A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country to his Correspondent in the City, Concerning the Coronation Medal (1689)

I might give you various instances of auspicious and inaugural medals, but that I intend this only as a letter. Therefore I shall proceed to the present medal, which, of what nature it will be, time alone must show; yet I foresee it will give great occasion to the maligners of our new crowned king and queen to pass their malicious censures on it.

One of my friends, viewing the two faces of the king and queen, said that such conjunctions in medals had oftentimes proved unfortunate. For he had not long since by him the medal made for the two De Witts, which much resembled this (if the head attire had not been different) whose inhuman butchery by the mobile of Amsterdam gave the very first rise to the then blooming Prince of Orange’s greatness.  And all the world (says he) knows that King Phillip and Queen Mary of England,  and King Henry and Queen Mary of Scotland,  whose faces and names were joined in their coins and medals, were not very fortunate. But I told him, since the Parliament had joined them in the sovereignty, they could not be dis-joined in their coin, and I doubted not but their fortunes would be alike, good or bad.

When I received the reverse, I was heated into an indignation that any person should be so indiscreet as to choose an emblem upon such an occasion so subject to misinterpretation as this would be. For as Julius Caesar said to his wife Calpurnia, that it was not enough that she should be innocent, but that she ought to be so cautious in all her actions, that she should be free even from suspicion;  so ought it to be with emblems and medals: they ought to signify and express so clearly the worth and greatness of those prince’s actions which they represent, that no sinister interpretations might be made of them. And this indignation was increased by the reflection which a gentleman made, who first looked upon the reverse with me.

This gentleman seeing a chariot, but not understanding the Latin inscription, and having heard the town talk of Tullia, who instigated her husband Tarquinius to kill her father Servius Tullius, king of the Romans, that he might succeed him in the throne, and, as Livy says, caused her chariot to be driven over his mangled body;  cried out, is this Tullia’s chariot? This I say shocked me, and raised my anger against the contriver,  who had chosen so ill an emblem, which upon so superficial a view, brought such an odious history into men’s minds.