Service to the Crown
By Tony Storey
This article was published in the August 2023 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Samuel Georges de Saulles was born in May 1784 in Fenin in the French-speaking Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland. He emigrated to London, where he married Ann Pratt in June 1822. Samuel and Ann had five sons, the youngest being William Henry. At the time of William’s birth in 1831, Samuel de Saulles was a member of the British Royal Household and served as a Page of the Presence in the households of both King George IV (1820-1830) and King William IV (1830-37). The duties of a Page of the Presence include the service of meals to the royal family and as such, he would likely have been promoted from the rank of Senior Footman.
Samuel de Saulles died in London in 1833 aged 49, when his youngest son was barely two years old. In 1841 Samuel’s widow, Ann, lived with three of her sons, Arthur, Charles and William, at Marlborough Place, Brighton, Sussex.
William Henry de Saulles, the youngest son of Samuel and Ann, became a glass merchant. William married Elizabeth Anne Toy in Yardley, Birmingham, in August 1859. By 1861 William and Elizabeth lived with their first child, Samuel at 104 Great Hampton Street, Birmingham. Their second son, George William, was born in February 1862 at Villa Street, Aston Manor, Birmingham and was baptised at St Philip’s, Birmingham in April 1863. In 1871 the family was living at Cambrian Terrace, Anglesey Street, Aston. George attended the Birmingham School of Art and was apprenticed to a die-sinker in Birmingham. In 1881 he was still living in Anglesey Street with his parents, his two sisters, Elizabeth and Florence, and his two brothers, Samuel, a glass cutter working for their father, and young Frederick, still at school.
In June 1884 George was married in West Bromwich to Myra Elizabeth Hill and later that year they moved to London. Initially George de Saulles worked for John H. Pinches, a die engraver of Oxenden Street, Haymarket. In 1888 George and Myra returned to Birmingham and George was employed by Joseph Moore, a medal maker. In 1891 George described himself as a medallist and die sinker and he and Myra lived at 85 Finch Road, Handsworth, West Bromwich, Staffordshire. In August 1891 the Chief Engraver at the Royal Mint, Leonard C Wyon died. During 1892 George was a frequent visitor to London and in January 1893 his appointment as the successor to Wyon appeared in the London Gazette.
Throughout his career George designed, modelled and engraved most of his dies. His artistic work was said to have been influenced by the Art Nouveau style of his French contemporaries, Louis Oscar Roty and Jules Clement Chaplain. He was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1898 until his death, although his official work on coinage remained traditional.
From 1894 George worked on more than thirty medals. As well as those for organisations like the Royal Society, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, he engraved and designed a number of official medals such as the South Africa Medal, the Ashanti Medal and the Transport Service Medal.
One of his first duties at the Royal Mint was to execute the dies for the new issue of coins of Queen Victoria in 1893. He went on to design the Britannia reverse of the English bronze coins of 1895. De Saulles also designed and engraved the
dies for colonial coins, such as the British Trade Dollar, introduced to facilitate trade in the Far East; the British Honduras coins of 1894; the British dollar for India of 1895; the British East Africa copper coins of 1897 and the Straits Settlements dollar of 1903. George also made the last Great Seal for Queen Victoria in 1899.
In 1901 George and Myra were living at 31 Fairfax Road, Chiswick, London. George worked at home on his own account, although much of his work was for the Royal Mint in London. He was preparing the models for the King’s Great Seals of the United Kingdom and those of Ireland and Scotland when he was taken ill and died at his home in Chiswick on 21 July 1903 aged 41. George William de Saulles was buried in Chiswick churchyard. He and Myra had no children.
Although his work appears on coins of the United Kingdom and its colonies minted during the reigns of both Queen Victoria from 1893 onward and King Edward VII, it seems that George de Saulles will be most remembered for the iconic image of King Edward VII, which features on the obverse of coins minted between 1902 and 1910. The designer’s mark, De S, appears below the King’s bust.