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English Coins II

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Normans And Plantagenets

William I landed in England on 14 October 1066 and with his archers, crossbowmen and heavily armed infantry defeated the somewhat lighter armed English and a new era dawned in England. William reigned for twenty-one years and during that time eight types of pennies were issued. All bear the bust of the king on the obverse and as was now the common practice, all the portraits are shown wearing a crown. Six types have a full face portrait, whilst the other two are profiles, one facing left and the other right. The commonest type is the eighth or PAxs type, so called because those letters appear in the angles of the cross on the reverse. Until 1833, however, this was the rarest of the eight types, then a hoard of more than 6,000 of these pennies was discovered, thus making it the commonest.

William II succeeded his father as king of England whilst the dukedom of Normandy went to his elder brother Robert. William II struck five types which are very similar in style to those of his father.

One of the reasons for the frequent changes in type was the fact that each time a new type was produced the moneyers paid the king's dues of twenty shillings. The dies were engraved in London by the aurifaber or goldsmith who made the moneyers a reasonably heavy charge for his work. The fact that all the dies were engraved in London produced a uniform coinage throughout the country and one in which irregularities of style (due to local manufacture) which might lend itself more easily to forgery, could be minimized. Despite the severe penalties for forgery or the production of coins of poor quality and weight, the coinage under Henry I (1100-35) had become rather poor and many coins, although struck at the official mints, were struck in base silver or of a low weight. This situation gave rise to the following entry being recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 1125:

`In this year sent the King Henry, before Christmas, from Normandy to England and bade that all the mint-men that were in England should be mutilated in their limbs; that was, that they should lose each of them the right hand and their testicles beneath. This was because the man that had a pound could not lay out a penny at a market. And the Bishop Roger of Salisbury sent over all England, and bade them all that they should come to Winchester at Christmas. When they came thither then were they taken ore by one and deprived each of the right hand and the testicles beneath. All this was done within the twelfthnight. And that was all in perfect justice because that they had undone all the land with the great quantity of base coin that they all bought.".

The Margam annals differ from the above in that they state that ninety-four of the moneyers were mutilated.

That the traders of the period were doubtful as to the quality of the coins is proved by their making small cuts in them to test the fineness. The public, however, as a general rule disliked the practice and often refused to accept coins with cuts in them; this led to all those coins that may be dated as being struck between about 1112 and 1128 being cut at the mint before being issued. It is interesting to note that those of Henry's coins issued after the latter date do not have the cut so perhaps the stern measures of 1125 had some effect and gave the populace confidence in these coins.

On the death of Henry I in 1135 England entered into a period of unrest owing to the fact that Henry had designated his daughter Matilda as his successor; a move which was unpopular with many of the Norman nobles. They in turn invited Stephen, count of Blois and grandson of William I to become king. The claims of the Empress Matilda were supported by the Angevin party and a state of civil war ensued. The Angevin party controlled the whole of the western half of the country whilst Stephen held eastern and central England and in 1138 David, king of Scotland came south to lend support to Matilda. In 1141 the Angevins captured and imprisoned Stephen for a time and Matilda was crowned at Winchester; eight years later, however, she abdicated in favour of her son Henry, duke of Anjou. After more confused fighting, Stephen eventually made peace with Henry at the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153, recognizing him as his heir.

The coinage of the period 1135-53 is one of exceptional interest because of the many irregular issues and the so-called baronial issues. Of the latter, coins were struck by Eustace FitzJohn, Robert de Stuteville, Robert and William of Gloucester, Brian Fitzcount or Baldwin de Redvers, Patrick, earl of Salisbury and Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester. Many of Stephen's coins are badly struck owing to the obverse dies being defaced. This was possibly an attempt by the moneyers to cover themselves when they were in danger of being captured by the enemy.

There were three mints that definitely produced coins for Matilda; Bristol, Oxford and Wareham, and all of her coins are copies of the first type of Stephen: crowned head facing right with the title IMPERATR OR MATILDIS IMP on the obverse and a cross moline with fleurs-de-lis in the angles with the Inoneyer's name and mint around it.

