O’Brien Irish Coin Guide: The Rare Ireland-Ionian Islands Hybrid/Mule of 1822-23


Introduction:

In 1809, the British defeated the French fleet in Zakynthos (October 2, 1809) captured Kefallonia, Kythera and Zakynthos, and took Lefkada in 1810. The French held out in Corfu until 1814. The Treaty of Paris in 1815 turned the islands into the “United States of the Ionian Islands” under British protection (November 5, 1815) – comprising seven principal islands: Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, Santa Maura, Ithaca, Cerigo and Paxo.

  • On 14th November 1815, the United States of the Ionian Islands was formed
  • In January 1817, the British granted the islands a new constitution.
    • The islanders elected an Assembly of 40 members, who advised the British High Commissioner.
    • The British then set about improving the islands’ communications, and introduced modern education and justice systems.

When the British took over, the currency then used throughout these islands, mainland Greece and the rest of the then Ottoman Empire was the Kuruş, also Qirsh, Ersh, Gersh, Grush and Grosi. The variation in the name stems from the different languages it is used in (Arabic, Amharic, Hebrew, Turkish and Greek) and the different transcriptions into the Latin alphabet. In European languages, the Kuruş was known as the Piastre.

  • At the beginning of the 19th century, silver coins were in circulation
    • 1 akçe
    • 1, 5, 10 and 20 para
    • 1, 2 and ​2½ kuruş
  • 1 kuru = 40 paras (120 akçe)
  • 1 para = 3 akçe

A new currency for the Ionian Islands:

In line with the British government’s policy of converting all British colonies into a new, global (single currency) Sterling area, the British administration set about introducing a new coinage for use in the Ionian Islands. Their new coins were produced in London by The Royal Mint and Ralph Heaton and Sons mint in Birmingham.

  • It was suggested that the new coin designs would replace ‘similar sized coins’ already circulating there and that they would reflect both British sovereignty and Ionian heritage.
  • It was decided that this new British ‘possession’ would be represented by an obverse design featuring the winged lion of St. Mark (a Venetian symbol reflecting the Venetian control of the islands from 1401 until 1797).
    • Furthermore, each of the seven principal islands would be represented by the seven arrows held by this winged lion.
1819 Ionian Islands 2 oboli, obv. winged lion of St Mark, rev. britannia. 35mm, 18.9g, mintage 4,139,520

1819 Ionian Islands 2 oboli, obv. winged lion of St Mark, rev. Britannia.

  • Diameter: 35 mm
  • Weight: 18.9 g
  • Mintage: 4,139,520

Obverse:

  • Winged lion of St. Mark facing to left holding Bible and seven arrows; below, the date 1819 (no dot after); around above, ΙΟΝΙΚΟΝ ΚΡΑΤΟΣ (Ionian State, in Greek).

Reverse:

  • Figure of Britannia seated facing left with shield and trident; above, BRITANNIA. In tiny letters on ground line, the designer’s name W WYON.

The following denominations were produced:

  • The Obol was equivalent to an English halfpenny
    • This equated to five Greek Lepta (after Greece broke free from the Ottoman Empire, after a lengthy War of Independence (from 1821-1830)
    • The end of the Greek Revolution is celebrated every year by the modern Greek state as a national day on 25th March
  • The Two Oboli, or “diobol” (double obol) was equivalent to an English penny
    • This coin is listed as “One Penny” in some sources.
    • This equated to ten Greek Lepta

The Hibernia-Ionian Island Mules:

In Irish numismatic circles, the Ionian hybrids (mules) and are very rare. They seldom come up for sale at auction and, being produced in England (London and Birmingham), they are also keen sought after by British collectors.

1822 Ireland-Ionian Islands 2 oboli mule, obv. Irish bust of George IV, rev. britannia. 35mm, 18.9g, mintage 3

1822-23 Ireland-Ionian Islands 2 oboli mule; obverse: Irish bust of George IV; reverse: Britannia. Only 3 examples known. No date on either side.

