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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 111, Lot: 1059. Estimate $4000.
Sold for $3250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ANGLO-SAXON, Archbishops of Canterbury. Wulfred. 805-832. AR Penny (22mm, 1.34 g, 3h). Large portrait type. Canterbury mint; Sæberht, moneyer. Struck circa 810-822/3. Tonsured facing bust; two pellets to left, three pellets to right / + SAEBERHT MONETΛ, Dorobernia Civitas monogram. Naismith 46.2x; SCBI 67 (BM), 756-7 var. (pellets); North 240; SCBC 888. Good VF, find patina, a few light marks. Rare.

Ex Maj.-Gen. A. Lyons Collection (‘Property of a Genlteman,’ Spink 219, 24 September 2013), lot 67, purchased from Mike R. Vosper, November 2004.

Believed to have come from a family of landholders in Middlesex, Wulfred’s name first appears as a member of Aethelheard’s staff on historical records in 803. He later became Archdeacon of Canterbury before succeeding Archbishop Aethelheard in 805. Evidently of high status, Wulfred initially enjoyed good favour with Coenwulf. Unlike his predecessors, his coins are the first to make no reference to the King, thus ending the recognition of a Mercian overlord on archepiscopal coins. Instead they depict a tonsured head of the archbishop himself, presumably influenced by the Carolingian-style silver denarii, which had recently been adopted by Pope Hadrian I (cf. CNG 61, lot 2185). Wulfred was a considerable benefactor to his Church, and a strenuous assertor of its rights, spending many years reforming his own cathedral community at Christ Church and granting land in exchange for assurances that his reforms would be maintained. It was this dedication which lead to the relationship between King and Archbishop souring considerably from 817 onward when Coenwulf stated his intention to release control of the monasteries from the clergy, which had been the custom for centuries, to laymen and local noble families. Concerned over a potential decline in pastoral standards, a bitter argument ensued and was evidently of such seriousness that according to historical sources, Wulfred ceased to exercise his office and at one point was threatened with exile unless he yielded to Coenwulf’s demands. A settlement was finally imposed before Coenwulf’s death in 821, but the quarrel rumbled on, continuing under his successor Coelwulf in 823 before finally being resolved in Wulfred’s favor in 825 under the new Mercian King Beornwulf. According to the Canterbury obituary lists Wulfred died on the 24th March 832, leaving the bulk of his estates in trust for his community at Christ Church, Canterbury.