Eclipse of Treaty of Ryswick 1697

The Nine Years’ War (1688–97) – often called the War of the Grand Alliance, the War of the Palatine Succession, or the War of the League of Augsburg started in 1688. By the year 1696 economic of countries involved in war fall into a crisis, and in 1697 they negotiated the Treaty of Ryswick. Numerous medals and tokens were struck in the time of treaty, one of them depict a solar eclipse. But there was not any solar eclipse visible from Europe between 1696 and 1698. Which eclipse could serve as pattern to this token.

James Prince of Wales

Although the war was originally started for the Palatine Succession, counties involved saw in it not only the solution of their foreign policy, but also their internal affairs. In the Treaty of Ryswick an internal affair of England was arranged among others, which confirmed Stuart House exclusion from the English throne. Louis XIV agreed to accept Prince of Orange, as William III as King of England, and promised not to support the Stuart House, namely the deposed James II of England and his son James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales who was born in 1688. Advocates of Prince James issued several tokens supporting the Stuart cause. One of these depict the portrait to the left of the then nine years old prince on the obverse, to emphasize the ‘continuation of the line’, rather than his father James II who was still alive at the time. Legend around: "IAC. WALLIAE PRINCEPS". The chances that a Stuart regained the throne disappeared by the Treaty of Ryswick, the prince had never resigned the throne, and he got the name "The Old Pretender" among people.

Initials below bust N. R. means the medalist Norbert Roettier. Norbert and his father John, who was also an engraver worked in the Tower mint in the beginning and middle of 1690's when the elder Roettier was suspected by treasonable practices. In January 1695-96 dies of king Charles and king James, then in the Tower was ordered to obtain from Roettier to be forwarded to France, for king James to coin money for the payment of the forces with which he purposed to effect a landing in England. Many dies were allowed to be taken from the Tower, and were used by various fraudulent coiners both in the town and country. About a year later, when one of them, named Thomas White, who had been apprenticed to a working goldsmith and watchmaker in Dublin, was detected as a coiner. White declared that he could have dies from Roettier when he pleased. Norbert, fearing the result of enquiry, fled to France. An interesting moment of this forgery affair that Isaac Newton, Warden of the Mint at that time was also involved in an inquiry. Norbert became an engraver in the Paris Mint where he was employed for decades. The personal connection of the engraver and the pretender lasted for long time, Prince James became the god-father of Norbert’s son. The whole and detailed story of the Roettier family can be read in the The Numismatic chronicle Volume III. of the Royal Numismatic Society on page 158. Author J. H. Burn, title MEMOIR ON THE ROETTIERS.

Clarior e TenebrisThe reverse of the token issued in 1697 displays a sea shore and above the calm sea a partial solar eclipse is visible. Legend around: "CLARIOR E TENEBRIS", means from darkness to the light, indicates the exaggerated expectation of supporters of king James in that they would have finally disappointed. The reverse harmonizes to the legend, depicts the return of the Sun after the darkness, the eclipse. Common sense says that eclipse appears on medals when an eclipse have been visible right before the issue. However there were no such an eclipse visible from Europe that could serve this design. We have go as far as India to get the right one. The Treaty of Ryswick contained a French-Dutch treaty in which the French regained Pondichéry (today Puduchery) a southern-east territory in India, after paying the Dutch a sum of 16,000 pagodas.



eclipse 1697 details

From the settlement that France got back a partial solar eclipse was visible on 21 April, 1697, that could serve the scene of the represented eclipse on the coin. The Sun raised 60% eclipsed and the event had ended by the time the Sun raised to a 9 degree above the horizon. People who were looking east on the sea shore could see the depicted spectacle. I have not found any information that the medalist personally was present the event in Pondichéry. I suspect that as he served Louis XIV, he may visited the territory in arrangement the recovery of it. As the eclipse preceded the sign of treaty the travel may supported the preparation of the action. Also maybe that a different person traveled there and gave the idea to the design.

eclipse 1697

The path of eclipse of 1697, the phenomenon was visible from south-east of India after sunrise

Interesting how a large quantity of these token were recovered. The story was published in Journal of the British Archeological Association Volume 27 in 1871. On page 385. Mr. H. Syer Cuming wrote:

I was informed in the year 1865 that at least a bushel of bronze medalets of James, Prince of Wales, were exhumed together in Smithfield. The few handfuls I examined were covered with verdigris, but in other respects were in a good state of preservation. There were two varieties, the obverses in both being similar, the difference being in the reverses. Obv. — Profile bust to the left ; legend IAC . WALLIAE PRINCEPS ; beneath the shoulder N . R, the initials of the Flemish artist Roettier. Reverse of one — the sun in its splendour rising behind the world, which seems to float mid-air over the ocean ; legend CLARIOR . E . TENEBRIS ; exergue 1697. Reverse of the other — the sun in its splendour rising beyond the ocean; legend OMNIA FACIT IPSE SERENA ; exergue 1697. The Prince was born in 1688, so that he must have been nine years old when these medalets were struck. It is not very apparent on what occasion they were produced, nor why they should have been imported into London in such large quantities. Whilst the arrangements for peace were proceeding at Ryswick in 1697, King James II addressed certain manifestos to the different Princes of the Confederacy, solemnly protesting against all negotiations that might be entered into with William of Orange, whom he regarded as a usurper, and, therefore, incapable of making any engagement on behalf of England. It is not improbable that the hoard of medalets in question were sent to London at this particular time, for distribution among the people, who had grown restless under the burdens of an expensive war, and whose loyalty to the exiled family might possibly be rekindled by looking on the effigy of the youthful heir to the throne. But, be this as it may, the discovery of these little medalets in such vast numbers in the heart of the metropolis is a fact worthy of record in connection with Jacobite history.

Mr. Cuming description may well characterize the political situation but he might be wrong by the description of the design of the first medalet. The Sun can not rise behind a world floating in mid-air over the ocean, i. e. behind the Earth, because the ocean itself is on the Earth. The depicted orb that partially covers the Sun sure might be the Moon.

Another interesting part of this story, that on 4 October 1698 a similar eclipse were visible from Pondichéry. This is a rare occasion that close in time from the same place similar phenomena occur. The date on the coin exclude however that this later event would have been depicted on it.