  • Copper
    • Diameter: 35 mm
    • Weight: 18.9 g
    • Mintage: 3
  • Copper Proof
    • Mintage unknown
  • Copper Proof (medal alignment)
    • Mintage unknown
  • Pewter Proof
    • Weight: 22 g
    • Mintage unknown

Obverse:

  • Portrait of King George IV from obverse die used to strike the 1822-23 Irish penny
    • Note: there is no date on either side of these hybrids / mules

Reverse:

  • Figure of Britannia seated facing left with shield and trident; above, BRITANNIA. In tiny letters on ground line, the designer’s name W WYON.
1822 Comparison of British and Irish Penny (Obverse)

1822 Comparison of British and Irish Penny (Obverse)

Reunification with Greece:

These islands previously belonged to the Ottoman Empire and, having an Orthodox Christian population, were treated rather harshly by their colonial masters. When the British and French vied for control of the Mediterranean, the islanders were only too  happy to have new colonial rulers.

Once Greek independence was established after 1830, however, the islanders began to resent foreign colonial rule by the British, and to press for Enosis (union with Greece).

  • After William Ewart Gladstone toured the islands, he suggested that Malta was of much more strategic importance and, that giving the islands to Greece would not hurt the best interests of the British Empire.
    • The British government resisted since, like the Venetians, they found the islands made useful naval bases.
    • They also regarded the Bavarian-born king of Greece, King Otto, as unfriendly to Britain.
    • When, in 1862, Otto was deposed and a pro-British king, George I from Denmark, was installed as King of Greece, the British government warmed to the idea of re-unification.

In 1862, Britain decided to transfer the islands to Greece, as a gesture of support intended to bolster the new king’s popularity.

  • On May 2nd, 1864, the British departed and the islands became three provinces of the Kingdom of Greece, though Britain retained the use of the port of Corfu.
  • On May 21st, 1864 the Ionian Islands officially reunited with Greece.

An interesting historical footnote:

Almost 60 years later, in 1921, Prince Philippos of Greece & Denmark was born in Corfu.  He was the youngest of six children but the only boy. His uncle was King of Greece during the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) and his cousin (the first in line) commanded an army division. The war went badly for Greece, and the Turks made large gains.

  • On 22 September 1922, Philip’s uncle, King Constantine I, was forced to abdicate
  • In December, a revolutionary court banished the crown prince from Greece for life
  • The British naval vessel HMS Calypso evacuated Prince Andrew’s family, with Philip carried to safety in a cot made from a fruit box.
    • Philip’s family went to France, where they settled in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud in a house lent to them by his wealthy aunt, Princess George of Greece and Denmark.
    • He was initially educated at The Elms – an American school in Paris
    • In 1928, he was sent to the United Kingdom to attend Cheam School
    • In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in Germany but, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, Salem’s Jewish founder, Kurt Hahn, fled persecution and founded Gordonstoun School in Scotland, to which Philip moved after two terms at Salem
  • After leaving Gordonstoun in early 1939, Philip completed a term as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, then repatriated to Greece, living with his mother in Athens for a month in mid-1939.
    • At the behest of the Greek king, George II, he returned to Britain in September to resume training for the Royal Navy.
    • This Prince Philip, a minor royal in Greece and Denmark, is perhaps better known as Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
    • Before he married the then Princess Elizabeth, Philip had:
      • abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles
      • adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family
      • became a naturalised British subject
      • became an ‘officially received’ member of the Church of England

 


Further Reading:

The Act of Union between Great Britain & Ireland formally took place in 1801 but monetary union did not happen until 1825. Before this happened, George IV issued copper pennies and halfpennies for Ireland – the last Anglo-Irish coinage to be produced.

The Ireland-Ionian Island hybrids, therefore, were produced some time between 1822 and 1825

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