Silver penny of Alfred the Great

Anglo-Saxon, AD 871-99
Kingdom of Wessex, southern England

The restoration of London

Alfred the Great (AD 871-99) was king of Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the far south of England. Although London was not part of this region, one of his coin types has a monogram of the name LONDONIA. These coins have traditionally been linked with a reference in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to Alfred 'restoring' London in 886. This has been taken to mean that Alfred captured London from the Vikings that year, and celebrated his conquest with a new coinage.

However, we know that throughout the mid- to late 870s London was in the hands of Alfred's ally Ceolwulf, king of Mercia (reigned 874-about 879). Alfred and Ceolwulf apparently issued a joint coinage throughout Ceolwulf's reign. Alfred's London coinage immediately followed this, suggesting that Alfred took control of London long before 886. According to one theory, Alfred gained London as part of a treaty following his victory over the Vikings in 878. Another theory suggests that it was around 880, following the death or deposition of Ceolwulf.

Either way, the coins have nothing to do with Alfred's 'restoration' of London in 886, as reported in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. By 886 London had been in Alfred's hands for several years. The 'restoration' is more likely to refer to repairs to damage done during a Viking raid of 885 than any new conquest by Alfred.

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Silver penny of Alfred the Great

  • Trace writing on the coin

    Trace writing on the coin

 

More information

Bibliography

H.A. Grueber and C.F. Keary, A catalogue of English coins i (London, 1893)

S.D. Keynes, 'King Alfred and the Mercians' in Kings, currency and alliances: (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 1998), pp. 1-46

Dimensions

Diameter: 18.000 cm
Weight: 1.540 g

Museum number

CM 1915-5-7-798

CMB2163

Location

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