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Pontefract Beseiged

977835. Sold For $7500

STUART, Siege money. Pontefract. 1648-1649. AR Shilling (29mm, 4.68 g, 12h). In the name of Charles I. Dated 1648. DVM : SPIRO · SPERO, crowned C · R / Castle with gate and three turrets, hand holding sword emerging from right turret; P C flanking central turret; OBS to left, 1648 in exergue. Brooker 1231 (same dies); North 2646; SCBC 3148. Near VF, toned. Struck on an octagonal flan.

Like Newcastle-on-Trent, Pontefract, located in West Yorkshire, was also a strategic Royalist site. Centered around Pontefract Castle, a Norman Conquest-era structure with a significant medieval and early modern history – it was supposedly the site where Richard II had been put to death in 1400, it was surrendered in 1536 to the leaders of the Catholic rebellion in the North known as the "Pilgrimage of Grace" and it was the place where, in 1541, Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, was supposed to have committed adultery with Sir Thomas Culpepper. Although the castle itself was in a dilapidated state by 1644, Pontefract's position in the highly contested district of West Yorkshire was such that Oliver Cromwell called it "one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom".

On 19 December 1644, the Parliamentarians and Scottish Covenanters began the first siege of Pontefract. Lord Thomas Fairfax arrived shortly thereafter to command the siege, since the taking of Pontefract would be a significant blow to the Royalist cause in Yorkshire. By mid-January 1644/5, bombardment of the city ensued, a final step that would soften up Pontefract's defenses in preparation for taking the city and a sign that Pontefract's fall was soon to occur. To relieve the city and secure Yorkshire for the Royalists, Sir Marmaduke Langdale and the Northern Horse moved out of their quarters in Salisbury and Wiltshire in late-February, moving north. Langdale's defeat of Colonel John Lambert at Wentbridge brought relief to Pontefract as the besiegers withdrew temporarily. By the end of March, however, the besiegers returned and, over the next several months, Pontefract was again besieged, surrendering in late July 1645.

It was during the Second English Civil War (1648-1649), when Pontefract was again besieged, that coins were issued for it. Under Parliamentarian control since its surrender, Pontefract was seized in early June 1648 by Colonel John Morrice, who declared it for Charles I. Over that early summer, the city became the base for a number of Royalist raids in the surrounding countryside. In retaliation, Parliamentarian forces were brought to bear to take Pontefract, and by August, with Oliver Cromwell himself in command, heavy artillery was brought up to reduce its defenses. The long siege continued and, by October, Pontefract remained one of the only two castles (the other being Scarborough) that still held out for the king.

Even after the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1648/9, Pontefract still would not surrender. Now, Colonel Morrice declared for Charles II and the city's motto – Post mortem patris pro filio – a motto which also appears on this siege issue, refers to that support. On 24 March 1649, almost two months after Charles was beheaded and after a siege of almost nine months, Colonel Morrice and his garrison finally capitulated. To ensure that the castle would not serve as a base for any future rebellion and, on the pleadings of the local populace weary of war, Parliament had the remains of the castle demolished later that same year.