Gold Medal Commemorating the Regency of John, Duke of Albany (1524)

Our fifth blog from the 2016-17 class comes from Cordelia Payson, who examines the fascinating and unique medal commemorating the short regency of John Stewart, Duke of Albany, during the reign of James V. This medal is housed in the Hunterian Coin Collection (GLAHM 38002). 

Medals have a unique place in history because they often occur separate from the government, unlike the minting of coins. Any individual with enough funds can have a medal created for “their own gratification.”[1] In the context of art, medals are unique to “Renaissance and post-Renaissance Europe”[2] and are inspired by Greek and Roman traditions and the renewed interest in the classical world. This fascination with medals spread across Europe and was especially popular among royalty, like most Renaissance trend. This becomes evident in Scotland with the gold medal commemorating the regency of John, Duke of Albany.

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This medal is rather unassuming at first glance. It is only 36 millimeters in diameter, 1 millimeter in depth[3], and weighs 13.15 grams (202.9 grains). The front of the coin, known as the obverse, depicts the arms of the Duke of Albany, as well as those of his wife Anne upon a cross[4]. Around the edge of the obverse, in Latin, are the words IOANNIS . ALBANIE . DVC . GVBERN . In English this means ‘John, Duke of Albany, Regent’[5]. The reverse is turned approximately ninety degrees to the left, in comparison to the obverse. It displays a dove, which represents the Holy Spirit[6]. Below are the arms of the Duke “within the Order of St. Michael”[7] which are surrounded by a ring of “escallop shells.”[8] The Latin on the reverse says SVB VMBTA TVARVM., which translates to “Under the shadow of thy [wings].”[9] Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland notes this medal is “very rare.”[10] The medal is located at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. The provenance of this specific medal is unknown, as Dr. William Hunter did not keep detailed records regarding the various coins and medals that he collected. The collection was bequeathed to the university in 1783 after William Hunter’s death, according to Hunterian archives.








The gold came from Crawford (Crauford) Moor, near the village of Crawford, which is located in South Lanarkshire.[11] Even with this information it is uncertain as to where the medal was actually made. While it was manufactured from Scottish gold, it cannot be assumed that it was in fact made in Scotland. While John Stewart was still regent he gave Johne Drane of France the position of “washer and refiner of gold”[12] at the mine, showing that there was already a connection between France and the gold. SCRAN states that it was “probably [struck] in France,”[13] while G. F. Hill notes that the medal is coin-engravers work, similar to the “earliest French medals.”[14] On the other hand, the Hunterian Museum archives says that it may have been minted in Edinburgh. Unfortunately there is no way to know for sure where it was made or who made it. The coin gives no clues and there have been no records found to support either side of the argument.


The coin collection at the Hunterian Museum was originally the personal collection of Dr. William Hunter, who procured medals between 1770 and 1783.[15] After Hunter passed away in 1783 he left his collections to the University, which became the foundation for the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. The current coin collection contains around “70,000 coins, medals, tokens and related objects,”[16] half of which were Hunter’s original collection. It is now recognized as the best coin collection in Scotland. The medal of the duke of Albany is unique in the context of Hunter’s collection because it is the earliest dated medal of them all. It was most recently displayed in a temporary exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery entitled “Moments in History: William Hunter’s British Medals.”[17] The only known copies of this medal are located at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow[18] as well as electrotype copies at the Advocates in Edinburgh[19] and the British Museum.[20] It could be assumed that very few medals were originally made, as so few survive today, but it is hard to determine whether or not that is true. The Catalogue of the Medals of Scotland notes that there is a another version of the medal, with the same reverse. On the obverse is a monogram and the legend IELOSENHA, both of which there is no explanation for. It is also unknown if there are any of these medals in existence.[21] Unfortunately very little is known about the coin, except for what can be learned from the object itself. While there are many medals at the Hunterian Museum, the medal commemorating the regency of the Duke of Albany is unique because it is so coin like in appearance. It is rather small, round, and thin for a medal. Unlike many other medals it does not have a portrait of the Duke of Albany. It is unusual in this regard as medals from this time often included some kind of portrait.

