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GM23668

Aethelred II Penny, long cross type, Barnstable Mint, moneyer Byrhsige

Regular price £2,650
Regular price Sale price £2,650

Aethelred II (978-1016), silver long cross Penny (c.997-1003), Barnstaple Mint, Moneyer Byrhsige, draped bust left, legend and beaded outer border surrounding both sides, legend commences lower left, +ÆÐELRÆD REX ANGLO, rev. long voided cross with tri-crescent ends, +BYR HSIG E M.O BARD, weight 1.45g (BMC IV, 3 as Bardney; BEH 15; SCBI 11:79 Stockholm; N.774; S.1151). Toned, one small rim chip, a couple of peck marks on reverse, otherwise good very fine and rare, with a great provenance.

North lists 73 named mints in operation during the reign of Aethelred II with a further 14 unallocated. Barnstaple operates with seven moneyers in all types except first small cross at the start.

Though Aethelred enjoyed such a long reign he was known as "The Unready" literally meaning ill-counselled from a history of bad advice and decision making. Born circa 967 Aethelred was supported by his mother and partisans that were led by Earl Aelfhere of Mercia; ascending the throne at no more than 12 years of age after the murder of his Half-Brother Edward at Corfe. The influential Aelfhere having died in 983 meant Aethelred became more vulnerable, and the Vikings began to start their raids once again. Aethelred chose to pay off the raiders rather than resist, becoming known for giving such ransoms payments willingly. This meant many hundreds of thousands of coins ended up being taken to Scandanavia where they were hoarded and why much of the coinage that survives today often exhibits "peck marks" where the Viking bankers have inserted a knife point to make sure the metal quality was good. The harrying continued until Swein Forkebeard held a great swathe of England by 1013, and Aethelred was under threat in London retreating to the Isle of Wight. England submitted to Swein but he died suddenly on the 2nd February 1014 at Gainsborough giving Aethelred the advantage and driving the Vikings out. Canute the second son of Swein, returned to attack in 1015 and by early 1016 was marching on Mercia, Aethelred however passed away on 23rd April 1016 in London at around the age of 52 just as his second son Edmund was moving south to link up with the army. Edmund was elected King but the army was his priority, and after winning a few battles suffered a defeat at Ashingdon on 18th October 1016. He retreated possibly wounded to West Mercia and negotiated a treaty giving him rule of Wessex. However Edmund died in Oxford on the 30th November 1016 giving control to Canute.

Barnstaple is a seaport nearly 40 miles north west of Exeter on the River Taw estuary and is mentioned in the Burghal Hidage. Aethelstan is said to have driven the Danes over the Taw and lived in a palace at Barnstaple. The castle there was probably built by Joel of Totnes in the reign of William I, who also founded a Cluniac monastery dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.

The legends translate as "Aethelred, King of the English" and "Byrhsige of Barnstaple."

Provenance:
Ex Richard Cyril Lockett, English part I, Glendining, 6-9th June 1955, lot 699.
Ex F. Elmore-Jones, Glendining, 12-13th ay 1971, lot 65.
Ex Spink Numismatic Circular July 1980, item 6269.
Ex Collection of an English Doctor, part one, Sovereign Rarities, London, March 2022.

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