This exhibit explores the period starting with the reign of Charles I and the English Civil Wars to the first years of the restored British monarchy under Charles II, through the coins, medals, people and objects associated with Oliver Cromwell. It is our privilege to display the Geoffrey Cope Collection, one of the finest collections of coins from this period, to help tell the story of this turbulent time in English history.
Oliver Cromwell has been the subject of speculation and research since his death 350 years ago. Some have praised him as a great reformer and supporter of religious freedom, while others have reviled him as a tyrannical dictator who killed Charles I. One thing we know is true: Cromwell’s era (1599-1658) was one of great change in England in religious, economic and political terms, and his actions and the events of his lifetime form one of the pivotal points in the history of Great Britain and her colonies.
Cromwell’s life and career were most effected by the conflict between King Charles I and the English Parliament over the power of taxation and freedom of religion. The end result was a series of conflicts known as the English Civil Wars, during which Cromwell attained distinction as a Member of Parliament, a cavalry commander, a general, and eventually as the “Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.” Cromwell’s place in history was assured by his role in the execution of Charles I and his rise to power as “Lord Protector” during the Commonwealth.
Numismatically, this period of English history saw the conversion of English coinage from traditional handmade “hammered” coins to mechanized “milled” coins. The conversion process was not smooth and evolved in fits and starts over a period of 25 years involving several talented mint engineers and engravers: Nicholas Briot, Thomas Simon, Peter Blondeau and John Roettiers. Traditional mint authorities resisted this change to the utmost of their powers, but Charles II finally forced them to accept modernization in 1662.
Explore the events of this tumultuous time through the fascinating coins, objects and stories presented in this exhibit!
Pax Quaeritur Bello
"Let Peace Be Sought through War"
-Oliver Cromwell's personal motto