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The Queen's Beasts - The White Lion of Mortimer

Author: Victoria Toothill - Guest Writer

Published: 17 Jun 2020

Last Updated: 24 Jun 2020

Synopsis

The White Lion of Mortimer is included in the Queen’s Beasts line-up thanks to Edward IV, who also contributed the Black Bull of Clarence. The white lion represents Edward IV’s claim to the throne through his grandmother Anne Mortimer. She was a descendent of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, the man represented by the black bull. He was the second son of Edward III and although he never ruled England his line was instrumental in the Yorkist claim to the throne during the Wars of the Roses. Anne (Lionel’s great granddaughter) was a daughter of the house of Mortimer, which was central to one of the biggest scandals of British royal history. The emblem of the Mortimer house is a white lion with a blue tongue and claws. Unlike the Lion of England, the Mortimer lion isn’t crowned and it is usually pictured sitting. In contrast, the English lion always stands on its hind legs, rampant, with its claws raised. The stance of the Mortimer lion is submissive and may be a direct result of the scandal surrounding the family in the 1320s.

King Edward IV Queens Beasts Bullion Coins

Love and Scandal

Not only is the White Lion of Mortimer submissive but its seated position represents loyalty. First used by Anne’s father, Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, this was a conscious choice to reassure the then king (Richard II) of his loyalty and submission to Richard’s claim. Mortimer may have felt forced to do this because his family had a bit of a history of royal ambition. A famous attempt at rule was made by Mortimer’s great great grandfather of the same name. Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, was quite the character. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for leading a revolt against Edward II. He then made daring escape and fled to France, where he would later meet and begin an affair with Edward II’s mistreated and disaffected wife Isabella. Together they gathered support and invaded England, forcing Edward II to abdicate in favour of his son who became Edward III. However, the child was too young to rule, and so for three years Mortimer and Isabella ruled in his name. Then, in 1330, Edward III took full power in a coup d'état against his mother and her lover Mortimer. Although he spared his mother, Mortimer was hanged and his lands and titles forfeited to the crown.

Following this betrayal, Edward III made the family earn back their lands and titles. Mortimer’s son managed to recover some of his lands but died without the title of Earl. This was recovered by the next Mortimer (2nd Earl of March) along with the rest of the family’s lands. By the time Edmund Mortimer (3rd Earl of March) inherited the title, the family had restored much of its standing with the crown, and Edmund was permitted to marry Phillipa of Clarence. She was the daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, second son of Edward III. This gave the sons of Mortimer their first legitimate claim to throne. So, in choosing the seated and crownless lion for his seal, Roger (4th Earl of March) sent a reassuring message to his great uncle King Richard II. It almost worked too! As a reward for his loyalty, and due to his undeniable claim as great grandson of Edward III, childless Richard II named Mortimer his Heir Presumptive. Unfortunately for Mortimer, he was killed and Richard II was dethroned. Making his show of loyalty rather futile.

Richard II - Grandson and Heir to Edward III Queens Beasts Gold and Silver Bullion Coins

The Wars of the Roses Begin

Shortly after the death of Roger Mortimer (4th Earl of March), Richard II was deposed by Henry IV (son of John of Gaunt, the 3rd son of Edward III and Duke of Lancaster hence the House of Lancaster). As potential challengers to the throne, young Edmund Mortimer (5th Earl of March) and his brother were taken into the care of the crown. They were treated well and spent time with the King’s own children. This may explain why, rather than pushing his own stronger claim, (he was the descendant of Lionel of Antwerp, the 2nd son of Edward III) Edmund remained loyal to the new king and his son Henry V. So much for the Mortimer lion loyal to Richard II, now was the time of the Mortimer lion loyal to Lancaster. So loyal in fact that despite his uncle and other nobles proclaiming him the true heir to Richard II, and the Southampton plot that was an attempt to put him on the throne, he never wavered in his steadfast service to Henry V. He was a valued soldier and advisor to the King until his death. However, Edmund’s mother and sisters were ignored by the crown and left destitute. This was certainly an error, as loyal Edmund was to die childless and his lands, titles and claim to the throne would pass to the son of his abandoned sister Anne.

Richard (who was to become 3rd Duke of York) was the product of Anne’s marriage to her 2nd and 4th cousin Richard of Conisburgh. He was also a descendant of Edward III, as the son of Edward’s 4th son Edmund of Langley (1st Duke of York hence The House of York). However, Conisburgh was a second son and so wasn’t in a position to inherit.  So, it is likely that Conisburgh and Anne married for love, as they were both as poor as each other, and they married in secret without parental permission or papal dispensation. They needed the dispensation to legitimise their marriage because they were related and obtained it two years later. Although Richard’s father was later made Earl of Cambridge, this was also landless title and the family remained cash poor. When his father was beheaded for his part in the Southampton plot, Richard was just four years old and heir to not very much at all. However, his luck soon changed. His childless, paternal uncle Edward (2nd Duke of York) was killed at the Battle of Agincourt just months later, and Richard inherited everything. Then, when loyal Edmund Mortimer (his maternal uncle) died childless ten years later, Richard of York inherited his wealth too, and became the wealthiest and most powerful noble in England.

