The news today that a rare gold coin from King Richard’s reign has been found near the site of the Battle of Bosworth reminded me of two important coins that are part of Matthew’s life in the 1480s, before and after Duke Richard becomes King.
The first is given to Matthew and all the pages and squires at Middleham by the Duke to mark his 30th birthday in October 1482. Matthew never mentions what he did with it after he lay awake turning it over and over in his fingers after the day’s celebrations had ended. Did he save it or spend it – perhaps on his beloved books, some new clothes (sorely needed), or something else? A gold coin would have bought a great deal in 1482, whether it was an angel or half-angel as found by the metal detectorist in Leicestershire.
The second coin is given to Matthew on the streets of London in June or July of 1483, by Sir Richard Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe is accompanying the new King who is riding through the city at the head of troops from the north of England, a scene recounted in ‘The King’s Man’.
Matt speaks briefly to the King, then watches him ride on before glancing at the coin. Crisp and new, with a tiny boar stamped upon it, it bears the name ‘Edward’ scribed around its edge.
This is the Year of the Three Kings. The King who has just ridden by, with all the pomp and ceremony required of a monarch, yet looking tired and careworn, is not an Edward, but Richard.
The coin was one of many minted by Duke Richard when protector of the realm on behalf of his nephew, Edward V, in those tumultuous days of April to June 1483, possibly at his own cost. Is that the act of a man who believed he would soon be King himself?
Matt stows this coin in his pouch with his other treasures – souvenirs of his time with his friends at Middleham, together with their letters to him. He keeps it close to him at least through to the summer of 1485, when it resurfaces at two important moments in his life…