The Research Desk column from Aug. 10, 2015,
issue of Coin World:
Historians have often pointed out that the War of the Spanish Succession, 1700 to 1714, was
a true world conflagration that pitted the major European powers
against each other in battles around the globe. Austria and the
Maritime Powers of Great Britain and the Netherlands faced off against
the France of “Sun King” Louis XIV, Bavaria and a few lesser
countries. The war was fought in Spain, the Netherlands and across the
German states as well as in America (as Queen Anne’s War).
War broke out upon the death of Spain’s last Habsburg King, Charles
II, a feeble and childless ruler who had been induced to sign a will
naming as his successor a grandson of Louis XIV, Philip Duke of Anjou.
The succession of the Duke of Anjou brought acute danger of a French
takeover of Spain and its vast overseas empire. Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold I countered by announcing the succession of his second son
Archduke Charles to the Spanish throne.
The Duke of Marlborough, was the British commander.
Fighting in Spain itself was inconclusive for several years. Central
Spain and Madrid went for the Duke of Anjou, proclaimed King Philip V.
Barcelona, Catalonia and Valencia supported Archduke Charles,
proclaimed Charles III as King of the Spains and of the Indies.
Charles’ high tide came in May to June 1706 with the capture of
Barcelona and the conquest of Madrid, which coincided with his major
allied victories in Brabant (Belgium). These successes coincided with
the May 12 total eclipse of the sun, hailed as divine portent of victory.
Nürnberg Mint Engraver Georg Friedrich Nürnberger produced a
rectangular medal (38.9 by 39.4 millimeters, silver, 13 grams) to
commemorate these victories.
The obverse presents a radiant crowned sun with crowns of the
allies. The German legend hails God’s favor to commanders Marlborough,
Overkirk, the Earl of Galway and Leake whose victories restored the
brightness of allied arms just as the sun returned blazing from its eclipse.
The reverse recreates the eclipse, surrounded by four inscriptions
recording the capture of Barcelona, Madrid, Brabant and Tirlemont.
This boldly designed medal is rare today.