Isaac Newton royal medal design discovery

A student at Oxford University has discovered that a coronation medal was personally designed by Isaac Newton and includes a hidden political message. Postgraduate student Joseph Hone found a manuscript which revealed the scientist had designed the medal for Queen Anne’s coronation in 1702. It explained the design as symbolising the dual threats of France and rival Stuart claimants to the throne. It was described as a “really exciting discovery” by the project leader.

Researching in the National Archives in Kew, Mr Hone found Newton’s handwritten account of designing the commemorative medal. The 50-page document had been overlooked for years, he said, as the clasp holding the pages had rusted over.

Propaganda message – The design had previously been thought to have been the work of a court painter, but the manuscript shows that Newton, who was Master of the Royal Mint at the time, was responsible. Newton’s notes reveal that the depiction of the queen as a Greek goddess striking down a monster was not a random picture of a national defender, but a specific reference to contemporary political threats to her rule.

In the iconography of this 18th Century propaganda, the creature with two heads represents the joint threat of the French king, Louis XIV, and the so-called “Old Pretender”, James Stuart. Queen Anne was the daughter of the deposed Catholic monarch, James II, and the the old king’s son, James Stuart, was living in exile and claiming that he had a more legitimate right to the throne. The medal shows Queen Anne facing this threat of a Catholic alliance between France and the exiled Stuarts, headed by her half-brother James. Via Isaac Newton royal medal design discovery.

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