World Coins

This Day in History: April 11

William III and Mary agreed to reign jointly following the successful Glorious Revolution that displaced King James II of England, Mary’s father.

Medal images courtesy of A.H. Baldwin & Sons, Ltd.

Following the Glorious Revolution in 1688, William III and Mary II were crowned as joint sovereigns of Great Britain on April 11, 1689. 

The overthrow of King James II of England (Mary’s father, also known as James VII of Scotland and James II of Ireland) by a union of English Parliamentarians in concert with William III paved the way for the coronation, but first the monarchy had to cede many of the rights and much of the power previously in their control to the Parliament. 

The Revolution served a religious and political purpose, as the Dutch William III invaded the country and served to ensure that Catholics would not gain control of the monarchy.

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This Declaration of Rights (later a Bill), was drawn up by a convention of Parliament, and limited the sovereign’s power, reaffirmed Parliament’s claim to control taxation and legislation, and provided guarantees against the abuses of power that James II and the other Stuart Kings had committed.

John Roettiers, the chief engraver at the Royal Mint, designed the coronation medal for William III and Mary.

Diarist Samuel Pepys described Roettiers’ medal as “some of the finest pieces of embossed work, that I ever did see in my life.”

The medal was distributed at the coronation to members of Parliament and peers who swore fealty to the new regime.

The obverse shows a conjoined portrait of William and Mary, indicating their status as dual sovereigns. William is portrayed in classical dress, akin to a Roman emperor. 

The reverse is more allegorical, according to the Stuart Succession Project at the University of Exeter.

“It portrays a scene from classical mythology. From a cloud Jupiter hurls a thunderbolt at Phaeton, who falls from his chariot. Jupiter represents William.”

“Phaeton, on the other hand, has lost control of the reigns of power and thus stands in for James II (1633-1701), who had fled the country after William’s invasion in November 1688. The image thus provides a neat allegory for the Glorious Revolution.”

Opponents, however, interpreted the design with their own, negative allegory, according to the Stuart Succession Project.

“Hence one tendentious pamphleteer suggested that ‘the people knowing that this king and queen had, not by permission, but by violence, ascended their father’s throne, would look upon this as his chariot which they drive, and interpret Jupiter’s thunderbolt as a sign of some judgement of God.’ ”

Mary died from smallpox on Dec. 28, 1694, and William III’s coins were then made with his solo portrait.

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