The man who wouldn’t be king
ON December 11, it will be exactly 80 years since Edward VIII, for the love of Wallis Simpson, abdicated the throne after a controversial reign of just 326 days. The Royal Mint hastily cancelled its production of coins bearing his head, which was due to commence at 8am on January 1, 1937. Dubbed ‘the coinage that never was’, the rare patterns and trial pieces—themselves illustrative of the wouldn’t-be-king’s rebellious nature (he insisted on facing left, breaking a 300-yearold tradition of alternating directions)— were hidden away for decades, painful reminders of what was deemed a national embarrassment.
However, in the 1970s, a sealed cardboard box was retrieved from a safe at the Royal Mint—it contained 49 coins featuring Edward VIII. They now form the basis of a larger collection, which also includes plaster models, seals and sketches, on display at the The Royal Mint Experience, near Cardiff.
Star of the show is an ‘extremely rare’ gold sovereign (top and second from top); there are only six in existence and, in 2014, one sold for a record £516,000, the highest price ever paid for a British coin. Its reverse shows St George and the Dragon by Benedetto Pistrucci, which has featured on the sovereign for almost 200 years. Visit www.royalmint.com for further information.
Rare: ‘the coinage that never was’
Recently rediscovered, this Constable sketch of the River Stour, showing Flatford Lock, which he painted many times, will be sold at Bonhams tomorrow (£200,000–£300,000). The resulting larger masterpiece, Landscape: Boys Fishing, is in a poor state of repair, so the emergence of this preparatory oil sketch sheds new light on it