It wasn’t Richard III’s choice, of course. Being killed in battle by a rival claimant to the throne of England is a bit of a blow. Although Richard probably was behind the murder of the Princes in the Tower to get that throne in the first place, so he could hardly moan about it.
Let’s not get into that debate again. What is a certainty is that a gold coin dating from Richard III’s brief reign has been found by a metal detectorist just a few miles from Bosworth Field where the king famously met his death in combat in 1485.
The Half Angel, one of just a handful surviving from Richard’s short stint in the No1 spot, is to be auctioned by London auction house Dix Noonan Webb (DNW) on December 13, estimated at up to £10,000-15,000.
Powers of detection
It was discovered by metal detectorist Michelle Vall in Warwickshire and may have belonged to one of Richard’s soldiers fleeing from the battle more than five centuries earlier.
Vall, a 51-year-old primary school teaching assistant from Blackpool, had been taking part in a charity detecting rally at Monks Kirby, between Coventry and Leicester, in September this year. “After detecting for two and a half hours in a farmer’s field, I got a signal,” she said. “The coin was deep down, about 16 inches below the surface, and the soil there is thick clay so it took a bit of digging out.
“I spotted this glint of gold in the hole, although I obviously did not know exactly what it was at first. I put it in the palm of my hand and then I went back to the organisers’ tent. One of them identified it and people became very excited. That was when I realised that it was a Half Angel.”
“I have decided to sell it because it is too valuable to keep,” said Vall, a mother of two. “I did not want to keep it in a locked cupboard.”
She only took up metal detecting last January and is “absolutely hooked on it”. She said: “I started detecting because I am a keen antique collector and walker and when I became aware that it is a popular activity and there are clubs you can join with like-minded people, I realised that it combines the best of both my passions. So now I am able to find history myself out in the fields of our beautiful countryside.”
Vall goes out detecting with her husband most weekends.
The Half Angel gold coin was introduced in 1472, its name deriving from the image on one side of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon. It was half the value of the Angel coin, introduced in 1465, which is so well-known that many English pubs are named after it.
Richard III issues are rare because of that brief reign, of course. The intense interest in Richard, a controversial figure, increased particularly since his remains were discovered in Leicester in 2012.
DNW turned up trumps with another metal-detector find of a rare coin from the era earlier this year. A rare gold Angel dating from the tragically brief reign of Edward V, the shortest-lived male monarch in English history – one of the two Princes in the Tower - sold for £42,000 against an estimate of £12,000-15,000 on March 15.
It had been found in a Dorset field by a metal detectorist, Bournemouth heating engineer Brian Biddle. The 64 year old at first thought that he had found a bottle top. But he quickly realised that he had come across a gold coin when he removed it from the soil at Tolpuddle, between Dorchester and Bournemouth, in August last year.