“Britain’s Hope And The Wooden Walls of Old England”

One of my favorite bits of Victoriana in my collection is a small 26.7 mm white metal medalet from the 1850s by Allen & Moore of England. These prolific medalists operated both as a partnership and also as individual artists. The medalet in this installment features the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria’s oldest son, “Britain’s Hope,” and heir to the throne. The young lad, dressed in naval garb, is leaning on an anchor while “BRITAIN’S HOPE” arcs above. In the exergue below the adolescent future king is THE PRINCE OF / WALES on two lines.

The “Wooden Walls of Old England” refers to the British Royal Navy and its presence around the world, with Her Majesty’s wooden ships providing a “wall” to keep enemies out and prosperity within. The reverse of the medalet shows the “wooden walls” in all their glory in the form of a three-masted British Man O’ War, its many gun ports ready for action while showing some sails furled and others at full mast. The Union Jack streams proudly at the aft of the ship.

The medalet itself is about as bold and bright as ever found. I’ve seen examples of this white metal medalet numerous times over the years, but few, if any, of the specimens I’ve seen compare to the present piece. It is boldly struck throughout with every tiny detail of the obverse – the prince’s eyelids and hair curls for instance – fully represented. The same goes for the ship on the reverse with all of its rigging and other features crisply presented, right down to the details of the Union Jack. It is fully prooflike in appearance with bold visual contrast between the fields and devices. I keep my little treasure in a velvet-lined leatherette box with brass hasps, a box I’ve owned for years knowing that one day I’d find the “right” item to rest within. The little Prince of Wales and his warship compatriot have rested at peace in their red velvet home for a few years now — the medalet is a perfect fit for the box and my collection too!

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