In 1154, the year after the Treaty of Wallingford, Stephen died and Henry of Anjou, in accordance with the terms of the treaty, became king as Henry II. Until 1158 when a new type of penny was introduced, the mints continued striking coins from Stephen's dies and although the new `Tealby' coinage, as it is known from the large hoard found at Tealby in Lincolnshire, was made the sole currency in England no attempt at improving the standards seems to have been made. These coins are usually poorly struck and the whole of the legend is very rarely, if at all, to be found on the coins. The poor state of the coinage and the inefficiency of the moneyers reached such a climax that in 1180 a French goldsmith, Philip Aimer of Tours was called to England to design a new type. The new design that was to last for the next sixty-seven years was still no great improvement from the artistic viewpoint over the Tealby coinage. The coins were, however, better struck and since they all bear the name xENxICVS xEx it is a matter of some difficulty to decide which may be attributed to the reign of Henry II (1154-89), Richard I (1189-99), John (1199-1216) or to Henry III (1216-72). The facing head is a crude one, the design being punched out in the die in a series of curved lines, dots and crescents; the lettering is made up in the same manner. The central design on the reverse is a small voided cross contained within a beaded circle, thus giving rise to the generic term `short-cross pennies'. There were no round halfpennies and farthings of this issue so again the practice of cutting the penny into its fractions was carried out, the cross on the reverse facilitating this.

The short-cross coinage lasted until 1247 when only four mints remained in operation and the practice of `clipping' the coins, i.e. shearing off small portions for the illegal melting of the silver had become so prevalent that the cross on the reverse was extended to the edge of the coin. Those clipped pennies on which the four ends of the cross were not visible were declared illegal. The new long-cross pennies also bore for the first time the numeral after the king's name, viz., HENRICVS REX TERCIVIS later abbreviated to HENRICVS REX III.

Mention must be made here of a coin of particular numismatic interest; the gold penny. In 1252 the city state of Florence issued a new gold coin called the fiorino or florin which quickly found favour in Europe owing to the fact that there had been practically no gold coinage struck in Europe since the ninth century. Henry III attempted to establish a gold currency in England also and ordered his goldsmith William to produce pennies struck in pure gold and valued at twenty silver pence. The coin is a very handsome one showing the king seated on the throne holding the orb and sceptre with the legend xENRICVS REx III. The reverse has a long voided cross with roses and pellets in the angles surrounded by wu.LEnI ON I,vxDE. Unfortunately the coin proved to be unpopular for the issue was only very limited and it is now extremely rare. One of the seven known specimens (three of which are in the British Museum) was offered for sale in London in 1955 and realized 1,950.

For the first eight years of the reign of Edward I long-cross pennies continued to be struck with the name of Henry III. In 1279, however, the working of the mint was reorganized and placed under the control of the master-worker, later the Master of the Mint, and a new coinage was struck.

The new coins were very much better designed than the longcross pennies and show the facing bust of the king wearing the crown with rather long wavy hair flowing from beneath it. The indentures of 1279 also ordered a new coin to the value of fourpence to be struck-the groat (PLATE VI, 9) the name probably being copied from the French coin of an equivalent size which was known. as a gros tournois. The design for the groat was bold and imaginative, the bust of the king being shown within a quatrefoil and a beaded border and the legend EDwAxDVS DI: GItA:REx ANGLIE and continuing on the reverse DNS IusN E Dvx AQvT LoNDONIA clvl (Edward Dei Gratia Rex Angliae Dominus Hiberniae et Dux Aquitaniae). The titles Dei Gratia (By the Grace of God) and Dominus Hiberniae et Dux Aquitaniae (Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine) appear on English coins for the first time.

The issue was a short-lived one and the groats are therefore quite rare, eagerly sought after by collectors and good specimens command a high price. Many of them have, however, been gilded and show signs of having been mounted at an early date. As well as the new groats, round halfpennies and farthings were also ordered by the indenture, the farthings being particularly smallthey have a diameter of some 10 millimetres-and one can imagine how easy it must have been to lose them.

As the responsibility for the fineness of the coins now rested upon the master-worker it was no longer necessary to put the moneyer's name on the coins so the mint name only appeared. The exception to the rule is, however, that of the moneyer Robert de Hadleie who struck coins for the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, who had minting rights. The Abbot of Reading also struck coins during the reign of Edward I and his coins are distinguished by an annulet below the king's bust.

