About the object

Celebrating a victory

Commemorative medals were very popular items in the eighteenth century. This one marks an early victory in the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) in which Britain and France competed for global dominance. Countries across the world were involved, either as allies to Britain or France, or as disputed colonial territories.

One side of this medal shows Frederick the Great of Prussia in victory. Prussia (a kingdom stretching between Central and Eastern Europe) was Britain’s ally. Frederick had just overseen two victories over Austrian and French forces. The other side shows Queen Marie Theresa of Austria and Hungary, kneeling in defeat. It carries the words, ‘The haughty queen humbled by the King of Prussia’. This result was much celebrated in Britain as a victory against France. According to one account, “the news of Frederick’s victories was received with great rejoicing … and his portrait was to be found in nearly every shop and house”.

Popular tokens

Several parents chose commemorative medals as tokens. In fact at least two babies were left with a medal of Frederick of Prussia as their token. This one was left with Priscilla Strudnall, renamed Elizabeth Glyn by the Hospital. Her admissions paper simply says she was left with a medal of the King of Prussia. We know it is this particular one because she was brought to the Hospital in 1757 and this medal was issued earlier that same year. The other Frederick the Great medal in the Collection commemorates a later victory.

Returning for Priscilla

Priscilla’s mother, Jane Strudnall, wrote to the Hospital in 1762 asking for her daughter to be returned to her. She had not seen Priscilla’s father, Christopher, for more than four years but she remembered that the token they had left was ‘a medal of brass’. She was told that the child had died soon after admission. Priscilla was admitted during a period called the ‘General Reception’ (1756–60), when the Hospital took in all children left in its care without a preliminary medical check. Mortality rates spiked over this period.