The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Weight: 30.460 g
Diameter: 42.000 mm
Coins and Medals
Silver ryal of Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland, and Darnley
Edinburgh, Scotland, AD 1565
The head of the Queen of Scots
Only a few specimens of this coin of Mary Stuart are known. It comes from the time of her personal rule in Scotland, and after her marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley in 1565. By this time large silver coins had been introduced into most European coinages, and the coinage ordered by the Privy Council in December 1565 was to include such a piece, to be 'callit the Marie ryall', worth 30 shillings Scots.
This main series of ryals has a design of the Scottish shield and the legend 'Mary and Henry, Queen and King of Scots', but the design of this first version had the portraits of Mary and her husband facing each other, and the legend begins with Henry's name. The back shows the Scottish shield with thistleheads on either side, surmounted by a crown. The reverse legend reads (in Latin) 'Those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder', suggesting that the issue may have been created to celebrate and commemorate the wedding. The English ambassador noted in a letter to William Cecil in December 1565 that the issue was put into circulation, but then recalled and replaced by the more usual Mary ryal.
At this time the husbands of ruling queens normally took the title of king, and the pattern of portraits of the king and queen being shown facing each other as on this piece was set by the extensive coinage of Ferdinand and Isabella in Castile, and later by Mary Tudor and Philip of Spain in England.
J.D. Bateson, Coinage in Scotland (London, Spink, 1997)
E. Burns, The coinage of Scotland, Volume II (Edinburgh, A. and C. Black, 1887)