Silver coin of Cynethryth, wife of Offa of Mercia

British Museum

British Museum

Coins in the names of queens who were rulers in their own right are common. They occur throughout the history of coinage, from Cleopatra VII to Elizabeth II. Much more uncommon are coins in the names of queen consorts, who were only queens because they were married to kings. These were not uncommon in the later Roman Empire, but they are rare in other periods and cultures. The only English examples are the coins in the name of Cynethryth, wife of king Offa of Mercia (AD 757-96).

The coins show a bust loosely copied from Roman designs, with the name of the moneyer who issued the coins on one side, while the other side has the inscription CENEÐRYÐ REGINA ('Queen Cynethryth'), with an M for Mercia in the middle. The coins may indicate that Cynethryth had real political power alongside her husband, or they may have been struck specially for gifts to the Church from Cynethryth. The most likely explanation is that Offa knew that some Roman emperors had issued coins in the names of their wives, and was trying to act like an emperor himself. We know from other sources that he had a high opinion of his own importance.

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  • Title: Silver coin of Cynethryth, wife of Offa of Mercia
  • Physical Dimensions: Weight: 1.030g
  • Registration number: TYS
  • Production place: Minted in Mercia
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Ruler Cynethryth. Ruler Eoba