Owing to the quantities of continental esterlings (coins made of base silver in imitation of the Edward I penny) circulating in this country at the time, large quantities of English pennies were being exported to the low countries for their bullion value so that in 1300 the esterlings were devalued to halfpennies and in 1301 they were called in and melted down. These imitations are sometimes known as `crockards' and `pollards' owing to the fact that some depict the bust wearing a chaplet of roses whilst others, if issued by an ecclesiastical mint, have the shorn or `polled' head of a priest.

The striking of pennies of the general type of Edward continued through the reign of Edward II (1307-27) and for the first nine years of Edward III. Slight variations in style and lettering enable us to distinguish the pennies struck by Edward I from those by Edward II. The Edward III pennies are somewhat easier to distinguish owing to the use of Lombardic Ws' instead of Roman `N's' and pellet stops in the legend.

In 1335 the striking of halfpennies and farthings was again ordered: no pennies were called for due to the shortage of silver and it was not until 1344 that pennies reappeared. In that year it was decided to issue a gold coinage and consequently two Florentine goldsmiths were appointed joint master-workers of the mint. They produced a series of lovely coins, the largest being the florin valued at six shillings and of 23 carat 3~ grains fine gold. The half-florin or leopard and the quarter-florin or helm were also struck and derive their names from the leopard wearing the royal crown and mantle on the former and a helmet with a crest of a royal lion standing on the cap of maintenance on the latter. The florin itself depicts the crowned full length figure of the king seated on the throne holding the orb and sceptre, the type being copied from the Parisis d'or of Philip IV of France. The florin and its fractions were only a short lived issue and in August of the same year the florin was superseded by the noble valued at 6s 8d and its fractions the half and quarter. The noble and half-noble depict the crowned figure of the king standing in a ship holding a shield and shouldering a sword; this design, it is said, makes reference to the English naval victory at Sluys in 1340.

Edward disputed the claim of Philippe de Valois to the French throne on the death of Charles IV as his own mother was a sister of Charles and in 1337 Edward declared war against Philippe de Valois, calling himself king of France. On those coins issued in 1344 the French title is added to the English, a practice which lasted until 1360 when, at the Treaty of Bretigny, Edward renounced his claim to the French throne. In 1369, however, the quarrel with France flared up again, war was declared once more and the French titles replaced on the coinage.

During this reign, English coins began to be struck at Calais, the mint opening in 1363. Silver, and later gold coins, were struck at this mint and may be distinguished from those struck at other mints by a variety of marks; the letter `C' on the early gold coins, a flag on the stern of the ship, an annulet on the king's breast and other marks made the identification fairly easy.

On the accession of Richard II no attempt was made to make new dies and his earliest coins are struck from dies used in the previous reign. Later, however, when new dies were cut they remained very similar in style to Edward's coins. Only gold coins were struck at the Calais mint during Richard's reign.

In 1399 Henry, son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, forced Richard to abdicate and supported by the nobles was acclaimed king as Henry IV. Owing to the fact that the English currency was undervalued compared with continental coins, large amounts of bullion were being exported from this country with the result that fewer and fewer coins were struck during Henry's reign. The coins may be divided into two types; the heavy coinage of 1399-1412 with the noble weighing 120 grains and the light coinage 1412-13, when the weight of the noble was reduced to 108 grains. The light coinage is distinguished from the heavy by three marks which appear on the coins; the trefoil, a design like the three leaves of clover, the annulet (a circle) and a pellet. It is interesting to note that since no groats were struck of Henry's heavy coinage, when it was decided to issue them again in 1412 for the light coinage, some of Richard's dies were used with the name altered.

The coinage of Henry V who succeeded his father is comparatively common, the general type remaining the same. The use of privy marks, a variety of marks such as we have noted on the light coinage of Henry IV, probably altered every three months or so, is maintained. Dies used during the previous reign were altered to incorporate the new privy marks and were used again.

The Calais mint was not used at all during the reign of Henry V and it was not until 1424 in the reign of Henry VI that coins were again struck there, silver coins from the groat to the farthing being produced in large quantities. Gold coins were only produced for four years at the Calais mint and in London very little gold was struck after about 1433, this situation again being brought about by the export of large quantities of gold coins to the Continent.

The ecclesiastical mints of York and Durham are again in evidence during this reign and produced coins variously for Archbishops Kemp (1425-52) and William Booth (1452-64) of York and Bishops Langley (1406-37), Robert Neville (1438-57) and Laurence Booth (1457-76) of Durham.

