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5 Escudos, prata, Infante D. Henrique, 1960.

Started by Luis Cozeto, September 26, 2022, 06:01:18 PM

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Your coin is a nice specimen of a type that would have pleased the conservative and nationalist powers that be in 1960. Commemorative coins often celebrate births, rather than deaths, but the nationalists had no choice. The 300th anniversary of the prince's birth was in 1894, when they were not in power and they apparently didn't wait until the 400th anniversary in 1994.

This coin is well decribed in Numista 11159, but they have missed a point. On the top of the Portuguese arms is a device that normally does not occur on Portuguese coins. In heraldry, this is called a label, a funny anglification of the French word lambel.

The engraver had a point to put it there. The design shows a man in medieval clothes and the lettering is Gothic, giving it a medieval look. In medieval times, the death of a military leader on the battlefield could lead to fatal confusion over who was in command. The heraldic solution used was that the designated second in command would cover his shield with a piece of cloth, hanging from a rails. If the leader was killed, his successor (usually his son) would simply move the cloth behind the shield, that showed the full arms of the leader.

Portuguese law (like the law in many other kingdoms) stipulated that no one could use the king's arms (cadency). Sons of the king therefore had to use a variation of the king's arms. This led to the rails becoming a heraldic symbol added to the father's coat of arms, making it suitable for his sons. The heraldic symboltook the form of a strap crossing the horse's chest, whose name, lambelle, it took. The arms shown are therefore not those of Portugal, but those of a prince (infante) of the house of Aviz, in this case Henry.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.