The coin was struck in the reign of East Anglian ruler Aethelbert II and describes him as king – the only time this title has been found on a coin from this era. Auctioneers said it was “miraculous” that the coin survived more than 1,200 years underground in such good condition.
Today the kingdom of Aethelbert II would straddle parts of Suffolk and Norfolk. Little is known of his reign, which may have begun in 779. Before this coin came up for auction in London this week, very few of the coins issued during his reign had been discovered.
It is thought that he was killed on the orders of Offa, the powerful king of Mercia, in 794. Historians speculate that the murder of Aethelbert II was ordered after he became too ambitious and threatened the reign of King Offa.
Some historic sources speculate that he was taken captive whilst visiting his future Mercian bride Aelfthyth and murdered.
According to legend, Aethelbert’s severed head later fell off a cart and rolled into a ditch. After the bloodied head was found, it was said to have restored a blind man’s sight. The “miracle” resulted in the dead king being canonised and declared a saint.