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Lot 738





Estimate: 2'500 CHF   |   Starting price: 2'500 CHF Price realized: 3'200 CHF
The Knights of St. John in Malta. Emmanuel de Rohan, 70th Grand Master, 1775-1797. 20 Scudi, 1778. AV 16.40 g. F*EMMANUEL DE ROHAN M*M* Bare-headed, cuirassed bust r. Rev. HOSPITALIS ET S*SEPUL*HIERUSAL* 1778. Crown over two oval shields with the arms of the Grand Master and of the Order, below, value S.20 in tiny letters; edge decorated with leaves. Azzopardi, Malta 903; Fr. 43; Restelli-Sammut 188, 3 and pl.LXXIX, 2; Schembri 173, 1 and pl. 20, 1.
Rare in this quality. Choice extremely fine
Provenance: Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel - Fixed Price List 520 (1989), 90.
Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan, 1775-1797.
During the reign of Emmanuel Pinto the Order had begun to have what can only be termed a crisis of conscience. Their entire reason for existence was the fight against the Turks and the Moslem corsairs from North Africa, but by the mid 18th century this was not of that much interest to the major European powers since they were no longer particularly worried about the Ottoman threat; rather, diplomatic and commercial relations were becoming much closer. Times were changing rapidly and not only was the Order seen as a relic of the overly religious, obscurantist Middle Ages, but it was also viewed as exceedingly rich, with revenues that could ‘surely’ be put to better use by the powerful nation states of the day. In electing Emmanuel de Rohan de Polduc, at 50 apparently the youngest Grand Master since Medieval times, the Order could not have made a better choice. A superb diplomat and an excellent leader, he immediately set out to reform and improve the Order’s finances and government. He was very successful in doing so, defeating an attempt by some younger Knights to ‘modernize’ or ‘secularize’ the Order, increasing revenues and presiding over the Order’s expansion, especially through the acquisition of the assets of a number of dissolved orders, as that of the Jesuits in Bavaria and, more numismatically interesting, of the Order of St. Anthony of Vienne in 1776. Rohan’s court was famous for its elegance, Malta and its people were prosperous and well- cared for, and, despite various intrigues and maneuverings, government was stable. Yet events in the outside world loomed over the horizon, especially the revolution in France. The capture of Louis XVI at Varennes (he had borrowed 12,000 Francs from the Order’s representative in Paris to finance his escape) was such a shock that Rohan had a stroke, which partially paralyzed him for the remaining years of his reign. Despite his great ability, it would have been better for the Order if Rohan had died in 1791: had he done so the Order would have been able to select a new Grand Master with the abilities to enable him to face the perils of the times. Rohan’s coinage was extensive and, for the most part, followed earlier models. However, it also includes one of the greatest rarities of the coinage of Malta: the suppressed Twenty Scudi of 1778, which follows below.

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