A Fantastic Ælfred the Great PennyKings of Wessex. Ælfred the Great (871-899) portrait "Monogram" Penny ND, London mint, struck ca. 880, S-1061, North-644 (rare), MS63 NGC. This famous issue has been exceptionally well preserved over the past 1134 years since it was minted. We see here an excellent portrait, with remarkable details across the bust and on the obverse legend; the reverse's Londonia monogram is bold in all parts. The rims are high and complete, no cracks exist, the metal is of good quality, and the surfaces are essentially without blemish. The coin is charming, as well, because of its medieval patina, a combination of bluish silvery gray with iridescent golden hues. Patches of black carbon-based deposits attest to the originality of the piece. The royal title is boldly engraved and struck, as ÆLF REDREx, the final letter not fitting the space and thus placed beneath the "E" near the center of the king's shoulder. Among the finer examples known of this classic Anglo-Saxon penny, it was struck at Ælfred's mint in London, right on the line of ancient Watling Street which marked the boundary between Ælfred's native Wessex and his conquered lands in East Anglia. This long, hard victory was won by a determined king whose army had been decimated by Viking invaders since 870, when Wessex was first attacked. At the time, it was the only remaining kingdom independent of Viking control. Æthelred and his younger brother, Ælfred, had driven back the Danes in 871 at the battle of Ashdown. After Æthelred was killed in a subsequent battle, Ælfred became king, and he retreated to remote Somerset with what remained of his army to refit and plan his next move. The Viking king Guthrum seized control of almost all Anglo-Saxon territory early in 878, driving Ælfred out of Wessex. He had only his reduced forces of thegns and bodyguards at that time, but Ælfred's reputation led many warriors from surrounding counties to join him and, later in the same year, they attacked and defeated the Danish army at the battle of Edington. Knowing he could not defeat all the Vikings, he made peace in a treaty that partitioned England, giving Ælfred control of London. In effect, however, after May of 878, London was his by power of military force. One of the very few extant physical artifacts of this conquest is his famous Monogram Penny, portraying him as king, as we see so clearly here on this historic coin.
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