Coins and Historical Medals (9 February 2021)

Date of Auction: 9th February 2021

Sold for £18,000

Estimate: £10,000 - £15,000

Stephen (1135-1154), Henry Murdac, Archbishop of York, Penny, Phase 4, York, θ henricvs epc, bust right holding sceptre, mullet and two pellets in inner right field, rev. stephenvs. rex, cross pattée over saltire fleury, 1.13g/3h (Allen, NC 2016, O-/Re; N 934; S 1322). Full and round with both legends clear, very fine, extremely rare £10,000-£15,000


Provenance: Found at Skelton (N. Yorkshire), 2019 (EMC 2020.0419, recté 1.13g).

Henry Murdac, a Yorkshireman who, as a young man, was a Cistercian monk at Clairvaux Abbey, was appointed to head Fountains Abbey in 1144. A strict disciplinarian, he opposed King Stephen’s appointment of his nephew, William Fitz Herbert, as Archbishop of York. Fitz Herbert was deposed at the Council of Rheims in 1147 and Murdac installed as the new archbishop at the instigation of his friend from Clairvaux, Pope Eugenius III. When he arrived back in Yorkshire William, Duc d’Amale and Hugh du Puiset, the treasurer of York, organised opposition to his appointment. A stand-off ensued in which Murdac excommunicated Aumale, Puiset and the citizens of York and Puiset excommunicated Murdac, but then left the city of York for Winchester. In retaliation for Stephen’s refusal to recognise his status, Murdac met with David I of Scotland and his entourage in Carlisle, probably to offer support for David’s plan to invade Yorkshire, which was abandoned in the first half of 1149. Murdac imposed an interdict on York and the following year Stephen finally recognised him as Archbishop, even though there remained much opposition to him within the city and he had resided at Ripon since 1148. Murdac was able to enter York in January 1151 when he was formally reconciled with King Stephen; he died at Sherburn-in-Elmet on 14 October 1153