Silver penny of Cnut (Canute)

Minted in Bath, England, AD 1016-35

A Viking without horns

The Anglo-Saxons did not have realistic portraits on their coins in the way that we are used to today. Almost all of the busts that appear on Anglo-Saxon coins are fairly crude copies of Roman coin designs. They tended to copy designs of the late third to early fifth centuries, even though their own coins were being produced several hundred years later.

There are a few exceptions to this. The first king of England to introduce a more contemporary style of bust was Cnut (AD 1016-35). Cnut conquered England with an army of Vikings, and shortly afterwards became king of Denmark as well. In 1030 he also became king of Norway. Cnut took over the Anglo-Saxon system of coinage, but two of his three English coin types depart from traditional sub-Roman images. His first type shows him in a crown similar to those pictured in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts of the same period. His second type shows him wearing a helmet. This is a typical helmet of the type worn by Anglo-Saxons, Normans and Vikings in the eleventh century. Contrary to the popular myth about Viking helmets, they had no horns.

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More information

Bibliography

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

K. Jonsson, The new era: the reformation o (Stockholm, 1987)

D.M. Metcalf, An atlas of Anglo-Saxon and No (London, Royal Numismatic Society, 1998)

Dimensions

Diameter: 20.000 mm
Weight: 1.040 g

Museum number

CM 1915-5-7-1201

CMB2442

Location

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