Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Roettiers, John

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ROETTIERS, ROETTIER, or ROTIER, JOHN (1631–1703), medallist, born on 4 July 1631, was the eldest son of Philip Roettiers (or Rotier), medallist and goldsmith of Antwerp, by his wife Elizabeth Thermés. John's younger brothers, Joseph (1635–1703) and Philip (b. 1640), were born at Antwerp, but it is doubtful if this was his own birthplace. John Roettiers adopted the profession of a medallist and stonecutter, and his earliest known medals are of 1656 (?) and 1660.

In 1661 he and his brother Joseph (and subsequently the third brother, Philip) were invited to England by Charles II to work at the English mint. According to Walpole (Anecdotes of Painting, ii. 184), their father had lent money to Charles during his exile, and had been promised employment for his sons. The letters patent appointing the three Roettiers engravers at the mint state that they were employed on account of the King's long experience of their great skill and knowledge ‘in the arts of graveing and cutting in stone’ (see Cal. Treasury Papers, 1697–1701–2, pp. 437, 438).

In January and February 1662 John Roettiers and Thomas Simon [q. v.] were ordered to engrave dies for the new ‘milled’ money in gold and silver, but, ‘by reason of a contest in art between them,’ they could not be brought to an agreement. They thereupon submitted patterns for gold ‘unites’ and for ‘silver crowns.’ Simon produced his splendid ‘petition crown,’ but his rival's work was preferred, and John Roettiers was entrusted with the preparation of the coinage, and on 19 May 1662 received a grant of the office of one of the chief engravers of the mint.

Roettiers had been already at work upon medals commemorating the Restoration, and he produced many important medals throughout the reign of Charles II. In February 1666–7 he was directed to make a new great seal of the kingdom of Great Britain, completed at a cost of 246l. 3s. 2d. Joseph Roettiers, John's principal assistant at the mint, left England in or before 1680, and in 1682 became engraver-general of the French mint. He died at Paris in 1703. James Roettiers, John's second son, rendered assistance to his father at the mint in place of Joseph. Philip Roettiers was officially connected with the English mint as an engraver till February 1684, but he was absent (at any rate temporarily) in the Low Countries from about 1673, and afterwards became engraver-general of the mint of the king of Spain in the Low Countries. He produced a few English medals: ‘Charles II and Catharine,’ 1667 (?) (signed ‘P. R.’); ‘State of Britain,’ 1667? (‘P. R.’); ‘Liberty of Conscience,’ 1672 (‘Philip Roti’). Norbert Roettiers, John's third son, assisted his father after Philip's departure from England. John, Joseph, and Philip Roettiers appear to have originally received an annual allowance of 325l. divided between them. On 7 April 1669 they were granted by warrant a yearly pension of 450l. (i.e. 150l. each). John continued to receive the 450l. after his brothers had left the mint, but he had to petition more than once for arrears of payment.

John Roettiers produced the official coronation medals of James II (1685) and William and Mary (1689), but he was not actively employed after the death of Charles II. In January 1696–7 it was discovered that dies for coins of Charles II and James II had been abstracted by labourers at the mint, and had been handed over by them to coiners in the Fleet prison, who used the dies for striking ‘guineas’ of James II on gilded blanks of copper. A committee of the House of Commons reported on 2 Feb. 1696–7 that John Roettiers, who occupied ‘the graver's house’ at the Tower, was responsible for the custody of the dies, and was an unfit custodian, inasmuch as he was a violent papist, and ‘will not nor ever did own the king [William III], or do any one thing as a graver since the revolution.’ Roettiers appears to have been removed from his office about this time, and to have taken up his residence in Red Lion Square, London. In his later years he suffered from the stone and from ‘a lameness in his right hand.’ He died in 1703, and was buried in the Tower.

