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Coin of the Moment

Charles I, 1625-1649. Gold angel, London (Tower mint)

Angels

The gold 'angel' was introduced in 1465 by Edward IV, and was called an angel because it shows the Archangel Michael on the obverse. On the reverse is a medieval ship, which had been on the reverse of medieval gold coins since 1344. It was originally worth one-third of a pound (six shillings and eightpence), but by the sixteenth century it had increased in value to ten shillings, indicated by the Roman numeral X.

Charles I's legend

The coin above dates from the reign of Charles I (1625-1649) and bears the inscription AMOR POPULI PRAESIDIUM REGIS ('the love of the people is the King's protection'), which was introduced by Charles I. This reflects the king's concern about popular discontent, which was entirely justified by the events of the English Civil War, culminating in the execution of the king on 30th January 1649.

The King's Evil

This coin was pierced so that it could be used in the ceremony of 'touching for the King's Evil'. It was believed that the skin disease scrofula could be cured by the touch of the king, and thus it was also called the King's Evil. Sufferers of the disease who were touched by the king were presented with a gold angel to hang around their neck, as an amulet to reinforce the cure.

One of the last people to be touched for the King's Evil was Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest literary figures of the eighteenth century, who was touched by Queen Anne (1702-1714). The first Hanoverian monarch, George I (1714-1727), abandoned the practice, which was regarded as superstitious.