Marriage Medal of James VI and Anne of Denmark (1590)

Our sixth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Rebecca Niven, who looks at the silver medal produced to commemorate the marriage of James VI to Princess Anne (or Anna) of Denmark in 1590. This copy of the medal is housed in the Hunterian Coin Collection (GLAHM 38056). 

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Housed in the majestic coin collection of the Hunterian Museum, that boasts over 70,000 coins, medals, tokens and other such related objects[1], is the Marriage medal of King James VI and Anne of Denmark. The medal was part of the original collection bequeathed to the University of Glasgow as the foundation of the museum after the death of Dr William Hunter (1718-1783). Unfortunately, there is no written record of prior ownership of said medal before Hunter. Briefly, Hunter himself was an avid collector of materials, which is shown by his vast collection of coins – of many different origins and eras – that he accumulated during his lifetime. Additionally, Hunter was active during a period called the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’. Some, such as Thomas Ahnert, believe found its roots during the Scottish Renaissance and Reformation[2]. The medal can also be seen to be a part of a wider Stewart coinage.

 

The standard reference of this medal is MI. I.157. 136. The archival location is GLAHM 38056. It weighs 44.5g with a width and height of 6.0cmX6.0cm, showing this to be a rather sizeable medal. It is very rare, and there are only two other medals known like it. [3] Whilst there is no definite information that shows exactly where the medal was made, the logical conclusion, which many historians have drawn, is that was produced in the Mint in Edinburgh.[4] Should this be the case it is fair to assume that Thomas Foullis would have had a hand in creating the medal as he was the mint official at the time[5]

 

The medal is a silver composition, which has been cast and chased with decoration on both sides of the medal. The obverse is decorated quite simply; two ¾ profiles of both King James and Anne of Denmark face one another with a Scottish crown joining the two overhead. Around the outside is Latin script stating “IACOBVS•6•ET•ANNA•D•G•SCOTORVM•REX•ET•REGINA” meaning, “James VI and Anne by the Grace of God King and Queen of Scotland”. The reverse flaunts a great deal of Scottish iconography; the centre shows a lion rampant being held up by two unicorns at either side. Below shows what appears to be collar and badge of St Andrews Cross emblem and above is a fleurs de lys with a thistle wearing a crown in the centre. Around the outside of the obverse is the statement “IN•DE•FNCE•”, meaning ‘In Defence’- the Royal motto.

 

During the renaissance in Italy, commemorative medals appear to have gained considerable interest for the first time since antiquity. Mark Jones believes that there are three simple reasons why a Renaissance patron would commission. Firstly, he believes the ‘cult of the individual’ was explored during this period and a medal portrait would be far more durable than a painted portrait. [6]Therefore, there is an idea of immortality and legacy in the making of medals, which is obvious with the marriage medal. Additionally, as Jones states that medals, “exchange likeness with his equals and bestow them on inferiors.”[7] To be able to hand out medals shows a sign of importance or perhaps friendship. Furthermore, it is a simple and effective way to convey a message and potentially also as a type of propaganda. Finally, as a medal had two sides, it gave the patron more space to express individuality. The patron had the ability to have a portrait on one side and an obverse to allow the patron to incorporate a motto or emblem that had specific meaning to the individual.[8]The marriage medal’s obverse is able to explore a lot of Stewart monarch iconography which is explicitly linked to the royalty of Scotland. The marriage medal, therefore, is a perfect example of a wider renaissance medal history and is able to show Scotland’s role in this renaissance history.