The story of this medal starts on the 9th of September, 1513 when King James IV was killed during the Battle of Flodden.[22] This left his seventeen month old son, James V, the king of Scotland.[23] James IV’s will stipulated that his wife Margaret would care for his son, though this was quickly opposed as she was “a woman and, worse still, she was an English woman.”[24] The closest adult male relation was John Stewart, Duke of Albany, the son of James III’s “exiled brother Alexander and his French wife.”[25] Albany was a much more appealing choice, especially because of his close connections with France, which would hopefully allow for a better relationship, especially in terms of foreign policy. It was 1515 by the time John Stewart came to Scotland; he had never been before and did not even speak Scots.[26] He was far more French than Scottish. In the following years Albany spent periods of time in Scotland, when he was not attending to other duties in France. The Duke of Albany had little interest in the throne because he held lands in Auvergne, where “his longterm future was located firmly.”[27] In November of 1516 Albany’s position was “formally recognized by parliament.”[28] In the following years Albany split his time between France and Scotland, which lead to instability in Scotland. He attempted to maintain control over Scotland but had trouble with people who opposed his rule. Albany’s time as regent was supposed to bring “French-assisted good rule”[29] to the country, but instead only lead to “short interludes of order amidst instability.”[30] He neither failed nor succeeded in his position as Lord Governor of Scotland. The Duke of Albany’s time as regent left him feeling like “a hawk mobbed by crows,”[31] prompting to leave for France in May of 1524.[32] When John left he stated that if he did not return by the first of September he would “forfeit the governorship.”[33] In the end he did not return, as François I was happy with the relations with England and therefore refused to allow Albany to return.[34] This medal was struck in 1524, most likely by the Duke of Albany, but it is unknown whether it was done before he left Scotland in May or afterwards, in France. As it commemorates the duke of Albany’s regency it most certainly would have been created prior to his renunciation of his position as regent. Unfortunately very little is know about the medal, from where it was made to who it was given to and how it ended up with Dr. William Hunter.

The public might be interested in the medal commemorating the regency of the Duke of Albany for a variety of reasons. For Scots it would be meaningful as it is made of Scottish gold and also represents an important part of Scottish history. The medal could be interesting to anyone purely because it is made of gold and is almost five hundred years old. Displaying the medal as part of an exhibition would be an easy way to make it accessible to the public. The medal could be used in variety of exhibits, as it is connected to coins and medals, Scottish gold, and James V. Ideally it would also be included in an online component of the exhibition, giving the public easier access to pictures and information. Modern technology could go beyond displaying the medal in a museum and online. In this situation 3D printing could be utilized in a new and exciting way to help the public interact with the coin. This could be done in two ways and ideally both at the same time. First, the museum where the medal is being displayed could have a 3D printer. It would provide an easy and affordable way for visitors to take a souvenir home. Having a three-dimensional copy of the medal to hold in one’s hands would change the experience entirely. Visitors would not be limited to seeing an object behind glass, often with only one side being shown at a time. A copy of the medal would allow anyone to examine the size, colour, and markings on the coin without actually holding the original. Additionally, a tactile experience such as this would help to include younger children in the museum experience, because they would not be left looking at exhibits. Being able to interact with what they are seeing would enhance the experience and make it much more engaging.

The second step would involve including a copy of the 3D with the online aspect of the exhibition. This would allow anyone around the world with access to a 3d printer to print a copy of the medal. This would widen access to the entire world, rather than just people who could visit the museum. Other museums could utilize it to accompany their display without the cost and process of securing the original medal. High schools could use it for history classes, or even as an aspect of STEM courses that included 3D printing. It could also be useful for university level classes that do not have access to such items in local museums, archives, or collections. Overall sharing the 3D model with the public would increase access and help educate a wider audience about medals and Scottish history.

Allowing for 3D printing of the medal would expand the average museum experience and take it to a new level. It would encourage more interaction with such an important object at a low price and with limited security risks. Introducing 3D printing would also take advantage of new technology that could be expanded beyond medals to objects such as coins and statues. Merging technology and history would allow museums to spread knowledge to a wider audience and renew interest in museums through a new medium.



[1] Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal, (London: The Trustees of the British Museum, 1979), 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] ‘Medal (obverse), commemorating John, Duke of Albany’, National Museums Scotland <> [accessed 10 November 2016].

[4] Edward Hawkins, Augustus Wollaston Franks, and Herbert A. Grueber, Medallic Illustrations of The History of Great Britain and Ireland to the Death of George II, (London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1885), 28.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Robert William Cochran-Patrick, Catalogue of the Medals of Scotland From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1884), 35.

[7] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, 28.

[8] Cochran-Patrick, Medals of Scotland, 35.

[9] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, 28.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Neil D. L. Clark, Alison Sheridan, and Donal Bateson, Scottish Gold, (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing, 2014), 2.

[12] Ibid., 22.

[13] ‘Medal (obverse), commemorating John, Duke of Albany’.

[14] George Francis Hill, Medals of the Renaissance, (London: Oxford University Press, 1920), 169.

[15] ‘Moments in History: William Hunter’s British Medals’, The Hunterian <,objectsofdesire,chasingimmortality> [accessed 13 November 2016] (para 4).

[16] ‘Coins and Medals’, The Hunterian <> [accessed 9 November 2016] (para 1, 2).

[17] ‘Moments in History: William Hunter’s British Medals’.

[18] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, 28.

[19] Ibid.

[20] ‘Collection online: medal/electrotype’, The British Museum <> [accessed 13 November 2016].

[21] Cochran-Patrick, Medals of Scotland, 36.

[22] ‘James V’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography <> [accessed 15 November 2016] (para 2).

[23] Ibid.

[24] Jane E. A. Dawson, Scotland Re-Formed, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 93.

[25] ‘James V’, para 3.

[26] Ibid., para 5.

[27] Dawson, Scotland Re-Formed, 94.

[28] Ibid., 98.

[29] Ibid., 107.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] ‘James V’, para 6.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.


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