The House of York Ascends

In the beginning, it seemed Richard would follow his Uncle Mortimer’s lead and remain loyal to the crown. By this time Henry VI was King and when Richard of York reached adulthood, he became a loyal soldier and later led troops in the Hundred Years War as Commander of the English forces in France. However, Henry VI began to favour John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and a bitter rivalry sprang up between Somerset and York.

Ten years later, the King became ill, suffering a mental breakdown after English forces in France were defeated. The King was completely unresponsive. He never spoke and was led about the palace in a daze. As the King was unable to lead, York was appointed Protector of the Realm. Of course, he used his considerable power to imprison his enemy Somerset in the Tower of London. However, this triumph was short lived.

Two years later, Henry VI found his voice and released Somerset. York was incensed and led an army against Somerset and the King. York had more supporters who were both better equipped and more experienced. Somerset was killed and Henry VI was captured. York returned the King to London and an uneasy peace was established. However, infighting between noble houses caused civil war and York once again had to leave the capital and assemble his troops. He went to Ireland (he was Lieutenant of Ireland) and was financially backed and given military support by the Parliament of Ireland. However, back in England was declared a traitor and suffered attainder. This meant that if he were captured, he would be put to death and his heirs would not inherit. His only choice was to invade and take control from the Lancastrians.

This is exactly what he attempted. Intending to depose Henry VI as Henry Bolingbroke had dethroned Richard II, York marched on the capital and made the royal palace his home. He made his claim to the throne, but was not welcomed as monarch by the other nobles. Instead of being crowned, he was made heir to the throne and Lord Protector of England. With Henry VI as his prisoner York was essentially ruler of England in all but name. However, he still had Lancastrian loyalists to defeat. They had amassed in the North, and when York rode North to meet them he was killed in battle.

His claim then passed to his son, Edward. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, Edward was very tall for the time. This meant that he made an impressive figure and his obvious health and vigour was in direct contrast to Henry VI’s weak physical and mental state. He was also a successful military man, and at just 19 years of age he lead Yorkist forces to victory at the battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton. Following these victories, Edward returned to London and finished what his father had started. He was crowned Edward IV, and reigned for over 20 years, survived exile, regained the throne, and fathered Elizabeth of York who went on to found the Tudor dynasty with Henry VII. All future English monarchs were descended from this union and by extension from Edward IV.

The White Rose En Soleil

On the reverse of the White Lion of Mortimer coin, the lion holds a Yorkist shield. This was the shield of Edward IV himself. The White Rose in the centre was a symbol of the House of York. The rose was connected to the Virgin Mary as she was called the Mystical Rose of Heaven. Selecting a white rose emphasised ideas of purity and innocence. It wasn't the only Yorkist symbol, but Edward IV chose to use it in his shield, cementing its place in history. He combined it with the rays of the sun, creating the White Rose En Soleil, after the Battle at Mortimer's Cross. The sun was particularly important to this battle. Before battle began, a meteorological phenomenon known as parhelion was seen in the sky. A parhelion is an optical illusion where ice crystals in the air refract light and make it appear that there are three suns rather than one. Upon seeing this on the morning of battle, some soldiers were terrified, deeming it a bad omen. However, Edward (then known as Edward of York) rallied the men. He told them that the three celestial bodies were representative of the Holy Trinity and showed that God was with them. Having bolstered his men, Edward went on to win a decisive battle. He created his shield as both a reminder of his victory and proof of his divine right to rule. 

White Rose En Soleil

Bullion Coins

The bullion versions of this coin make a great crossover between the collectors and investors markets. The intricate designs and the history represented by each beast appeal to the collectors, and the range of metals and CGT exempt status appeal to the investors. Their status as official UK legal tender is the reason investors won’t pay Captital Gains Tax and the reason why a £ denomination appears on the obverse of the coin.

White Lion of Mortimer 1oz Gold Reverse White Lion of Mortimer 1oz Gold Obverse

1oz Gold 

This one-ounce gold bullion coin contains 1 troy ounces of 999.9 fine gold and is exempt from Capital Gains Tax. It weighs 31.21g and has a diameter of 32.69mm. The Reverse features Jody Clark's White Lion of Mortimer with a shield bearing Edward IV's White Rose En Soleil. The lion is surrounded by a raised pattern, like intricate chains linked, covering the background.

The inscription around the edge of the coin reads WHITE LION OF MORTIMER 1oz · FINE GOLD · 999.9 · 2020. 

The obverse was also designed by Jody Clark and bears the fifth portrait of The Queen. It features a bust of Queen Elizabeth II wearing the King George IV State Diadem. This portrait shows an 88-year-old Queen with deep wrinkles around the eye and mouth areas. The Queen wears Diamond Jubilee drop pearl earrings and her chin is lifted slightly, which has been said to indicate that she is looking positively towards the future. The truncation is shaped into a sweeping curve. This portrait was introduced in 2015 and continues to be used today. On this bullion coin the background is not smooth but covered in a pattern of raised dots, carrying on the textured feel of the reverse but with a different pattern.

The inscription reads: ELIZABETH · II · D · G REG · F · D · 100 POUNDS.

