St. George’s day April 23, is supposedly England’s special day. Actually, we have no official national day and it largely goes uncelebrated, which is a shame as George is our patron saint. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England and part of the British flag. It is believed that George was a brave Roman soldier who protested against the Romans’ torture of Christians and died for his beliefs. The popularity of St George in England stems from the time of the early Crusades when it is said that the Normans saw him in a vision and were victorious. His image appears on many of our UK coins.
23 April – St. George’s Day
Last year a rare 600-year-old gold finger ring, complete with a St. George and the dragon engraving, was unearthed by a detectorist in Norfolk. The Guild of St. George operated in Norwich between 1385 and 1548 and the ring demonstrated his popularity at the time.
And now for something different – Shakespeare
Historians believe Shakespeare was born on this day in 1564, the same day he died in 1616. This year we celebrate the 400 anniversary of his death. And it is that fact which I will also ‘celebrate’ in this post. Choosing my subject this time was a dilemma but, in mitigation, the Bard’s anniversary is a one-off and I can always major on George next year! It would have been much easier to link George to metal detecting, but I like a challenge. First, a few fast facts about Shakespeare, courtesy of the History Channel.
Incidentally – or should that be coincidentally – a nearly 400-year-old copy of a first edition of William Shakespeare’s collected plays has been found in a vast aristocratic house on the Isle of Bute, off the western coast of Scotland. You can read about it HERE. The Royal Mint has struck three official £2 coins in the Bard’s honour – a first for the United Kingdom. Each coin celebrates an aspect of Shakespeare’s famous work:
Detectorist Finds with Shakespearian Connections.
As I inferred above, this wasn’t going to be easy and he links to the Bard are tenuous, to say the least. Scouring databases will bring up trade tokens issued by John Shakespeare, a rope maker of Middlesex, fob seals with a bust that may represent our man (doubtful) and some with a more positive connection … like this example, a medal from the PAS database.
The medal above commemorates 300 years since the birth of Shakespeare, dating it to 1916. The inscription reads WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. The other side shows a sheild surrounded by wreaths with the outer inscription 300 BIRTHDAY OF THE IMMORTAL BARD. See the full PAS record by clicking on the link. From the same database we have an unidentified object – probably of a mount of some kind – with a profile bust of the Bard … or is that Oliver Cromwell?
My next example is a shield shaped harness pendant (shown left) from the UKDFD and another courtesy of Nigel Mills and his book Medieval Artefacts (shown right). You can see full details by clicking on the link. It is thought that the pendant once belonged the de Bohun family. Humphrey de Bohun died in Pleshey castle and Shakespeare talks about Pleshey In Act 1, Scene 2 of ‘Richard II’. Gloucester’s widow sighs, “With all good speed at Plashy visit me”. All that remains today is a 50 foot un-castled and overgrown motte, surrounded by a watered moat populated by reeds, ducks and fish.
And finally, an item (below) found last year by a detectorist, and seen on eBay. Could it be part of a pendant similar to the one shown on the right? I’ll let you decide.
I haven’t forgotten that the 21st of April is one of Queen Elizabeth’s birthdays. Her image has appeared on a lot of coins …