1656 Cromwell Broad


The Cromwell gold Broad of Twenty Shillings is a great rarity in the world of English coins, especially when they are retained in such fine condition. As a historic memento from the English Civil War, this collector’s piece is highly sought-after by rare coin enthusiasts and aficionados of this important time in British history.

Oliver Cromwell will always divide opinion with historians. Regarded as an infamous despot by some and an enlightened leader by others, entirely depended on what side of the political divide you were on but what is certain is that Oliver Cromwell and his actions shaped the future of the nation.

Born in April 1599 and the father of nine children, two of whom died in infancy, Oliver Cromwell rose to prominence in 1642 – the start of the English Civil War. The Civil War was the only war in British history to result in the abolition of the monarchy, albeit temporarily.

After Cromwell and the forces of Parliament proved victorious, in January 1649, King Charles I was brought to trial for treason, on the grounds that he had fought against his subjects. Charles famously refused to recognise the court as having any power over the King of England and offered no defence. Consequently, the King was condemned to death and executed by beheading on January 30th, 1649 at Whitehall London, dawning a new era in British history.

Upon the King’s execution, Cromwell quickly established the Commonwealth of England and this is when the coins of the land were ordered to be changed. From 1649, the coins struck during the Commonwealth have inscriptions in English rather than Latin, reflecting a ‘more accurate’ expression of Protestantism. Cromwell also ordered the cross of St George and the Irish Harp to replace the Royal Coat of Arms.

Oliver Cromwell was established as ‘Lord Protector’ of the nation in December 1653 and this was when new coinage featuring a portrait of Cromwell, adorning a laurel wreath, was worked on. These coins made an appearance in 1657-1658 but production was cut short due to the sudden death of Cromwell on September 3rd, 1658, hence their rarity.

The limited number of Cromwellian portrait coins that were produced are of the highest quality and were all machine made struck from dies by Thomas Simon (1618-1665) using the presses of Frenchman Pierre Blondeau. Thomas Simon was chief engraver to the mint and Pierre Blondeau wad engineer to the mint. Once considered to be patterns, scholars now believe that these coins were intended for circulation and although Cromwell did turn down the crown in 1657, the issue of these coins portraying him as ‘laureate’ and ‘crowned’ does suggest a hint of ‘assuming the purple.’ However, Cromwell’s sudden death in 1658 means that this remains pure speculation.

The obverse of the gold Broad of Twenty Shillings features the laureate head of Cromwell left, and reverse displays the crowned shield of the Protectorate. The edge is grained and there is an inverted obverse/reverse die axis. Ironically, the obverse and reverse legends are in Latin which is not in keeping with the desire to keep the inscriptions in English. The reason for this is not known. This coin has been struck on a slightly thinner flan which is acknowledged to be the rarer of the two types produced. A collector’s item indeed!