Charles II (1649–85) was on the throne at the time this bawbee was made, in 1679. After years in exile, the king had been restored as the English monarch in 1660. No coins were made until his return – and not a single gold coin was made in all his reign.
Charles II was named King of Scots soon after the execution of his father, Charles I, in 1649. Crowned at Scone on 1 January 1651, he fled to Europe that same year. This was his second period of exile due to ongoing conflict throughout the British Isles and Ireland.
This copper coin was worth six pence Scots. It shows Charles II facing left, in the ‘laureate bust’ style – with a laurel wreath crown. A crowned thistle takes centre place on the reverse.
The legend translates as ‘Charles II by the grace of God King of Scotland, England, France and Ireland’. In Latin, it reads: ‘CAR II DG SCOT AN FR ET HIB R’.
On the reverse is a motto meaning ‘no one shall hurt me with impunity’. This is written: ‘NEMO ME IMPVNE LACESSET’.
Sterling replaced Scots money in 1707, but the bawbee name lived on. It had come about as one Alexander Orrok of Sillebawby had been mint master when coins of this value were first made. Those early bawbees, from around 1539, were made of billon, an alloy. When sterling arrived, the halfpenny – equivalent to six pence Scots – took over the name.