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Wrong design by the Royal Mint

Started by Pabitra, January 13, 2015, 01:56:05 PM

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The design of a commemorative coin depicting King John at Runnymede Meadows holding a quill has been labelled a "schoolboy error" by a medieval historian.

The 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta 2015 UK £2 Brilliant Uncirculated Coin, by The Royal Mint, has been designed by an experienced coinage artist, John Bergdahl, and is struck with the king flanked by a bishop and a baron.

But historian Marc Morris has said the scene is historically wrong.

"To depict King John holding a quill is simply a schoolboy error," said Marc Morris, author of King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta.

"Medieval kings did not authenticate documents by signing them, they did it by sealing them - or rather by getting one of their officials to do it for them.

"All the pen in John's hand symbolises is ignorance of this basic fact."


It is also symbolically wrong. Kings want a symbol of power in their hands, like a sword or an orb. At worst a church or a monastery. Pens are carried by monks. Indeed, the legal system in medieval times floated on oaths, not signatures, so a seal is likely. Nevertheless, John may have been an insensitive oaf, but he is quite likely to have had enough education to at least be able to write his name.

In these times, where computers, rather than humans design coins, this may just be an actual illustration found somewhere. I wouldn't risk calling the designer ignorant if I don't know where the illustration came from.

BTW, the guy leaning on his sword is ruining his scabbard. I doubt he would have wanted that.

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


The Royal Mint has a statement regarding the scene depicted on the folder, see here. "The image used on this coin packaging is a well-known visual representation of historical events from the time, and not factual depiction.  The Royal Mint understand that the Magna Carta was in fact witnessed and sealed by King John and not physically signed."

As for the coin design, well, he holds a quill but does not sign anything at that very moment. ;)