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567515

Outsanding Portrait of Cynethryth, Wife of Offa

567515.

ANGLO-SAXON, Kings of Mercia. Cynethryth. Wife of Offa, 757-796. AR Penny (17.5mm, 1.34 g, 3h). Light coinage, portrait type. Canterbury mint; Eoba, moneyer. Struck 784/5. Draped bust right; triple-pellets to left, triple pellets and E·◊·:B·A· to right / + CУNE∂RУ·ð ·: REGI(barred N) around barred Mercian m in pelleted circle. Chick 143h (this coin); SCBI 67 (BM), 657–8 (same rev. die); North 339; SCBC 909. Toned. Good VF. Very rare, the only portrait of Anglo-Saxon queen. A handsome example of this iconic type.


Ex Baldwin's 14 (October 1997), lot 597; Glendining’s (8 October 1991), lot 1121 (and front cover). Found Stanford-in-the-Vale, Oxfordshire, 1991.

Cynethryth, the wife of King Offa of Mercia, was the first and only Anglo-Saxon queen to have her name and image placed on coins. While it has been suggested that these coins were inspired by the appearance of the empress Irene on Byzantine issues, the profile portrait harks back to coinage of Roman augustae. Many details of Cynethryth’s life, such as the date of her marriage, are unknown. She appears to have been active in political affairs until Offa’s death. After her husband’s passing, she became abbess of the monastery of Cookham, where she remained until her death sometime after 798. Cynethryth appears in the hagiography of St. Aethelbert, where she is portrayed as a jealous villain who incites Offa to kill the saint.