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Waterloo Medal

The problem with Pistrucci was not just his fiery temperament and his bitterness at not being appointed Chief Engraver when, as he insisted, the post had been promised to him by William Wellesley Pole. There was also the long-standing difficulty caused by a large commemorative medal for the Battle of Waterloo, officially commissioned from Pistrucci for presentation to, among others, the allied sovereigns who had been victorious in defeating Napoleon. Pistrucci had conceived the medal on the grandest scale and his progress was slow – and deliberately so since he feared that, having put himself beyond the pale by his obstinate behaviour, the Royal Mint would sever its association with him as soon as he handed over the dies.

Pistrucci’s dies for the medal to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo

Pistrucci’s dies for the medal to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo

Completion of the dies

The work dragged on and, having invested so much money in the ‘coming wonder’, successive Masters of the Mint felt obliged to encourage the argumentative and dilatory Pistrucci to complete the dies. Years passed and eventually, in 1849, Pistrucci was able to hand over the completed dies. These unfortunately were so large that they could not be hardened and the outcome of a project that had begun 30 years before was that no medals could be struck. The dies survive and undoubtedly represent a triumph of medallic art and a masterpiece of engraving skill.

With their completion Pistrucci’s association with the Royal Mint finally came to an end and he died at Englefield Green, near Windsor, in 1855.