William and Mary Maundy Coin

This coin was issued specifically as Maundy money as part of the Royal Maundy ceremony. The King and Queen would have handed these out personally to the elderly at a Church in London at the Maundy service, which in 1693 took place on March 26th, four days before Easter Sunday. The monarchs would have handed out a number of coins corresponding to their ages, William distributing to men, and Mary to women. The design of these coins was created by William and Mary and has remained mostly the same to modern day. This one may have been pierced so that it could be strung and worn, keeping the coins secure and close to the owner. Although these coins are technically legal tender, they do not often circulate today due to their collectible value.

On the obverse side, the legend reads: MARIA . D . G . GVLIEMVS (“William and Mary by the Grace of God”) surrounding conjoined laureate portraits of King William and Queen Mary.

The reverse side includes the year, 1693 at the top of the legend, with the letters reading: MAG . BR. FR . ET . HIB . REX . ET . REGINA (“King and Queen of Great Britain France and Ireland) surrounding a crowned number 1, indicating the value, 1 pence. The coins are made in different values, ranging from 1 to 4 pence.

Although it may never been truly known how this coin came to Jamestown, it seems possible that James Blair, the founder of the College of William and Mary attended the Maundy Thursday service in London in 1693. Although not elderly at the time (he was only 38 years old), perhaps he obtained this Maundy coin there, and carried it with him across the Atlantic to Virginia. Blair received the charter for the College of William and Mary from the Crown in person in Britain on February 8th 1693. He then did other business in London for a while, and eventually sailed for Virginia out of Portsmouth on March 29th, 1693, Easter Sunday.

The College of William and Mary began to celebrate their Charter day in 1937, and continues to do so today. The College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, and was founded just before the capitol of Virginia moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg. On October 10th, 1693, the General Assembly met at Jamestown under Governor Sir Edmund Andros. Act III of the laws of that meeting determined the location of the future College. The Act acknowledges the recent charter, and describes that the governor, council, and burgesses of the assembly agreed that the College would be built at Middle Plantation, near the church that already stood there. This church is Bruton Parish, which is still in operation today. Perhaps Blair attended the October 10th meeting at Jamestown to announce his success in establishing the College of William and Mary to the Virginia Legislature. As he made his way to the statehouse, this coin fell from his pocket, only to be found by archaeologists more than 300 years later.