In 1797, British sailors notched several victories during the French Revolutionary Wars.
To celebrate those naval wins, King George III proclaimed Dec. 19, 1797, as a special “Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Interposition of His good Providence in the many signal and important Victories obtained by our Navy in the Course of the present War,” and a ceremony was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
A token that may have been distributed at this ceremony highlights Davissons Ltd.’s e-auction closing July 20.
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The Middlex white metal penny token celebrates the gathering in London’s famous religious landmark.
The event was so important that the London Gazette took notice, providing a detailed “play-by-play” of the attendees and the multitude of victories honored in the gathering. Numerous dignitaries, including dukes and duchesses of various note, attended the ceremony.
The description invokes the event’s pageantry, for which the British are still known.
“Their Majesties set out from the Queen’s Palace soon after Ten o Clock in a solemn manner in a Coach drawn by Eight Cream Coloured Horses in which were also Two of the Ladies of Her Majesty’s Bedchamber followed by Their Royal Highnesses the Princesses and proceeded through the Gate at the Stable Yard along Pall Mall and through the Strand amidst the loyal Acclamations of a prodigious concourse of People,” according to the Gazette, cited in the History of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London From its Foundation Extracted Out of Original Charters, Records, Leiger-Books and Other Manuscripts, by Sir William Dugdale.
British tokens were popular in the late 18th century both as a substitute for base metal coinage (the Royal Mint had made very little in the latter half of the century) and as advertising pieces. From this series grew commemorative issues as well.
This token, described as “scarce” by the auction house, is part of a series commemorating various war victories.
The Royal Museums Greenwich collection includes several other pieces with different designs marking the same event. One of those tokens singles out the Battle of Camperdown of Oct. 11, 1797, but others are broader in reach.
The token in the July 20 auction shows the king on the obverse, surrounded by an inscription suggesting the token’s holder “attended [the] divine service at St. Paul’s” on Dec. 19, 1797.
The inscription across the reverse reads PROVIDENCE | THIS DAY ACKNOW | •LEDGED IN THE MA • | • NY SIGNAL VICTO • | • RIES OBTAINED | DURING THE | WAR.
The token has a plain edge. It weighs 12.82 grams and 33 millimeters in diameter, slightly lighter than but slightly wider than the Kennedy half dollar.
The token is graded Good Extremely Fine by the firm, and is “mostly fresh and unblemished; lightly toned.”