 

The medal is important in giving context to a broader history of Scotland. For example, this medal commemorates both the first marriage of a Protestant monarch in Scotland and demonstrates the last Royal Scottish wedding. Therefore, the medal is unique as it is able to represent two incredibly important occurrences that happened within Scotland during the Renaissance. The Reformation was a religious break from the Catholic Church to Protestantism, which happened in Scotland in 1560. However, Scotland did not have a Protestant monarch until 1567 under the reign of King James VI. Before James was the reign of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. Disastrous in regards to her marriages and her reluctance to give up Catholicism.[9]This meant that there was some pressure on James to be a better monarch. Likewise, this meant that James VI had to be careful in his search for a bride. The idea of marriage to produce an heir was an important endeavour for any monarch to undertake. Furthermore, James VI would have wanted to strengthen his claim to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth I, meaning that his choice would have to appease her also. Therefore, Anne of Denmark appeared to be a perfect match due to the good links between Scotland and Denmark. However, more importantly, Denmark was also a reformed country, albeit Lutheran instead of Calvinist. [10] Thus, the marriage is able to give Scotland it’s first Protestant King and Queen, which shows why the marriage would definitely be commemorated by commissioning a medal. Consequently, as the marriage occurred a mere thirteen years before the Union of the Crowns (1603), it is also the last Scottish royal wedding to take place.

 

Christopher Eimer argued the possibility that the medal could potentially be commemorating the return to Scotland of the newly married Royal couple as oppose to the marriage itself. [11]This line of argument is bolstered by the accounts of the celebration of Anne’s coronation, particularly her entrance to Edinburgh. Anne’s entrance to Edinburgh showed, as Lynch states, “most of the themes and imagery…familiar both to renaissance pageantry and the capital itself.” [12]However, her entrance can be shown to be more lavish than of that James VI’s entrance to the capital in 1579. Considering that James was the King it appears unusual that his entrance to Edinburgh would be less extravagant, yet it could be concluded that Anne’s coronation guarantees succession and lineage [13]. Therefore, it would be logical to believe the idea which Eimer puts forward that the medal is for the return of the couple as it shows the return of a strong lineage and succession for the Scottish Kingdom.

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Now, to concentrate on some of the details on the medal which are a show of Stewart iconography specifically from the period of the Scottish Renaissance. Especially, the use of thistles on the reverse of the medallion. As Burnett and Bennet explain, the thistle became a royal flower during the reign of James III, where he was responsible for various changes in royal symbolism[14]. The emblem of the thistle as a royal flower is first depicted on his coin in issue 1471-1483. Therefore, this shows that there was a continuation of symbols of identity that begun during the Scottish renaissance which are used and shown in the medal. Also, the thistle can be viewed as an icon which is in line with the Royal motto “In defence”, as the thistle was a self-defending flower.
Additionally, illustrated on the medal is the collar and badge of St Andrews, another Scottish emblem. However, some historians believe that this could hint at a chivalric order in Scotland at this time. The Order of the Thistle was founded in 1687 with James the II and VII and is the second oldest chivalric order in Britain. Yet, historians such as Kate Stevenson believe that the order was potentially founded by James III[15], which would mean this chivalric order was set u6p during the Scottish Renaissance. However, as Burnett and Bennet explain, there is very little “authentic proof” that there was an order of chivalry in Scotland before 1687. [16] Nonetheless, the marriage medal could give reason to believe there was a potential chivalric order in Scotland pre 1687 which has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy. Complementary to the evidence of James VI’s medal is the main gate at Linlithgow palace, erected by James V. As Burnett states, James V appeared to be proud of this royal insignia and often used it, [17]again hinting at a potential chivalric order.

 

The best way to make the medal more accessible to the public would be through the means of an exhibition. Potentially, as part of an exhibition that explains the life of James VI and I through different objects relating to him. An in focus exhibition of James would mean the borrowing of different objects from other museums to create a fuller collection. Each item could act as an anchor that a specific part of James’s life can be explained around, giving the exhibition goer a visual aid to match with the event. To make the exhibition easier to understand, it should be in chronological order, from his birth and some historical context, to his death and the aftermath. Therefore, this will make the museum goer feel as though they are going through the trajectory of James’s life. This is preferable to a thematic approach with the exhibition, being split into different sections such as religion, literary or James’ views on witchcraft.