Apart from the privy marks altered every few months, other marks, altered only every three years or so were used during the reign of Henry VI; the reign can therefore be divided into eleven periods according to these marks, thus enabling us to date coins to within a very few months of their issue.

The Wars of the Roses began in 1455 and the subsequent defeat of the Lancastrian army at Mortimer's Cross in Herefordshire by Edward, duke of York, in 1461 enabled the Yorkists to proclaim Edward king. His first reign of some nine years is, like that of Henry IV, divided into a heavy and a light coinage (1461-4 and 1464-70). The heavy coinage consists mainly of silver coins and these were only produced in small quantities, the commonest coins being the groats and the pennies produced at the Durham mint from dies made locally. The amount of gold produced was almost negligible, and the noble weighing 108 grains was the only denomination struck and today only two examples are known of this exceedingly rare coin. In 1464 the weight of the penny was reduced from 15 to 12 grains and in 1465 an indenture completely reforming the gold coinage was issued. A new coin to be called the ryal or rose-noble valued at lOs (as against the noble's 6s 8d) and weighing 120 grains was ordered. Half and quarter-ryals were also struck. Two other new coins were struck, the angel valued at 6s 8d (wt. 80 grs.) and the half-angel at 3s 4d. The design of the ryal is similar to that of the noble, but the cross on the centre of the reverse is replaced by a Yorkist rose superimposed on a sun in splendour. The half-ryal is similar in design to the ryal, but the quarter-ryal has the royal arms in either a quatrefoil or a tressure of eight arcs on the obverse: the reverse is similar to that of the ryal and half-ryal. The obverse of the angel depicts St Michael slaying the dragon with the legend EDWARD DI GRA REX ANGL Z FRANC DNS HYB whilst the reverse bears a shield with the royal arms On a ship arid PER CRVCEM TVAM SALVA NOS XPC REDEMPTOR By Thy Cross save us, O Christ our Redeemer). The half-angels have the shield and ship on the obverse and St Michael on the reverse with the legend O CRVX AVE SPES VNICA (Hail! O Cross, our only hope).

Higher prices were offered for silver by the Tower mint which resulted in larger quantities of bullion being brought to the mint instead of it being exported. The increased production led to new mints being opened in 1465 at Bristol, Coventry and Norwich and the Royal mints were reopened at Canterbury and York. Bristol remained in operation until 1472 but Coventry and Norwich closed some two months after opening.

After the return to England of Richard Neville (Warwick the Kingmaker) Henry VI was released from the Tower where he had been confined after his capture following his defeat and flight at the battle of Mortimer's Cross.

Henry was restored to the throne and remained in power from October 1470 until April 1471. Henry's coins of this period are similar to those of Edward IV, the name only being altered. As might be expected of such a short reign, none of the coins is particularly common, the rarest being the half-angel from the Bristol mint which also struck halfpence.

On Edward's return to England, Warwick was slain at the battle of Barnet fought on Easter Day 1471, and Henry was again committed to the Tower, being murdered the same night. Angels and half-angels were the only gold coins struck during Edward's second reign, but groats, half-groats, pennies and halfpennies were struck in quite large quantities especially by the ecclesiastical mints of York and Durham.

Edward IV died on 9 April 1483 and his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, then aged twelve, was placed under the guardianship of his uncle Richard, duke of Gloucester. Richard was recognized as Protector and the coronation of Edward was fixed for 22 June. Edward, together with his younger brother, were lodged in the Tower on Richard's orders where sometime between June and October they were murdered. Richard, having arranged to be offered the crown by a deputation of the nobles and citizens of London, assumed the throne himself on 25 June.

It is a matter for some conjecture which coins may be attributed to the period when Edward was under the Protectorship of Richard. There is a series of angels, half-angels, groats, pennies and halfpennies which bear the initial mark of a halved sun and rose which may or may not belong to this period. There are, however, a very few angels, groats and pennies which bear the initial mark of a boar's head, the personal badge of Richard, on the obverse which do definitely belong to these few weeks.

Richard's reign was a short and violent one and three years after his coronation he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. The coins of Richard's reign are therefore quite rare, the commonest of them being the groat. Three mints were in use, the principal being London. Groats and pennies were struck at the royal mint of York and pennies were also struck at the York ecclesiastical mint for Archbishop Rotherham. Bishop Sherwood also issued coins from the Durham mint.