John (or Jan) Roettier (1631-1703) was a Flemish engraver who was invited to work in England by Charles II in 1661. He became Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint in London, where he worked with his brothers, and later his sons, making medals and coins. John Evelyn, in his famous diary, described Roettier as ‘that incomparable graver… who emulates even the Ancients in both metal and stone’.
Roettier struck this medal of John Maitland, the King’s Secretary of State for Scotland, in 1672. The medal commemorates Charles II creating him Duke of Lauderdale and awarding him the Order of the Garter earlier that year. It shows a profile portrait of the Duke, wearing a contemporary wig, but dressed in a Roman costume, with pteruges (leather straps) and a lion mask epaulette.
This hybridised appearance was meant to make the recognisable Duke appear as if he was a military commander on a classical medal or coin. The cloak, or paludamentum, that the Duke wears was an item of clothing that was ceremonially fastened over a Roman commander’s shoulders before they went into battle. By showing the Duke wearing such a cloak, Roettier is referencing the Third Anglo-Dutch war that Great Britain was then engaged in, and in turn the viewer is meant to be reminded of the Duke’s role as one of Charles II’s most important and powerful ministers. Likewise, the reverse of the medal shows Minerva, the Roman goddess of war, holding the Duke’s helmet and crest, below the motto ‘Consilio et Animis’, which translates as ‘by counsel and courage’. In reality Lauderdale was a controversial and often unpopular figure, and so the medal would have helped restore his reputation.
The medal will be on display when the Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopens in November this year.