- Museum number
Gold coin; forgery, portrait of Elizabeth I as a hag.
- Production date
Weight: 2.56 grammes
- Curator's comments
Genuine gold pound sovereign of Elizabeth I, retooled to depict her as an old hag and purporting to have been defaced by her in a fury.
See J.P.C. Kent, 'Five Tudor notes', British Numismatic Journal 32 (1974), 164.
Portrait of Elizabeth 1 as a hag
This gold fragment has no known history prior to 1742, when it was acquired by Horace Walpole at the sale of the Earl of Oxford's collection. Walpole described it as 'a fragment of one of her last broad pieces, representing her horridly old and deformed: An entire coin with this image is not known: It is universally supposed that the die was broken by her command, and that some workman of the mint cut out this morsel, which contains barely the face . . . it has never been engraved'. As knowledge of the piece did not extend beyond Walpole and his circle, the suggestions as to its origin must be Walpole's own, rather than any real general opinion.
It is, of course, highly unlikely that such a piece could have been a genuine product of the late Elizabethan mint. The official policy on the representation of the Queen was both well established and well known. Lawrence included the piece in his list of forgeries in the 'British Numismatic Journal'. It has since been demonstrated that it was in origin a genuine currency coin, a sovereign of the mint-mark anchor (1597-1600), but that the obverse had been ruthlessly reçut to produce the relatively crude, hag-like features now to be seen.
Subsequent to Walpole's remarks, the forgers went to work and produced a complete coin with the reçut design (registration no. 1899,0204.46), this one intended to be a silver half-crown, mint-mark 2 (1602-3).
The motive behind the original work remains unclear. It is obviously an attack on Elizabeth's alleged vanity, but whether the standpoint was political (republican or aristocratic hostility), religious (Catholic or extreme Protestant reaction to the glorification of Elizabeth's role in the English religious settlement), moralistic, or just mischievous cannot now be ascertained.
Literature: H. Walpole, Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England, 1, 1758, p. 125; L. A. Lawrence, 'Forgery in relation to numismatics, Part II', British Numismatic Journal 4 (1907), p. 316, no. 79; J. P. C. Kent, 'Five Tudor Notes', British Numismatic Journal 32 (1974), p. 164.
- Not on display
- Acquisition notes
- Strawberry Hill Sale
- Coins and Medals
- Registration number