British Museum guidebook, £3.50
Diameter: 43.000 mm
Gift of A.W. Franks
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Gold medal of Admiral George Anson: defeat of the French at Finisterre, by Thomas Pingo
London, England, AD 1747
Ruler of the waves
George Anson (1697-1762) was one of the most famous and successful naval commanders of the eighteenth century, working his way through the ranks of the navy to become a hero to the British public. On 3 May 1747, British ships under Admiral Anson encountered and fought a convoy of French battleships at Finisterre off the Spanish coast, capturing nine vessels. The victory won him great acclaim and he was raised to the peerage. However, his fame was earlier founded on a voyage (1740-44) in which he circumnavigated the globe as commander of the Centurion, the only means of return for a poorly equipped squadron of six vessels that were sent to fight the enemy in the Pacific. The trip was one of hardship; only one ship completed the voyage, while nearly 1400 men died from disease or starvation. The capture of a Spanish treasure ship in the Indian Ocean in 1742 changed the character of the voyage, creating Anson's fortune and a triumphant return to England.
This medal, commissioned from Thomas Pingo (1692-1776), assistant engraver at the Royal Mint, after the victory at Finisterre, commemorates both the battle and the voyage. On one side we see the bust of the admiral crowned with a laurel by Victory; the reverse bears the legend 'Circumnavigation' and the names of other members of the crew on the famous journey.
G. Williams, The prize of all the oceans: t (London, HarperCollins, 1999)
J.R. Whiting, Commemorative medals: a medall (Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1972)