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My groat. Let me show you it.

charles ii maundy groat

This is my groat. There are many groats like it, but this one is mine.

how big is my groat?

My groat came up in conversation here last week, so I figured I’d give you a peep at it. This is my groat. Specifically, it is a Maundy groat of Charles II. The obverse says CAROLUS II DEI GRATIA and the reverse says MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX. Which means “Hix Nix Stix Pix.” Heh heh. Jes’ kidding. The real translation is: “HEY CROMWELL, how does my ass taste?”

A groat is a little silver coin worth four English pennies, also called a fourpence. The first was minted in the 13th Century and the last (for actual circulation — more on that in a moment) in 1888. The date on this one is 1679, but it wasn’t necessarily made in that year. They weren’t all that fastidious about minting coins every year, or changing the dies when they did. Early in Charles II’s reign, they were still producing most coins by hammering, but they switched to milling in his lifetime. This is a milled coin.

the archbishop of canterbury scrubs toeThe Maundy ceremony, confusingly, happens on Thursday. Specifically, the Thursday before Easter. “Maundy” is a corruption of Mandatum Nuvum — the ‘new commandment’ to love one another and, umm…wash feet. British monarchs have observed some sort of Maundy ritual since 600AD — which sometimes included foot washing, but nearly always involved giving silver coins to the poor. The coins were known as Maundy money.

Regular old coins were used at first, but beginning with Charles II, special coins were minted, in sets of four: 1p, 2p, 3p and 4p. And still are. Despite decimalization (in 1971, Britain utterly fucked its wonderful but brain-hurty old currency scheme and lost many a beautiful coin) Maundy money is still legal tender.

Today, the Queen gives out Maundy money to worthy old persons, as many old coots as she is years old. The foot-washin’ part was quietly dropped centuries ago, until the current Archbishop of Canterbury — a very strange man — revived the custom in 2003.

Because it is a Maundy coin, Charles II his own self may have handled this groat. But probably not. And now you can tell all your friends, “I have seen Weasel’s groat.”

October 27, 2008 — 10:13 am
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