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Medieval Gros Of Brittany—what's Up With Those Ermines?

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 Posted 08/22/2017  10:37 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
See below for a Gros of Brittany. It was minted between 1458 and 1488 AD (corresponding with the end of the Mad War, but a little before Brittany came under the French crown in 1532 AD). It was minted in Rennes and is attributed as Duplessy 337 and Roberts 6183. Despite the edge trimming, the legends are mostly clear: SIT NOMEN DNI BENEDICTVM on the obv and FRANCISCVS BRITANVM DVX R on the rev.

I recently got to thinking about the distinctive pattern of ermine tails on the rev. As far as I know, Brittany is the only issuer of coins to include this symbol (please correct me if I am wrong.) In looking into this a bit more closely, it isn't clear why this symbol was used by the royalty of Brittany, but perhaps it was chosen for its similarity to the fleur-de-lis (Wikipedia). Another potential story is that Anne of Brittany (1477 to 1514 AD) was hunting with her court when she saw a white ermine that turned and faced the hunters rather than to cross a dirty marsh. According to the legend, she spared its life (Wikipedia).

There is some additional evidence that the use of ermines in Brittany goes back at least to the time of Stephen of Treguier (ca 1060 to 1136 AD), although I even found a couple images of his father, Alan Rufus (ca 1040 to 1093 AD) with those ermine tails (see pics). Going back one generation further to one of William the Conqueror's companions Odo, Count of Penthièvre (999 to 1079 AD) I no longer find the ermines.

I'm open to any opinions on this. Over the next few days, I may sift through my coins to see if I have other coins with ermine tails on them. Please feel free to post yours too!






Image of Alan Rufus from Wikipedia:





Partial image taken from: http://bodley30.bodley.ox.ac.uk:818...of-Richmond- showing Alan Rufus (as first Lord of Richmond) with others--his lieges? (see middle flag and the right shoulder of his armor for ermine tails).

"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
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"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
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 Posted 08/22/2017  10:55 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add orfew to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
A really interesting coin. I love the reverse with the ermine tails, very unusual.
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 Posted 08/22/2017  11:14 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Super coin Dave. I would love to collect medieval coins but I don't know where to start.
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 Posted 08/23/2017  06:40 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks guys. Ron, I got drawn into medieval coins when I started to assemble a OFEY collection (One From Every Year) after tiring of my US coin collection. The 1900s and 1800s are pretty easy, but starting with the 1700s, a few years take some patience. Not too many dealers out there selling coins of the 1500s. As you may have seen from our "How Far Back Can We Go" series threads, the 1400s are really tough. I'm not sure anyone, Levinson included, has a date run covering the entire 15th Century. Obviously @Pepactonius can correct me, but in looking at his posts, it looks to me like he has done something similar with his collection.
"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
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 Posted 08/23/2017  07:26 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I'm not sure anyone, Levinson included, has a date run covering the entire 15th Century.
Pretty sure that some AD dates just plain aren't attested (1453 is the most recent one, IIRC).

It would be a nice idea to try doing it with any dates (including AH dates), however.
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 Posted 08/23/2017  10:34 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add moxking to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Lovely example. That's the type of coin you will always be proud to own every time you see it.
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 Posted 08/23/2017  8:06 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Pretty sure that some AD dates just plain aren't attested (1453 is the most recent one, IIRC).


Well, I see that there is an extremely rare Triple Florin of Hungary that can be dated to the year 1453 AD (Huszar 634). But J1M, you do bring up a good question--what is the latest year for which a coin cannot be definitely dated? Maybe I'll dig into that for a future post. Now I'm off to find some more ermines.
"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
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 Posted 08/23/2017  8:29 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great coin, Dave.
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 Posted 08/23/2017  8:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
As far as I know, Brittany is the only issuer of coins to include this symbol (please correct me if I am wrong.)


As it turns out I was wrong: multiple coins of the British crown and her colonies include a monarch wearing robes or crowns at least partly made from ermine. Here is a particularly clear example from @Archraz:

http://goccf.com/t/133186

Also, a single ermine tail was used as a mintmark by the London mint and a privy mark on monarchical French coins. I'm sure that there are other incidental uses of this symbol that didn't immediately pop up when I started looking.

Perhaps I can modify my original statement to be more careful: Brittany is the only issuer of coins to feature the ermine tail as a main design element.



"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
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 Posted 08/24/2017  3:27 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Success! Here is a second coin of Brittany (the French Duchy of Bretagne). This denier dates from 1237 to 1286 AD and was minted in Vannes under the authority of Jean I LeRoux. The obv inscription is IO hE S DVX and the rev inscription is B RI TA NI E. It is attributed as Duplessy 76 and Roberts 4609.

On the rev, you can see that the first quarter of the field has a group of ermine tails.


"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
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 Posted 08/24/2017  6:30 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add orfew to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@Spence
Great job tracking down that second example. Interesting coins!
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 Posted 08/24/2017  7:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks Bob and Andrew! Unfortunately, those are my only two medieval coins of Brittany.
"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
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 Posted 08/25/2017  7:18 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add orfew to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I found 2 more with the Ermine tails. They are both Francis II. If you want the details please send me an email. I do not want to post open auction material on the forum in case someone is thinking of bidding on them.
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 Posted 10/04/2018  01:55 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add zoetropo to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As best I have been able to tell, Ermine is first used by an aristocratic family once they obtain a descent from the Breton Sovereign House.

I don't know how far back the use of Ermine goes. In Brittany, it's understood to signify honour, dignity and the Virgin Mary, whose mother Saint Anne is a patron saint of Brittany, traditionally migrating there!

Britain was colonising parts of the Western Roman Empire before the Franks were a significant factor: there are early medieval records (and some DNA support) of their settlements in Galicia (Diocese of Britonia), the Basque Country and numerous locations across northern Gaul between Aquitaine and the Low Countries. I presume much of this was due to Magnus Maximus's bid for the imperial throne, or maybe it goes back to earlier imperial times such as Constantine the Great's successful campaign which he launched from York. During the Julio-Claudian dynasty, there were Britons in Rome - some living there freely.

Stephen, Count of Tréguier, wasn't Alan Rufus's son; they were brothers. Alan founded St Mary's Abbey York, a charter of which asserts that Stephen opened England's first Parliament in 1089, at York. This was during Alan's tenure as Earl of Richmond, so Stephen was acting on Alan's behalf. (Alan was a very busy man, so he often deputed matters to relatives and friends.)

The interest in Ermine outside Brittany may be due to Alan Rufus, who was very famous in his time: Gaimar and Wace make much of his prowess at Hastings, Geoffrey of Monmouth was inspired by him, and Orderic Vitalis wantsd to write more about him and his brothers but was daunted by the quantity of material.

Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick (1208-1242) <https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tho..._Warwick> used an Ermine chevron on his coat of arms.
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 Posted 10/04/2018  06:36 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@zoetropo, first welcome to CCF. Second, thanks for your useful additions to this thread. I would be particularly interested if you have a coin of Thomas de Beaumont to post here!
"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
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