Silver Penny of Eadwald, Eye

front and back of coin

An extremely rare silver hammered penny dating c. AD 796-798, struck for Eadwald, King of East Anglia found near Eye.

This coin is only the second known example of its type – the first was discovered several years ago at Rendlesham, where there is evidence of an Anglo-Saxon royal settlement.

The inscription on its obverse face names Eadwald as king (EADVALD REX). The reverse depicts a distinctive three-armed design known as a tribrach, with the name BOTRED who was the moneyer. This motif is used on coinage of several other rulers during the final years of the 8th century and beginning of the 9th, including Coenwulf of Mercia, Archbishop Aethelheard of Canterbury and Cuthred of Kent.

King Eadwald ruled East Anglia between AD 796 and 798, although he was not mentioned in contemporary literary sources. His existence is only known through the coins that he issued – there are only around 25-30 known to exist. All appear to have been minted locally somewhere in East Anglia, their distribution primarily concentrated in Norfolk and Suffolk, although a few examples are also known from Kent and Lincolnshire.

From the late 6th to mid 10th century, England was divided into kingdoms until the country was unified under King Edgar (AD 959-975). The four major kingdoms were Northumbria (north and north-eastern modern England), Mercia (much of what is now the Midlands and Oxfordshire), Wessex (western southern England, including Wiltshire and Somerset) and East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire). There was also the smaller kingdoms of Kent, Essex and Sussex, similar to the areas of their modern boundaries.

Many of the rulers who reigned over these kingdoms issued their own coinage as a means of asserting their individual authority, often naming the kingdom on the coin alongside themselves as a way of legitimising their power and associating themselves directly with the region.

Offa, king of Mercia, originally conquered East Anglia in the AD780s, but following his death and the death of his son Ecgfrith, Eadwald took the opportunity to become king of East Anglia. East Anglia was brought under Mercian control again in AD 798 by King Coenwulf (AD 796-821), although it is unknown as to whether Eadwald was killed or simply deposed.

View the full record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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