Prints and printmaking, £12.99
Diameter: 52.000 mm
Gift of King George III
CM George III Germ.c.682
Coins and Medals
Silver sterbethaler ('death thaler') of Sybilla Ursula, duchess of Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg
Germany, AD 1671
Death money for a duchess
From the late sixteenth century in Germany, the events of a princely life began to be commemorated with special coinages. Death was not forgotten. Sterbemünzen, ('death coins'), became common and were issued both for rulers and their consorts. Low denominations would be scattered among the crowds at funerals, but the larger and grander pieces must have been presented in a more exclusive way. The typical form was to give the details of the deceased's life in an inscription across the coin on the front, with the back showing the normal badge or arms of the dynasty.
Some death coins were more elaborate. This sterbethaler of Sybilla Ursula, duchess of Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, has the usual sort of biographical details on one side, but the other side has an ascension scene: the duchess rises to heaven accompanied by cherubs while a skeleton reclines on the ground. Sybilla Ursula died in 1671.
B.J. Cook, 'Showpieces: medallic coins in early modern Europe', The Medal-4, 26 (1995)