Fife Tourism Partnership

Ancient capital’s coin display coincides with crowning of King

4 May 2023

A rare medieval coin recently unearthed by an amateur metal detectorist will go on show to mark King Charles III’s coronation.

The silver penny depicting Malcolm IV of Scotland is to be exhibited in Dunfermline, which was granted city status by King Charles last year.

The 12th century coin is being displayed near the historic Abbey where Malcolm is buried, and where Dunfermline’s city status was conferred in October.

Its display is a reminder of Dunfermline’s role as an ancient Scottish capital and as the birthplace, in 1625, of Charles I – the last king to be born in Scotland.

The precious relic, which weighs less than 1.5 grams, will be displayed in the reading room at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries from Saturday (6 May) until 30 June.

A formal document, known as a Letters Patent – confirming Dunfermline’s city status – will also be exhibited for the first time, alongside the coin. The document bears the King’s signature and a royal seal.

Just 20 millimetres in diameter, the coin was found in a field near Aberdour in 2020. It is thought to be only the fifth discovery of this particular coinage.

Malcolm was only the second Scottish monarch to issue coins – the first was his grandfather, David I. The coin was probably minted in the Scottish Borders at either Roxburgh or Berwick.

One side of the coin features a bust of the crowned king – his ghost-like face just visible – flanked with sceptres. The other shows a medieval symbol known as the cross fleury.

The coin was adopted by the Treasure Trove system, which decrees that all archaeological finds of cultural and historical significance should be reported to the Crown.

Malcolm – who lived from 1141 to 1165 – only reigned for 12 years, which means that objects related to his reign are uncommon.

“The coin is a reminder of Dunfermline’s role as a seat of royal power in medieval Scotland and is the oldest Scottish coin in our collection,” says Kirke Kook, a curator with cultural charity OnFife, which runs the exhibition venue.

“It also offers a rare and tantalising glimpse into the life and reign of a young king, who faced many challenges during his relatively short time in power.”

Malcolm became King in 1153, succeeding David I because Malcolm's father – Henry, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon and Northumbria – had died the year previously.

Throughout his reign, which was dogged by ill-health, Malcolm was threatened by other claimants to the throne, including King Henry II of England and Fergus, Lord of Galloway.

Malcolm died with no acknowledged heirs and was succeeded by his younger brother, William the Lion.

Purchase of the coin has been made possible with the support of the Art Fund and National Fund for Acquisitions.

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