Coins of Harold II Godwinson (r. 1066), killed at the Battle of Hastings, are not common – the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme has recorded only 28 such single finds in 24 years. Even rarer are those minted in Harold’s name from Hastings.
This coin comes from a hoard found in the Chew Valley, Somerset, in 2019, containing 2,581 silver pennies (1,238 bearing Harold’s name, the rest attributed to William I ‘the Conqueror’) and three mules (coins with one side struck from an earlier die). Of Harold’s coins, three were minted in Hastings, two by the moneyer Dunning, one by Theodred.
The coin shown here is one of Dunning’s. The obverse shows the crowned head of the king with sceptre; Harold’s features are stylised, though his beard may reflect his actual appearance. Around this image is the legend ‘HΛROLD REX ΛNG’ (‘Harold, king of the English’). On the reverse, the word ‘PAX’ (‘peace’) is surrounded by the moneyer’s name and that (abbreviated) of the mint: ‘DVNNINC ON HÆ’ (‘Dunning of Hastings’).
The word ‘peace’ here seems somewhat ironic, given Harold’s reign was short and consumed by invasion, with major battles at Fulford, Stamford Bridge, and Hastings. But while he probably anticipated challenges to his kingship, hope for peace was also evoked on a coin issued early in the reign of his father-in-law Edward the Confessor (r. 1042- 1066). Even William’s reign (1066-1087) did not bring peace, though, and the burial of the Chew Valley Hoard (for safekeeping) perhaps implies civil strife – possibly caused by the arrival of Harold’s sons in 1068, who, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle D, ‘came by surprise from Ireland into the mouth of the Avon with a raiding ship-army, and straightaway raided across all that region’.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of over 1.5 million finds, visit www.finds.org.uk. Text for this find was written by Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum (with special thanks to Gareth Williams).