A tale lies cloaked in the shadows, one not widely known until, perhaps, the silver screen’s illumination cast its glow. Yes, the reference is to the enigmatic “medals of privilege,” those elusive artifacts that John Wick’s narrative briefly brushed upon.
In the reel world, these “medals” take the form of coins, a currency that transcends material worth, a symbol exchanged for favors. But let’s traverse beyond the cinematic veil and peer into history’s vaults, where the origin of these symbolic tokens reveals an intricate tale of noble families and their minting mastery.
Long before Keanu Reeves brandished them on-screen, these medals manifested as tangible tokens of honor and alliance. The story unfurls with the noble families, particularly those bestowed with minting dominion. The Eggenberg family in Austria, for instance, owned these very facilities, an asset that would pave the way for a fascinating tradition.
Within their hallowed halls, these noble houses embarked on an endeavor: the creation of medals that held the weight of gratitude and camaraderie. These medals were gifted, a gesture acknowledging service rendered, aid extended, or camaraderie forged. To hold such a medal was to be recognized as a friend, an ally, a kin in spirit to the family.
Fast forward to the present day, and John Wick’s cinematic rendition brings a semblance of this tradition to light. Those very “coins” exchanged for services in the movie echo a reality rooted in history. In ages bygone, these medals represented more than a mere transaction—they symbolized an ultimate affiliation, an alliance etched not in stone, but minted in iron.
Much like the movie’s portrayal, these medals weren’t cast from mundane materials. Nobility demanded opulence, and thus, the medals often materialized in high-quality metals—resplendent tokens befitting their purpose.
There’s also another real-life example that deserves illumination. Most people of that era would never have glimpsed this coin—the elusive Elizabeth I Sovereign (1584-6). It was a remarkable coin, revered and reserved for noble circles. Unlike its gold and silver counterparts, which exchanged hands frequently, this sovereign graced the Court and special occasions. A sovereign wasn’t just a coin; it was a token of distinction.
Such was its prestige that, at times, the queen herself personally gifted a Sovereign to esteemed playwrights and actors after a performance. A coin received from the hand of the monarch became a treasure to be cherished forever—an artifact meant to adorn, not diminish, the recipient’s legacy.
The silver screen’s artistry often unveils gems obscured by the sands of time. The mention of “medals of privilege” and the cinematic depiction have merely brushed the surface of a narrative that, much like its protagonists, carries tales of honor, loyalty, and the enigmatic world of aristocratic alliances.
The next time you ponder the significance of a coin exchanged for favor, remember the lineage that runs deeper than celluloid narratives. Beneath the surface, in the annals of history, lies a legacy where tokens of gratitude weren’t just metal—they were medallions of kinship, shimmering with the weight of an enduring bond.