Little book of treasures from the British Museum, £3.00
Diameter: 56.000 mm
George III Collection
CM George III, English Medal AU 4
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Struck gold medal of Charles II by John Roettier: the Increase of the Navy
London, England, AD 1667
The King's mistress as Britannia
After the Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England in 1660, there was a desire to improve standards in the production of coins and medals. Faced with a lack of native technical expertise, the Mint paid a large retainer of £325 to the Dutch brothers, John, Joseph and Philip Roettier. They were also paid for individual projects. The diarist and pioneering numismatist John Evelyn called John Roettier (1631-98), who became Chief Engraver at the Mint in 1670, 'that incomparable graver'.
Medals of the king were produced on a semi-official basis, sanctioned or encouraged by Charles, and struck at the Mint, but they were sold for the profit of the Roettier family through book-sellers, goldsmiths and cutlers operating in the City of London. This medal was particularly popular. Samuel Pepys wrote in his celebrated diary in February 1667: 'At my goldsmith's I did observe the King's new medal, where in little there is Mrs Stuart's face as well done as ever I saw anything in my whole life, I think: and a pretty thing it is that he should choose her face to represent Britannia by'. Mrs Stuart was Charles II's mistress, rewarded for her labours by being created Duchess of Richmond.
The reverse of the medal shows 'The Increase in the Navy'. In 1666 England was at war with the Dutch, and the British navy had grown to an unprecedented size.