When England’s Queen Met a Pirate Queen, 1593

What kind of pirate would sail to London to parley with her arch nemesis, the Queen of England? Her name was Grace O’Malley, she was Irish and a queen in her own right

In the 16th Century, whilst Ireland’s eastern coastline was controlled by the English, its hinterland to the west was frontier country.

On the wild Atlantic coast, where great rollers pounded the raw, verdant coastline, the Uí Mháille noble family held sway over the pasturelands there and surrounding seas. Into this family Gráinne Ní Mháille (Grace O’Malley in English) was born.

A woman whose name is shrouded in legend, Grace O’Malley grew up to become the matriarch of her clan and followed in her family’s footsteps. The O’Malleys drew power by ‘taxing’ passing ships — a euphemism for piracy — and fighting rival clans, and Grace led from the front.

Yet this was a time when the English were a growing force to be reckoned with; the great English Queen Elizabeth I sat on the throne and she was tightening her grip on the ‘Emerald Isle’.

(takebackhalloween.org)

Elizabeth I’s man in Ireland Sir Richard Bingham was more than a match for O’Malley. As Governor of Connaught Sir Richard squeezed O’Malley’s domain so much that by 1593 he had captured her two sons, Tibbot Burke and Murrough O’Flaherty, and half-brother Dónal na Píopa.

O’Malley was reduced to desperate straits. What could she do?

She certainly wasn’t going to just give up. O’Malley was going to attempt something so audacious it might just win the Queen of England’s respect and therefore clemency.

This was risky to say the least; they were political enemies and cages hung from the Tower of London with rotting corpses in them, testament to the usual fate of pirates. Yet the Queen agreed to meet O’Malley in London so she could plead her case.

The two women were the most powerful in the British Isles. Despite being opposed in many ways they had much in common.

They were both courageous and charismatic leaders; Queen Elizabeth had earned huge respect for leading her nation to defeat the mighty Spanish Armada in 1588 and O’Malley has been described as a fearless leader and able negotiator, not to mention other less salubrious credentials.

O’Malley’s black sailed ship entered the Thames estuary and sailed upstream to Greenwich Palace where it docked.

The lady was then searched and the queen’s guards found something on her… it was a dagger!

The Queen’s henchmen were furious; it was bad enough their queen was meeting with a brigand, yet O’Malley explained it was for her own protection and the queen accepted this.

O’Malley was brought into the queen’s presence surrounded by Her Majesty’s guards and courtiers, wearing a dress rumoured so fine it drew not a few admiring glances.

They greeted each other as queens, if not equals. O’Malley declined to curtsey, and when the Irish Lady sneezed and was given an embroidered handkerchief she infuriated the courtiers even more by using it then throwing it on the crackling fire.

Yet, Elizabeth was intrigued by the woman. The two conversed in Latin and Elizabeth I warmed to Grace as she regaled the English queen with tales of her daring exploits and grievances towards Sir Bingham. The only thing now was would Elizabeth let a perennial nemesis of hers just sail off after coming into her clutches?

She did. O’Malley’s gamble paid off. As the serious troublemaker to the English which she had been, she entered the lion’s den and left with not only her life and liberty intact but her son Tibbot released.

Sir Bingham would continue to make her life difficult though. The two feminist icons of their age would both pass away in 1603.

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7 Largest Coins in the World

The world’s No.1 is as heavy as a car. Presenting the biggest coins in the world.

When the Royal Mint minted a massive £10,000 coin in 2021, it got me wondering what the biggest coins in the world were. So, I reached into my bag of tricks and I came up with this; the seven most massive, very valuable coins in the world.

Note, I am only including circular metal coins with a denomination.

This may sound a little obvious yet there is a ‘massive coin’ from Sweden minted in 1644 which I would call a copper slab with hallmarks imprinted on it, and there are Rai Stones on the Micronesian Islands up to 3.6m (12ft) in diameter which served as a form of money, and therefore have been termed ‘coins’ by some, but not moi.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the seven biggest coins (by diameter), starting from seventh:

7: Queen’s Beasts Coin 

The newest coin in this list, minted in 2021 (theguardian.com)

The Queen’s Beasts Coin was minted in 2021 by the UK’s Royal Mint (RM) and is an outstanding piece of craftsmanship.

This gold coin is 20cm (7.9in) in diameter and weighs 10kg (22lbs). Unsurprisingly, it is the largest coin minted in the RM’s 1,100-year history.

It is meant as the final piece of a larger collection on the theme of heraldic beasts.

When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, 10 stone statues lined the Queen’s route to Westminster, including; a lion, griffin, falcon, bull, yale, greyhound, dragon, unicorn and a horse.

The RM subsequently made these beasts the theme of said coin collection.

With one side showing the side profile of Her Majesty’s head, the other side of the coin has another side-head profile beautifully surrounded by engravings of the 10 beasts in stunning detail.

This whopper set a new standard in coin minting. It took 400 hours to craft. They spent four days alone polishing it.

It is a £10,000 denomination coin, yet its real value is somewhere not far below the million-pound mark, so don’t forget which pocket you left it in.

6: 1000-Mohur Jahangir Coin

…to the oldest in the list, minted in 1639. A wonderful piece of craftsmanship without the state-of-the-art tools of modern mints (twitter.com)

A number of historical records tell of giant coins being forged by ancient empires.

Coins said to weigh over four kilos were minted in the Abbasid Empire, for example, and a very hefty coin was gifted by a Mughal Emperor to his court jester, but one that he bore a hole through the middle for his jester to slip his head through and bear it on his shoulders.

