This artifact speaks to the military background of some of the gentlemen colonists in early James Fort. Dated 1615, this medal shows the bust of Maurice of Nassau with the legend “MAVRUTUVS, AVR. PRINC. COM. NASS. ET. MV. MAR. VE. FL. EQ. OR. PERISCELIDIS 1615.” It commemorates the December 19, 1612, induction of the Prince of Orange as a knight in the English Order of the Garter.
Born in Germany, Maurice replaced his father as governor of Holland in 1585 and led the Netherlands in their struggle of independence from Spain. He is best known for modernizing the Dutch army. Many Englishmen helped the Dutch in fighting Spain, including Jamestown colonist George Yeardley, who joined Maurice’s troops when he was only 16. Later, Yeardley also became a knight and served as governor of Virginia three times: from 1616-1617, 1619 to 1621, and again from 1626 to 1627.
Another of these medals was found at Flowerdew Hundred, Yeardley’s plantation in Prince George County, Virginia. Two (one silver and one copper alloy) are in the British Museum, and two were found in Rhode Island during archaeological excavations of an Indian burial dating to the 3rd quarter of the 17th century.