Meet Vicky

unitedkingdom_1penny_1856_obvVicky is a coin. She carries a picture of Queen Victoria but this particular coin is named Vicky. I’ve owned her since I was about eleven years old and she is one of the main reasons I started collecting in earnest. Along with a some cats, cars and people, she is one of my true loves.

As a coin, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Vicky. She is an 1856 1 Penny, from back when pennies were much larger than the ones we usually see. She is in rather nice condition but ruined by the fact that someone has drilled a hole in God. (“Victoria Dei Gratia” means “Victoria, by the Grace of God…”)

At first I liked her because, when I got her, she was the oldest coin I had in my collection. But she is also beautiful with her rich, chocolate patina and great condition for a copper coin of her age. I also like the fact that Victoria looks so young and lovely here with her Alice bands and “conch-like” ear, as Bertie Wooster would have said.

unitedkingdom_1penny_1856_revThe reverse of the coin carries the familiar image of Britannia or, as my Nigerian coin dealer says, “the lady in the wheelchair.” Britannia’s trident marks this coin as a “plain trident” variety. There is also an “ornamental trident” variant. The royal titles continue on the reverse. (“Britanniar[um] Reg[ina] Fid[ei] Def[ensatrix]” means “…Queen of all the British Territories and Defender of the Faith.”)

This is where things get interesting. The title “Defender of the Faith” was bestowed by Pope Leo X on King Henry VIII in 1521 because, at twelve years old, Henry had penned a little composition named /Assertio Septem Sacramentorum/, defending the primacy of the Pope and and the sanctity of marriage.

But wait! Wasn’t Henry VIII that fat chap who started a new Protestant religion so that he could divorce his wife and marry his girlfriend? Well yes, he was! After he broke with the Catholic Church in 1530, the Pope excommunicated him and revoked the title. The English Parliament, however, voted to give it back to him and every succeeding British monarch has carried it up to the present time.

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