George II born on the 10th November 1683 at Herrenhausen, Hanover to George I and Sophia Dorothea, crowned at the age of forty-three in early October 1727, wedded Caroline of Ansbach (daughter of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach) and held his position until the 25th October 1760, where he died aged seventy six at Kensington Palace. The most recognized anecdotal reference to the King that one will witness being reinforced whether in television documentary, within a History seminar redbrick or otherwise, in any given municipal classroom up and down the land is that he ‘was the last British monarch to command his troops into battle, personally.’ Of course the aforementioned point is correct, veraciously so.
Nevertheless, his reign was not a cut and dried case study of valour and courage, or a nostalgic re-affirmation of Teutonic gallantry, far from it. His reign was arguably more than simply paying lip service or miming to ‘Rule Britannia’ despite this being part of the contemporary contextual underlay in England, the song itself first performed in his regnal years on the 1st August 1740, adapted from Thomson’s poem by Arne to music. In short, he was instrumental in making the Hanoverian dynasty acceptable in England, indeed War and Battle victories were not as simple they had initially seemed.
For instance the War of Austrian succession 1740-48, Austria and Britain forming one side and France, Spain and Prussia on the other. There were naturally dissenting voices at home questioning whether this War had been for Hanover’s sake as opposed to Britains. The victory of Dettingen in 1743, Walpole resigning a year earlier as William Pitt the elder climbed the ranks coming to fore, the natural Whig ascendancy (cf,. George Grenville, Pitt the elder – Patriot Boys movement siding with the Prince of Wales – Frederick, George’s son, never to be King).
Much was going on at home as abroad, in private discourse and in open battle, by fountain pen and by word of mouth. An elaborate set of events on the world stage, something of a balancing act, the need to strengthen Empire, an essential requirement to keep a handle on both Houses, Commons and Lords.
Towards the back end of his reign, we again see many of the same themes playing out. Robert Clive was showing a proclivity for victory and success, winning over the struggle for empire against the French, gaining more than a foothold in India. The Seven Years War [1756-63] saw Quebec taken out of French hands. A complex reign, in many ways laying the foundations of Empire, power and confidence struggles meshed in with foreign policy, intermittent diplomacy and regular military campaigns.
Insofar as numismatics are concerned, the natural denomination that comes to ones mind is that of his Gold Five Guineas, issued in date from 1729 to 1753, not as a comprehensive date run, more as eight individual dates within these year bookmarks. After the Five Guineas, interest goes in more cases than others into his Guineas (usually the young head types, then the overall rarity being the intermediate head Lima Guinea of 1745). Here I would like to bring a very rare coin into the fold.
The above coin is a plain edge proof issue of a 1728 Silver Sixpence. English Silver Coinage gives it a rarity value of R4, which in essence translates to ‘eleven to twenty examples’ known. A handful appearing in the coin archives systems running back to 1999. Cataloguers have been placing them in as very rare, however, as time goes on and the ink pots are ready to update the specialised handbooks; it stands to reason these will be considered as extremely rare when appearing under the hammer or in dealers trays. The currency issue 1728 6d is considered very rare (R2) let alone the plain edge proof. Struck using superior dies on choice blanks, our example boasts mirrored fields and classic unadulterated proof details. Rarely seen so well preserved, an essential addition to the discerning ‘Patterns and Proofs’ collector, for the House of Hanover enthusiast, equally enticing to the dedicated Sixpence collector.
This article was written by Chris Tyrimos, British specialist.