Thursday, April 11, 2013


By the second half of the seventeenth century, most of Europe had adopted the mercantile system.  This new coin-based economy challenged old-fashioned bartering, shaking the power of the guilds, and let nations hoard their gold and silver, rather than use them as currency. 

But whose face do you put on a metal coin?  In 1666, one Frances Stewart was chosen as the model for "Britannia".
 King Charles II of England and his mistress Lady Frances Stewart, 1665

What did Frances Stewart look like?  Did she deserve such an honor?  Here are two eyewitness accounts:

According to diarist Samuel Pepys: "Methought she was the beautifullest creature that ever I saw in my life, more than ever I thought so...She wears a cocked hat with a red plume, and has a sweet eye, little Roman nose and excellent taille."

The Count de Grammont recalls in his Memoires: "It is impossible for a woman to have more beauty or less wit."

Well, no one ever said they were offering her the penny for her thoughts.  

-- Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger --


  1. I had a history professor who collected antique coins, and he brought them into class one day. It was SO cool =)