World Coins

Medal marks death of Prince of Orange

William II, Prince of Orange, was only 24 years old when he died in 1650. 

A silver medal memorializing his short life is rich with symbolism. An example of this work of art was sold during Schulman’s auction No. 358 on Feb. 22, realizing a hammer price of €2,800 ($3,175 U.S.). The buyer’s fee begins at 20 percent and varies by bidding method. 

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The medal was designed by Sebastian Dadler and measures 69 millimeters in diameter. The auction house classified this example as Extremely Fine with a scratch.

William II, Prince of Orange, was born the son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, and grandson of William the Silent. 

He was stadtholder of several Dutch provinces. In 1641, at the age of 14, William married then 9-year-old Mary Henrietta Stuart, eldest daughter of King Charles I of England. William’s hopes at ruling were ended when he died of smallpox on Nov. 6, 1650. He was succeeded by his son, the future William III, king of England. 

According to information provided by Benjamin Weiss’, the obverse shows a riderless horse against a view of Amsterdam. On its saddle is an open book with a Latin inscription translating to “They provide religious unity.” Below the book on the saddle is another Latin term translating to “They pretend a thing is so.” A Latin inscription around the scene translates to “From one crime they may learn all. July 30, 1650.”

The inscription in the exergue translates as “Because he had forbidden wars.”

The reverse shows Phaethon falling from the Chariot of the Sun into a river after being hit by Zeus’ lightning bolt. Below is a view of the funeral procession at the Hague and an inscription translating to “He had to take leave of a grand enterprise. November 6, 1650.”

Phaethon (Phaeton), in Greek mythology, was the son of Helios the sun god and the nymph Clymene. He persuaded his father to let him drive the chariot of the sun across the sky, but lost control of the horses and, driving too near the earth, scorched it. To save the world from utter destruction, Zeus killed Phaethon with a thunderbolt and he fell to earth. The fall indicates the transitory nature of human life and ambitions.

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