It was heavy enough for this poor-not-poor jester to be quite helpless and the man even had the nerve to complain out loud. That’s gratitude! Pffft.

None of these coins survived history, except one.

The fourth Mughal Emperor Jahangir minted the 1000-mohur Jahangir gold coin in 1639 weighing in at just under 12kg (26.5lbs) and with a 20.3cm (8in) diameter.

The inscription on the coin is in Persian. In the centre is the emperor’s name and title and surrounding the circular core are two couplets meticulously set on the coin with all the rules of calligraphy faithfully observed.

Considering it was made without modern minting technology, it is a fantastic piece of craftsmanship.

It is owned by Mukarram Jah, the Nizam of Hyderabad and was valued at 10 million US dollars in 1987, so who knows what its value is now.

5: Vienna Philharmonic Coin

This coin commemorates one of the world’s most famous orchestras (aguanews.com)

The 15 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra coins were made to mark the 15th anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin.

They were minted in 2004 by the Austrian Mint. They each have a diameter of 37cm (14.6in), 2cm (.8in) thickness, and are 31kg (68.3lbs) of 24-carat gold.

Dubbed ‘Big Phil’, these priceless discs are inscribed with the image of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s famous hall on one side and instruments on the other, plus the coins’ 100,000 Euro face-value. Their true value was put at 1.1 million Euros each in 2014.

4: Big Maple Leaf Coin

Don’t lift it alone; that is 100kg of gold coin (nbcnews.com)

The Big Maple Leaf Coin hails from Canada, and isn’t a unique piece — six were forged in all. Just 5 remain after one was whisked away in 2017, however.

A gang of thieves made off with one of the coins on loan to the Bode Museum in Berlin, Germany. Although the cops did track down the thieves eventually, not so the coin; it is believed to have been melted down for its gold.

Minted by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007. These giant doubloons are 50cm (19.7in) in diameter, 2.8cm (1.1in) thick and weigh a back-breaking 100kg (220lbs). They are made from 99% pure gold.

As a member of the British Commonwealth, these Canadian giants have the customary side profile of Queen Elizabeth II’s head on one side and three elegantly stylised maple leaves on the other.

Like the 1 Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin, (see below) it is a million-dollar denomination, yet it was valued at four million US dollars in 2007.

3: ‘100 Years of The Koruna’ Coin

130 kilos and 100 million crowns (eprogram.cz)

This gargantuan gold coin was commissioned to celebrate the Czech Republic’s currency reaching its 100 year anniversary.

The old Czechoslovak state was founded just after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. This fledgling state launched its shiny new currency called the Czech Crown (Koruna) a year later. 100 years on and a bumper era of economic success with this currency to show for it, the Czech Mint chose to splurge on a chunky, gold commemorative coin.

The ‘100 Years of The Koruna’ Coin is 53.5cm (21in) in diameter and 4.7cm (1.9in) thick. And with a weight of 130kg (287lbs) they should include a forklift in the price for any prospective buyer.

This mesmeric piece depicts the birth of the Czechoslovak Koruna among ears of wheat on one side and, in homage to the famed One-Crown coin that first went into circulation in 1922, the Czech lion is shown onto its reverse side.

With a 100 million-crown denomination, this equalled a $4.6 million valuation in 2019.

2: Ivory Coast Silver Elephant Coin

The Largest silver coin in the world (cointelevision.com)

In 2nd place is the one entry in this list not forged from gold, yet it’s still an impressive piece as the largest silver coin on Earth.

Issued by The Ivory Coast in Africa but manufactured by Geiger Edelmetalle, this set of 15 coins was minted in 2016 to champion the preservation of the continent’s iconic megafauna such as the African Elephant.

Although every coin measures 65cm (26in) and 54kg (120lb) in diameter and weight respectively, the 99% pure silver coins are handcrafted, meaning each is unique from the others in the set.

The front of each coin features the African Bush Elephant standing tall, along with the French phrase “Le Monde Animal En Peril,” translating to ‘The Animal World In Peril.’ The reverse side displays the Ivory Coast coat of arms and gives the nominal value of 1,000,000 Francs (although their true values are many times higher.)

A proportion of the profits from each coin were allocated to conservation projects that protect endangered species in the Ivory Coast republic.

1: One Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin

The largest coin on the planet (coinnews.net)

The Perth Mint in Australia produced this absolute monster of a paperweight, the One Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin — The world’s largest coin!

Minted in 2012, it has a diameter of 80cm (31.5in), is 12cm (4.7in) deep and is 1000kg (2,200lbs) of pure gold.

With a face-value of a million dollars, this giant coin was actually valued at 53 million dollars when it was unveiled.

It was made to be the showpiece of the Perth Mint ‘Australian Kangaroo Gold Bullion Coin Series‘ and is a triumph of coin minting.

On one side is Queen Elizabeth II’s side profile with ‘ELIZABETH II’, ‘AUSTRALIA’ and ‘1 MILLION DOLLARS’ inscribed around the edge, and the other side features a bounding red kangaroo surrounded by stylised rays of sunlight and bordered by the inscription ‘AUSTRALIAN KANGAROO’, ‘1 TONNE’, ‘9999 GOLD’ and ‘2012’.

It is legal tender, but please don’t try taking it down to your local corner shop to buy a bottle of milk; they won’t thank you for the cash in change they’ll need. Besides… it weighs an absolute tonne! (grabs coat)

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