Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


MÜLLER, Wouter: England/ Italy, 1658, Silver, 70 mm
Oliver Cromwell being crowned between two soldiers. A cartouche below, inscribed OLIVER CROMWEL PROTECTOR V[an]. ENGEL[and]: SCHOTL[and]: YRLAN[d] 1658 (Oliver Cromwell, Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1658)
Rev: Tommaso Aniello (Masaniello) being crowned between two sailors leaning on shields and holding a crown over his head. A cartouche below, inscribed MAS’ANIELLO VISSCH[e]R EN CONINCK V[an]. NAPELS 1647 (Masaniello, Fisherman and King of Naples, 1647)
Ref: M.I., i, 432/78; Eimer 47/198; Jones, "Art of the Medal", 51/110; Med. Hist. Engl. 64/10; Scher (Dutch Medals), 39/26; Weiss BW178

The medal consists of two embossed, repoussé plates, chased, and united by a broad rim.

This medal was inspired by the rise to prominence of  two commoners, considered remarkable in the 17th century: Tommaso Aniello and Oliver Cromwell. 

Tommaso Aniello, called Masaniello (1620?-1647), was a fisherman, turned Neapolitan revolutionist, who in 1647 led a revolt of the lower classes against the Spanish rulers of Naples and the Neapolitan nobility whom the Spanish administration had  relied on to maintain order.  The causes of the popular revolt were the imposition of burdensome high taxes, dissatisfaction with the rule of landowning barons, and the failure of the government to maintain justice.  The rebels took up arms, turned upon tax collectors and nobles, and besieged the Spanish garrison.  This caused the Spanish viceroy to come to terms with Masaniello, promising the reforms demanded and recognizing him as captain general.  However, Masaniello was killed shortly afterward, allegedly  poisoned by the Governor d'Arcos when at his palace.  Nevertheless, the rebellion continued to the countryside and the rebels proclaimed a republic.  This commoner-inspired republic was short lived, lasting only a few months, as hopes on the French coming to the aid of the Neapolitans did not materialize.  The nobles in the countryside raised a force and blockaded the city, leading to a restoration of the Spanish garrison and the reestablishment of Spanish rule with the nobles restoring control over the Neapolitan populace.

The reverse of this medal compares Masaniello's revolt with that of Cromwell's in England.  Like that in Naples, the English commoners and their representatives in parliament grew tired of the excesses of the nobility, in this case the rule of Charles I.

Charles I (1600-1649), son of James I and the second of a line of Stuart kings, was King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1625 to 1649. His marriage in 1625 to Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII of France, raised fears of a Catholic succession to the throne among Puritan leaders in Parliament. Many subsequent disagreements with Parliament led to Charles' insistence on the "divine right of kings", and he adjourned Parliament, ruling without it for the next 11 years. Attempts to impose Anglican liturgy on Scotland led to the Bishops' Wars. Charles was obliged to recall Parliament to raise revenue for the war, but they refused to grant funds. As a result Parliament was again dissolved. Charles was once more compelled to recall Parliament following further defeats in Scotland. This Parliament insisted on imposing numerous conditions and grievances against the king. Charles refused to relinquish control of the army, and his attempt to arrest five leading opponents in the Commons precipitated the English Civil War. After suffering a succession of defeats by the army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, Charles surrendered and was taken prisoner. In 1647 Charles reached a secret agreement with the Scots, promising to accept Presbyterianism in return for military support against Parliament. The second phase of the Civil War ended with Scottish defeat. In 1649 Charles was tried for treason and was beheaded as a tyrant and public enemy to his people on a scaffold erected outside the Banqueting Hall of Whitehall.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was born into a landed, though by no means very wealthy, family. He studied at the recently founded University of Cambridge where he developed a strong Puritan ideology. In 1628 Cromwell entered Parliament during a period in which there were serious antagonisms between King Charles I and the members of parliament. Despite these disputes between the monarch and Parliament, Cromwell initially supported a settlement with Charles I, although this settlement required the crown to accept Cromwell's political allies as the king's ministers and to guarantee religious liberty to Protestants. This brought Cromwell into conflict with those who wanted a more democratic form of government and with those who advocated replacing the old Church of England with a new Presbyterian church based on the teachings of John Calvin. Because of the duplicity of the king, however, Cromwell began to support actions against Charles.

Besides being the leader of the rebels in parliament, Cromwell became an outstanding military leader against the crown. The Civil War which erupted pitted the Crown (The Cavaliers) against the rebels in Parliament (the Roundheads), ultimately leading to a parliamentary victory for Oliver Cromwell and to the beheading of Charles I in 1649. Charles I was succeeded on the throne by his eldest surviving son Charles II, but like his father, Charles II was roundly defeated militarily and was forced into exile.

In 1653 a Protectorate was established with Oliver Cromwell given the title of Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland in the newly-formed Commonwealth, becoming the first commoner to rule England. Cromwell's rule was that of a virtual military dictator, although he resisted the temptation to take the title of King. He was rather inept politically, and with the Dutch Wars and the war against Spain financially weakening the government, parliament became increasingly disillusioned with the Commonwealth. His policy was both anti-Stuart and pro-Protestant, his most notable achievement being his championing a degree of unprecedented religious freedom. This religious freedom should be viewed as relative, however, because while Quakers, Catholics and Jews were now allowed to worship as they wished, they were still subject to regulation, and worship had to be done privately. Further there was still a recognized State Church under Cromwell.  Despite these religious restrictions, Cromwell's edicts were enlightened for the period, for unlike the policies that existed before 1649 and from 1660 (after the Restoration) until the nineteenth century, it was only during this brief period from 1649-1660 that membership in the State Church was not a qualification for entry into universities, the professions and public office. (Although in the intervening periods, anti-discriminatory laws were enacted from time to time, Jews still weren't permitted to enter the British Parliament until the late 1800's).

Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, and although he was succeeded for a brief period as Lord Protector of England by his son Richard Cromwell, a further series of mismanagements of government opened the way in 1660 for parliament to invite the exiled Charles II back to the throne, ushering in the Restoration and, thereby, ending the period in which a commoner ruled England.

LINK to history of Naples Revolt (from World History at KMLA)

LINK to painting Cromwell before the Coffin of Charles I by Hippolyte Delaroche (from the Hermitage)

LINK to Medallic History of Oliver Cromwell (from google.books)