The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
A fake coin depicting Brutus
An image of Britain's founder?
George III (reigned 1760-1820) owned this gold coin as part of his large collection of coins and medals. It is a fake, a copy of a silver Roman coin depicting Marcus Junius Brutus (the well-known assassin of Julius Caesar). It was once thought to represent another Brutus, the legendary founder of Britain. It had a place in the attempt to construct a chronological sequence of coins and medals representing the rulers of Britain. This attempt followed the system according to which eighteenth-century collectors of coins and medals had arranged their ancient Roman coins.
The legend of Brutus became established as part of the attempt by medieval chroniclers to trace Britain's history and link it to the works of ancient authors such as Virgil. One of the most important medieval chronicles was the Historia regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), written by Geoffrey of Monmouth (died 1155) between 1135 and 1139.
Although Geoffrey's account was not based on historical evidence, it proved incredibly influential to later authors. According to Geoffrey, Britain was established by Brutus, the great-grandson of Aeneas (who had sailed from Troy after the Greeks defeated the Trojans). Together with Corineus, the supposed founder of Cornwall, Brutus had killed off the giants living in Britain and became its first king.
K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)