The marriage medal in particular would have to be kept in an upright glass case and held in a plaque or clamps which makes it easier to see both sides of the medal. Furthermore, to help viewers gain a fuller understanding of the medal, close up pictures could provide a visual aid. This would help in explaining each piece of the medal in more depth.

To appeal further to the public, and potentially make the exhibition more interesting and interactive for children, mini clips could be inserted for the viewer to understand each object and what it represents more fully, as opposed to big lengthy texts. This would be perfect in the case of the marriage medal. The almost romantic tale of James VI sailing over to Denmark to get his bride after she was unable to sail to Scotland due to storms. This would most definitely spark public interest, preferring a more romantic and dramatic take on history. Video clips could be mounted on walls next to specific items to give a fuller and clearer understanding of what each item is representing. This could be shown next to perhaps a text of James VI ‘Daemonologie’ (1597) with a video clip explaining what James VI’s stance on witches were and what he had done to try and prevent witchcraft.

An exhibition on James VI would benefit from artefacts that are not just painted portraits, meaning that the marriage medal would be an invaluable source for the exhibition.

 

 

Bibliography

  1. Ahnert, Thomas- The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment: 1690-1805 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014)
  2. Burnett, Charles J and Bennet, Helen- The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1987)
  3. Clark, Neil D.L- Scottish Gold: Fruit of the Nation (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd in conjunction with the Hunterian, University of University)
  4. Cochran-Patrick, R.W- Records of the Coinage of Scotland, from the Earliest period to the Union (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1876)
  5. Croft, Pauline J- King James (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  6. Eimer, Christopher- British Commemorative Medals and their Values (London: Spink, 2010)
  7. Hawkins, Edward- Medallic Illustrations of British History (London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1885)
  8. Jones, Mark- The Art of the Medal (London: British Museum Publications Ltd, 1979)
  9. Lynch, Michael and Goode, Julia- The Reign of James VI (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008)
  10. Stevenson, David- Scotland’s Last Royal Wedding: The Marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1997)
  11. Stevenson, Katie- “The Unicorn, St Andrew and The Thistle: Was There an Order of Chivalry in Late Medieval Scotland?”,Scottish Historical Review, 83.1 (2004),
  12. University Of Glasgow – The Hunterian – Collections – Collection Summaries – Coins And Medals 2016 <http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/collectionsummaries/coinsandmedals/&gt;
  13. Williams, Janet Hatley- Stewart Style 1513-1542 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1996.)

[1] University Of Glasgow – The Hunterian – Collections – Collection Summaries – Coins And Medals 2016 <http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/collectionsummaries/coinsandmedals/&gt;

[2] Thomas Ahnert, The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment: 1690-1805 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014) P.81

[3] Edward Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations of British History (London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1885) P. 157-8

[4] Neil D.L Clark, Scottish Gold: Fruit of the Nation (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd in conjunction with the Hunterian, University of University) P. 74

[5] R.W. Cochran-Patrick, Records of the Coinage of Scotland, from the Earliest period to the Union (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1876) P.34

[6] Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal (London: British Museum Publications Ltd, 1979) P.28

[7] Ibid

[8]  Ibid P.29

[9] David Stevenson, Scotland’s Last Royal Wedding: The Marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1997)

[10] Pauline J Croft, King James (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) P. 24

[11] Christopher Eimer, British Commemorative Medals and their Values (London: Spink, 2010) P.45

[12] Michael Lynch and Julia Goode, The Reign of James VI (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008) P. 75

[13] Ibid. P.84

[14] Charles J. Burnett and Helen Bennet, The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1987) P.6

[15] Katie Stevenson, “The Unicorn, St Andrew and The Thistle: Was There an Order of Chivalry in Late Medieval Scotland?”, Scottish Historical Review, 83.1 (2004), P. 3-15

[16] Charles J. Burnett and Helen Bennet, The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1987)

[17] Charles J Burnett, Stewart Style 1513-1542 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1996.) P. 291

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