A Carolingian coin has recently been acquired by the Centre Charlemagne in Aachen which represents an entirely unexpected and truly historic addition to our knowledge of the reign of Charlemagne, as it bears the name of his wife Fastrada.

It is the first known example of a queen being named on a Carolingian coin, and because the coin type was only introduced in 793 and Fastrada died in August 794, it can be very precisely dated. Charles was almost certainly prompted to strike it by learning of pennies of Cynethryth minted by Offa in the late 780s. The coinage reflects both the affection in which Charlemagne held Fastrada and the power he was prepared to share with her.

The obverse (‘heads’ side) reads +CARoLVSREXFR[ancorum], ‘Charles, king of the Franks’, and the reverse +FASTRADA REGIN[a], ‘Queen Fastrada’, around the usual monogram of Charlemagne (KAROLVS).

The reverse inscription represents a truly astonishing feature. “+FASTRADA REGIN can only refer to Queen Fastrada, Charlemagne’s wife from 783 until her death in August 794. What makes this particularly remarkable is that during the first half of his reign Charlemagne took decisive measures to remove from his coinage the name of anyone else but himself. Under his father Pippin III (751–68), a number of coins were issued bearing the name of a magnate instead of the king on the obverse. After Charlemagne’s accession in 768 this was no longer the case, with only his name and/or title in some form appearing on the obverse of every coin. On most, as noted above, the king’s name was reproduced as CARo-LVS, though there are certain variant forms which were almost certainly minted early in the reign and replaced over time as the coinage was standardized. The majority of coins bore a mint-name on the reverse, but a small number featured what appears to be a personal name, including Leutbrand, Gervasius or Odalricus. Following the reform, by contrast, while every denier bore the king’s name and title +CARLVSREXFR on the obverse, until now no coin was known bearing any other current personal name on the reverse. Fastrada is the first and only known exception” (Simon Coupland, “A coin of Queen Fastrada and Charlemagne“).