death in 1913 with subsequent sale in 1915.”

She added: “We set the record for the sale of a British historic coin at £1million last year – so who knows, perhaps this might beat the record.”



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