The man who wouldn’t be king

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

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

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