Worth six pence Scots, this bawbee is an example of copper coinage from the reign of Charles II (1649–85). Facing left on the heads side is a ‘laureate bust’ of the king – so called because a laurel wreath crowns the figure. Centred on the reverse is a crowned thistle.
Charles II was named King of Scots shortly after his father – Charles I – was executed in 1649. He was crowned at Scone on 1 January 1651, but fled to Europe soon after. This was his second period of exile due to ongoing conflict throughout the British Isles and Ireland.
No coins were made until Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660. And not a single gold coin appeared in his reign. This copper bawbee dates from 1679.
The legend means ‘Charles II by the grace of God King of Scotland, England, France and Ireland’. The Latin itself reads: ‘CAR II DG SCOT AN FR ET HIB R’.
‘No one shall hurt me with impunity’ is the meaning of the motto on the reverse. This is written: ‘NEMO ME IMPVNE LACESSET’.
Bawbees get their name from Alexander Orrok of Sillebawby, mint master at the time coins of this value began to be made. The first bawbees, from around 1539, were made of billon, an alloy. Sterling replaced Scots money in 1707, but the name didn’t die out. The Scottish sixpence had been worth a halfpenny sterling – so bawbee was still used for a halfpenny.