The most beautiful bullion issue of 2022? The glorious Shield of Henry II of France is Coins Today’s latest shield stacker

The Medieval period is one where pageantry and the design of arms and armour had great significance, but it was the advent of the Renaissance that saw it taken to the next level. The great Kings of Europe would compete to be the most magnificent, the various Royal Courts vying to attract the best and the brightest. In France, in 1547, Henry II ascended to the throne, the same year Henry VIII of England died, and he ruled until his death from a jousting accident in 1559, just a year into the rule of Elizabeth I.

Henry liked his pomp and circumstance as much as the next European Monarch, and left behind a simply breathtaking collection of his suits of armour, weapons, and of particular relevance to us today, shields. The most famous of these is simply known as the Shield of Henry II of France, and is, to be frank, a thing of sublime artistic excellence. Formed in steel, embossed and damascened with silver and gold, it’s been attributed to Etienne Delaune, Jean Cousin the Elder, and Baptiste Pellerin, Parisian artists. Delaune left behind quite a body of work that survives today, including prints, and medals.

The shield, believed to have been formed in 1555, currently resides, along with at least one of Henry II’s suits of armour, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. There’s a battle scene in the centre filled with contemporary soldiers, but nevertheless believed to depict the victory of Hannibal Barca and the Carthaginian army over the Romans, in what was one of Rome’s bloodiest defeats, the 216 BCE Battle of Cannae. This was likely meant to represent the contemporary fight between France and the Holy Roman Empire through the 16th century.

Surrounding the battle scene are various elements important to the French monarchy, and it’s all interspersed with gilded tracery and studwork. This isn’t a simple engraved plate, but a living, breathing, three-dimensional work of quite exquisite design, clearly something designed for one of the most powerful men in the known world at the time. Other monarchs, notably Henry VIII of England, and Philip II of Spain, also maintained impressive works of military art.

CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Shield of Henry II of France as currently in the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is to the credit of Coin’s Today, that this fourth release in their ‘Shield Stacker’ series (after Doggaebi, Achilles, and Archangel Michael), is able to reproduce the 63.5 cm tall original down to just one-tenth that height, and yet retain so much of the detail of the original. It’s even more impressive that they’ve managed to make it a genuinely stackable piece of bullion. At two-ounces in weight, there’s enough material to do the job, but as earlier issues have always enjoyed the later addition of a kilogram variant, we can only wait with bated breath for that one to appear.

This has an unlimited mintage, and these stacker rounds usually carry a premium that is very reasonable given the quality on offer. I’ve seen almost all the previous issues in hand, and they have never disappointed, exhibiting first-class production values, and a great quality strike. This looks to be my personal favourite by far, and the title of this article wasn’t meant to be clickbait. If this still isn’t one of, if not the most beautiful bullion release of 2022 come December, it will have been an awesome year for bullion releases. Quite outstanding.

DENOMINATION Undenominated
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
DIMENSIONS 42.5 x 60.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, stacker
MINTAGE Unlimited
BOX / C.O.A. No / No