King Alfred the Great, the only English king to get that suffix (although not until the 16th century), is one of the most well known and well regarded of the English monarchs. Reigning from 871 to 899 in a hugely tumultuous time, when the British Isles were wracked with constant conflict with the Vikings, he inherited a land full of factions, and left one considerably more stable.
In 886 AD, Alfred recaptured London from the Danelaw and then set about issuing silver pennies that carried his portrait. You can see a fantastic example lower down which was recently sold by the Royal Mint’s Collector Services division. This is considered to be the start of the Royal Mint’s continuous history, It’s amazing to think that today, the mint is releasing a coin depicting the King that gave it a future, bearing the effigy of a Queen some 1,150 years later.
The coin design by John Bergdahl is excellent, and takes inspiration from the famous ‘Alfred Jewel’ that was discovered in 1693 and now resides in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. A 6.4 cm long piece of late 9th century Angl;o Saxon goldsmithing, made of enamel and quartz enclosed in gold, it was generally believed to have been mounted at the end of a short stick to point at words in a book while reading. The edge of the coin carries the same inscription as the jewel, which translates to ‘Alfred ordered me made’.
So all things considered, it’s a pretty thoughtful celebration of one of the giants of British history. Three precious metal variants make up the range, all of £5 denomination. There’s a standard ounce of sterling silver, a double-thickness piedfort, and a 22kt gold coin of just under 40 grams in weight. These are all pretty standard for the Royal Mint. Available now, the gold looks to be selling out very fast, something the Royal Mint seems to pull off with amazing regularity these days.