Eadbold, Kent, shilling -
Anglo-Saxon England, Kent, Eadbald (616-640), Gold Shilling (73% AV), 'Substantive Gold' Phase, struck AD 620-635, London, AVDV[ARLD RE]GES, the S inverted, diademed and draped bust right, cross before, rev. crucifix on globe within beaded border, 1.28g (SCBI 69 -; Dies A/c; Sutherland VI.1, no. 78; Metcalf 50; A&W xv; BNJ 89, North 29; Spink 758), virtually as struck, the eighth presently known, extremely rare; a coin of the utmost historical importance to British numismatics and probably initiated under the first Bishop of London
Images and selected text reproduced by kind permission of Spink and Son Ltd, London, auction 21000, The Tony Abramson Collection of Dark Age Coinage - Part I, March 18th 2021, lot # 18. Provenance: Spink 248, 25 September 2017, lot 688 ~ Found at Billericay (Essex), 1 May 2017 [EMC 2017.0175].
The Historical Context: According to Bede, Eadbald succeeded his father, Æthelberht, to ascend the throne of Kent in AD 616. Æthelberht was acclaimed for welcoming Augustine to his court in AD 597 and for his subsequent conversion to the Roman form of Christianity. However, Bede relates that soon after his accession, Eadbald apostatized, ejecting his Bishops - Mellitus was exiled to France - and incurring the Church's wrath by committing 'such fornication as the Apostle Paul mentioned as being unheard of even among the heathen, in that he took his father's [second] wife as his own.' Ultimately, Eadbald relented, rejected his wife and was duly baptized, thereafter favouring the Church within his kingdom. The subsequent spread of Christianity was facilitated by the use of a repertoire of Christian symbols on the coinage, though the later silver coinage evinces syncretic use of some Pagan motifs.
Literature and Interpretation: Sutherland was amongst the first to review the literature on the attribution to Eadbald. Shaw would further establish that Bede only used forms similar to that inscribed on the obverse of this coinage when quoting Pope Boniface, before subsequent discoveries such as that at Tangmere elicited further numismatic contributions from Blackburn and Williams. Deciphering elements of the reverse legend on the Pas-de-Calais and Hunterian specimens are taken to identify London as the mint.
The Coinage: There are sequence of historically significant events with Eadbald's reign that may point to the origins of this issue. Their overtly Christian elements likely point to personal moments in his life, such as his conversion by Laurentius, Archbishop of Canterbury in AD 616/17, or his foundation of a church latterly consecrated by Archbishop Mellitus. However they might also record wider events such as the death of Mellitus in AD 624, or even Paulinus's return to Kent in AD 634. Resolving this reverse legend is crucial to attribution. However conjectural an association to Mellitus may still be, a lifetime issue, would date the introduction of the coinage prior to AD 624. One may even identify a 'common purpose' between brothers-in-law Eadbald and Edwin of Northumbria (lot 19). The erection of a Church could give occasion to issue a high-status coin. The driving force for this parallel initiative would then have come from the Roman bishops themselves, Mellitus and Paulinus, who would be more acquainted with the symbolism and usage of coins than the English kings.