John Roettiers was one of the best engravers ever employed at the English mint. Evelyn (Diary, 20 July 1678) refers to him as ‘that excellent graver … who emulates even the ancients in both metal and stone;’ and Pepys (Diary, 26 March 1666), who visited Roettiers at the Tower, declares that he there saw ‘some of the finest pieces of work, in embossed work, that ever I did see in my life, for fineness and smallness of the images thereon.’ On 11 Oct. 1687 Henry Slingsby (ex-master of the mint) offered Pepys his collection of Roettiers's medals. The ‘Great Britannia’ (‘Felicitas Britanniæ’) was valued by Slingsby at 4l. 10s., and the other medals at sums from 10s. to 3l. 4s. apiece. The following is a list of Roettiers's principal medals, all of them made subsequent to the Restoration: 1. ‘Archbishop Laud.’ 2. ‘Giles Strangways.’ 3. ‘Memorial of Charles I;’ rev. hand holding crown. 4. ‘Landing of Charles II at Dover, 1660.’ 5. ‘Restoration,’ 1660, ‘Britanniæ.’ 6. ‘Restoration, Felicitas Britanniæ’ (the head said to be by Joseph Roettiers). 7. ‘Marriage of Charles II and Catharine,’ 1662, in silver and in gold—probably the ‘golden medal’ commemorated by Waller. 8. ‘Naval Reward,’ 1665 (‘Pro talibus ausis’). 9. ‘Duke of York, naval action, 1665.’ 10. ‘Proposed Commercial Treaty with Spain,’ 1666. 11. ‘Peace of Breda’ [1667] (‘Favente Deo,’ with figure of Britannia, a portrait of Mrs. Stuart, duchess of Richmond). 12. ‘Duke of Lauderdale,’ 1672. 13. ‘Nautical School Medal’ and ‘Mathematical Medal’ for Christ's Hospital, 1673. 14. ‘Sir Samuel Morland,’ 1681. 15. ‘Duke of Beaufort,’ 1682. 16. ‘Charles II,’ 1683 (?); rev. royal arms. 17. ‘Coronation Medals of James II,’ 1685. 18. ‘Coronation Medal of William and Mary,’ 1689. 19. Dies and puncheons for intended medals of the Duchesses of Richmond, Cleveland, Portsmouth, and Mazarin (1667?–1675).

John Roettiers's usual signature on medals is ‘J. R.’ in monogram. He also signs ROTI.; ROETTI; IAN. R.; JOAN. ROTI. Little is known of his work as a gem-cutter. Walpole (Anecdotes of Painting, ii. 187) mentions a cornelian seal by him with the heads of Mars and Venus. Many dies and puncheons executed by John Roettiers and his relatives were purchased from the Roettiers family by a Mr. Cox, and were by him sold in 1828 to Matthew Young, the coin dealer, who, after striking some impressions for sale, presented them in 1829 to the British Museum.

John Roettiers married, in 1658, Catherine Prost, by whom he had five daughters and three sons: John (b. 1661?), James [q. v.], and Norbert [q. v.] John Roettiers (the younger), unlike his two brothers, does not appear to have been a medallist. The committee of the House of Commons concerning the abstraction of the dies reported (2 Feb. 1696–7) that this younger John was suspected of participation in the conspiracy of Rookwood and Bernado, ‘the assassinators,’ ‘having at that time provided himself of horses and arms at his own house in Essex, where he entertained very ill company, to the great terror of the neighbourhood.’ A warrant for high treason was out against him, ‘but he is fled from justice’ [see under Rookwood, Ambrose].

[The principal authority for the life of John Roettiers and for the complicated history of the Roettiers family is Burn's Memoir of the Roettiers in the Numismatic Chronicle, iii. 158 sq. See also Numismatic Chronicle, ii. 199, iii. 56; Hawkins's Medallic Illustrations, ed. Franks and Grueber; Advielle's Notices sur les Roettiers in the Report of the Réunion des Sociétés des Beaux-Arts, May 1888 (Paris, 1888); Jouin and Mazerolle, Les Roettiers (Mâcon, 1894); Guiffrey in Revue Numismatique, 1889, 1891; Revue belge de Numismatique, 1895, pp. 282 f.; Walpole's Anecd. of Painting, ed. Wornum; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–9; Cal. Treasury Papers, 1695–1702.]

W. W.