The Great Engravers: Thomas Simon's Petition Crown

Charles II 1662 Petition Crown SP53 PCGS, sold by Sovereign Rarities at the New York Sale in 2018 for $650,000 (including BP)


The fifth release in the series of Great Engravers coins after the Una and the Lion, Three Graces, and the two Gothic Crown coins, this design commemorates the trial crown design dated 1663 submitted to the restored King Charles II by designer and engraver Thomas Simon. 


This issue consists of a pair of coins. The obverse featuring on both coins in this release is the official coinage portrait of His Majesty King Charles III by Martin Jennings, and the reverse designs feature firstly the intricate effigy of King Charles II with beautiful flowing hair and drapery with minute detailing, and secondly a presentment of the quartered arms reverse design by Simon on the other. Both coins come complete with the raised edge lettering bearing the petition made by Thomas Simon to King Charles II.


Thomas Simon, a renowned engraver and medallist, who had established his engraving reputation under King Charles I, had sided with the Parliamentarians after the outbreak of the civil war, even copying the Great Seal to assist their cause. Many other engravers working at the Tower Mint had fled and worked at other mints used by the Royalists during the Civil War. After the defeat of the Royalists he was rewarded with the position of Chief Engraver of the Mint of the Commonwealth of England. After the death of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of King Charles II, Simon remained in his post, producing medals and seals, despite his employment for the Puritans. However, the chief position was now shared with John Roettier, who had supported King Charles II during his exile in Holland.


King Charles II wanted to change all coin production from hammered coins to machine-made milled after a lengthy period when milled coins had been introduced sporadically with limited success. The rivalry for Chief Engraver ultimately led to an engraving competition in which John Roettier and his brother Joseph were pitted against Thomas Simon and commissioned to create a trial crown piece to the best of their abilities. It is thought Thomas Simon may have failed to submit his piece in time for the competition, and subsequently designed his own version, with innovative use of two lines of raised edge lettering, a never before seen engraving technique of artisan skill to petition the King for the selection of his work.


The edge lettering read



Long coveted as the most artistic and famous coin in the entire British silver series, Thomas Simon’s Petition Crown is familiar to most collectors of the English series, with only sixteen believed to be extant.


To have achieved the production of these innovative and intricate beautiful coins in the earliest days of milled currency coinage demonstrated a mastership of artistic endeavour in miniature portraiture and skilled technical ability. Even with modern minting technology, re-creating it was extremely challenging, and involved significant research into older minting techniques and it is a testament to the importance of Thomas Simon and his remarkable pieces that the Royal Mint has included this design in the flagship Great Engravers series.



A full description of a King Charles II Petition Crown dated 1663:

Charles II (1660-85), Pattern Crown, 1663. The masterwork engraved by Thomas Simon with his Petition to King Charles II in two lines on the edge, laureate and draped bust right, signed Simon below, Latin legend and toothed border surrounding, CAROLVS II. DEI. GRA, Rev. crowned cruciform emblemat- ic shields, pairs of interlinked Cs in angles, St. George and dragon in buckled garter in centre in garter with French motto HONI. SOIT. QVI. MAL. Y. PENSE, date either side of top crown, Latin legend and toothed border surrounding. MAG BRI.FR ET.HIB REX. Edge inscribed in small raised letters in two lines except for double sized italic word “Majesty” witness line at start with pair of crowned inter- linked Cs over pair of palm branches, THOMAS SIMON. MOST. HVMBLY. PRAYS .YOVR. MAJESTY TO. COMPARE. THIS. HIS. TRYALL. PIECE. WITH. THE. DVTCH. AND. IF. MORE / TRVLY. DRAWN. & EMBOSS’D. MORE. GRACE: FVLLY. ORDER’D. AND. MORE. ACCURATELY. EN- GRAVEN. TO. RELIEVE. HIM., raised rim above and below, all lettering, drapery and neck, frosted in a mezzotint style. (S 3354A; ESC 429 (72); L&S 6, and p.10; Bergne, NC 1854, p.137, no.7; Hocking 1360; KM PnB33). Only sixteen believed to be extant, of which only five examples auctioned worldwide in the past 30 years remain in private hands. 