Remember that the coin had to be given a denomination in order to be legal tender and so exempt from CGT. So, the £100 should not be considered a guide price! With the spot price for 1oz of gold hovering between £1300-£1400 recently and premiums to be paid on top of that you should expect to be paying a lot more than its £100 face value. In an effort to keep our customers informed and show what great value our prices are, our products have a price comparison so you know you'll be getting the best deal on your bullion.   

0.25 oz Gold

This coin is also available in a quarter ounce version. This smaller coin bears the same designs obverse and reverse but in miniature weighing only 7.80g and with a diameter of 22.00mm. It has a face value of £25, but as with its 1oz counterpart you should expect to pay for the gold content not the denomination.

2oz Silver

This two-ounce silver bullion coin contains two troy counces of silver. The coin has a fineness of 0.999 and as British Legal Tender, is exempt from Capital Gains Tax. It weighs 62.42g and has a diameter of 38.61mm. The Reverse features Jody Clark's White Lion of Mortimer with a shield bearing Edward IV's White Rose En Soleil. The lion is surrounded by a raised pattern, like intricate chains linked, covering the background.

The inscription around the edge of the coin reads WHITE LION OF MORTIMER 2oz · FINE SILVER · 999.9 · 2020. 

The obverse was also designed by Jody Clark and bears the fifth portrait of The Queen. It features a bust of Queen Elizabeth II wearing the King George IV State Diadem. This portrait shows an 88-year-old Queen with deep wrinkles around the eye and mouth areas. The Queen wears Diamond Jubilee drop pearl earrings and her chin is lifted slightly, which has been said to indicate that she is looking positively towards the future. The truncation is shaped into a sweeping curve. This portrait was introduced in 2015 and continues to be used today. On this bullion coin the background is not smooth but covered in a pattern of raised dots, carrying on the textured feel of the reverse but with a different pattern.

The inscription reads: ELIZABETH · II · D · G REG · F · D · 5 POUNDS.

Again, those pesky face value denominations are not a guide. The spot price for 1oz of silver has been anywhere between £13 and £15 recently. So, not forgetting those pesky premiums, you'll be looking to pay somewhere around £40-£45 for your 2oz coin. Check out the price comparison for this coin to get a live price and be reassured you'll be getting the best deal on your bullion.   

White Lion of Mortimer 2oz Silver Reverse White Lion of Mortimer 2oz Silver Obverse

10oz Silver

This coin is also available in a ten-ounce version. This bigger coin bears the same designs obverse and reverse writ large weighing in at a whopping 311.055g and with a diameter of 89.00mm. It has a face value of £10, but as with its fellows you should expect to pay for the metal content.

Proof Mintages

The White Lion of Mortimer Proof Varieties Mintage
WLoM 2020 UK Gold Proof Kilo 13
WLoM 2020 UK Gold Proof Five-Ounce 70
WLoM 2020 UK Silver Proof Kilo 120
WLoM 2020 UK Silver Proof Ten-Ounce 240
WLoM 2020 UK Silver Proof Five-Ounce 335
WLoM 2020 UK Gold Proof One Ounce 445
WLoM 2020 UK Gold Proof Quarter Ounce 1000
WLoM 2020 UK Silver Proof One Ounce 4360
WLoM 2020 UK £5 Brilliant Uncirculated Unlimited

One of the most important things for coin collectors is rarity. This can help to explain why proof versions of these coins can fetch a price so much higher than their bullion counterparts. This is why mintage is important. Gold proof coins tend to have the smallest mintage numbers as they come with the biggest price tags and tend to appeal to only the most affluent collectors. However, there is also a growing trend for collecting affordable base metal coins. Mass market, unlimited mintage, base metal versions of coins can make as much if not more money for a mint on a popular design. 

Proof Coins

The design on the proof coins is very similar to that on the bullion coins. However, there are some slight differences. For example, the field (background) is flat on the proof coins so they are easily distinguishable from their textured bullion equivalents. The inscription also differs on these proof coins as the emphasis is no longer on the metal content but instead on the craftsmanship that goes into creating a perfect proof coin. So, the inscription on the reverse includes only the name of the beast around the bottom and the year split above the beast's head.

White Lion of Mortimer £5 Reverse

White Lion of Mortimer £5 Obverse

A Word from the Designer

Queen’s Beasts designer Jody Clark is best known for his ‘fifth portrait’ of The Queen seen on UK coins since 2015, but has also spent a lot of time pouring over British heraldry to inspire his Queen’s Beasts designs and ensure they are true to the spirit of the great houses they represent. He says of his White Lion of Mortimer design,

“I wanted to create a strong silhouette around the White Lion, accentuating the prominent features of its tail, mane and the shield it is holding. The lion faces to the right, like Her Majesty The Queen on the obverse, signifying the royal ancestry and history of monarchy that it represents."

“This lion is presented in a different composition to the Lion of England which faces head-on, ferocious and rampant. It was important that the lions were portrayed this way as they embody distinct and contrasting aspects of the history of the monarchy.”

Further Reading

You may be interested in exploring more articles in our precious metal and coin news section of the website.

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