The Petition Crown has always proved a key highlight in any auction sale, whether in Victorian times or today. The latest thoughts on the Petition Crown and circumstances of the famous competition that resulted have been written up by Marvin Lessen in an article in the 2005 British Numismatic Journal entitled “Notes on Simon’s Pattern (Petition) Crown of Charles II.” From which the notes below are taken and acknowledged. Charles II at the time of his Restoration was keen to consign the Puritan Commonwealth period to history, and with the coinage it was decreed in 1661 that all gold and silver coins should be minted using the screw press method. The screw press machinery and casting edge marking machine that had been invented by the Frenchman Pierre Blondeau, had been installed separately from the Mint at Drury House by the Strand, having previously been used to produce a series of pattern coins, in competition to the hammered workers in the powerful Corporation of Moneyers. By the time of the Restoration Blondeau had returned to Paris and Thomas Simon who had experience of the machinery under the Commonwealth had to reapply to be Chief Engraver in 1660. The post had already been promised to the elderly Thomas Rawlins, and Simon was granted a position as Engraver, whilst the machinery was moved across to the Mint at the Tower, which took till 1662. In the meantime Charles II appointed John and Joseph Roettier the Flemish brothers, whose family had assisted him during his exile, as Chief Engravers, which caused a great deal of consternation as they were from overseas. Ultimately this led to the famous competition between Thomas Simon and the Roettiers, with an order issued on 7th February 1661/2 that they should each produce a pattern crown, stating ‘Whereas Wee have given order to Tho. Symon one of Our Chiefe Gravers and also to John and Joseph Roettiers, Gravers to make the Stamps for Our Moneys by way of the Presse Our Will and Pleasure is that they severally first make a triall piece of 5 Shillings in Silver according to Each other draughts of heads and arms shewed unto Us with all convenient speed that may bee and that noe persons be suffered to disturb or oversee their worke until ye same shal be perfected and presented to Us for Our Judgment therein.’ The portrait of the King for the engravers to work from was executed by Samuel Cooper, the most sought-after miniaturist of the age, who had also worked for Oliver Cromwell. John Evelyn the famous diarist, recorded on 10th January 1661/2 that he held the candle ‘when Mr Cooper, ye rare limner, was crayoning the King’s face and head to make the stamps for the new milld money now contriv- ing...he choosing the night and candlelight for ye better finding out the shadows.’ The competition was still in progress in mid- April of 1662 as seen from a contemporary note that survives from the time speaking of the “contest in the Art betwixt them”. By the 17th May 1662 the King’s loyalty to the Roettiers was proven as the contest ended, with a Royal Warrant in preparation, which named John Roettier as Chief Engraver. When the warrant was issued 19th May 1662, it seems likely that Thomas Simon may have missed the deadline for the end of the contest, though the Roettiers were clearly more in favor personally to the King from the beginning. Subsequently Thomas Simon’s masterpiece of coin art, the Petition Crown was his final attempt to persuade Charles II to change his mind. The resulting coin that appeared used Blondeau’s revolutionary new technique of edge lettering to a new degree of small detail to plead with the King to reinstate him. To engrave a 34 word inscription of 160 characters of varying sizes on a 35mm edge using only a very recently introduced technique, was a masterpiece of skill and craftsmanship, that was widely admired at the time. Evelyn wrote ‘For the honour of our countrymen, I cannot here omit that ingenious trial of skill which a commendable emulation has produced in a medal performed with extraordinary accuracy by one who, having been deservedly employed in the Mint at the Tower, was not willing to be supplanted by foreigners.’ Although Simon’s petition was unsuccessful, additionally we are told by Challis in his “New History of the Royal Mint” that the metallurgy was too inferior to consider striking such high relief coins for currency, with the Roettiers being more successful as they had brought their own Smith from Holland to help with perfecting their coinage. Thomas Simon continued to be employed at the Mint as one of the engravers, having already produced the last hammered silver coinage of Charles II, and the new Scottish milled coins, along with a new Great Seal. The contest winning Roettier currency Crowns had a further warrant of specification issued on 6 February 1662/3, with the first coins struck by the 9th March when Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary: ‘there dined with us today Mr Slingsby of the Mint, who showed us all the new pieces both gold and silver that are made for the King by Blondeau’s way; and compared them with those made for Oliver. The pictures of the latter made by Symons, and of the King by one Rotyer, a German I think, that dined with us also. He extolls those of Rotyer’s above the others, and indeed I think they are the better, because the sweeter of the two, but, upon my word, those of the Protector are more like to my mind, than the King’s, but both very well worth seeing.’ The new coins were made current by Royal Proclamation on 27th March 1663, but were not universally admired. Subsequently Thomas Simon, engraver of the universally admired Oliver Cromwell portrait leading to his masterworks of the Petition and Reddite Crowns passed away in 1665. The original obverse die, in rather poor condition, is still housed at the Royal Mint.

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