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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England - Edward VI

Table of Contents

Edward VI., 1547 to 1553.

When Edward VI. came to the throne, at the age of little more than nine years, he found the coinage of the realm in a state of debasement, most disgraceful to the government and injurious to the people. The propriety and necessity of reestablishing a currency of standard metal seems to have been perceived at an early period of his reign, and endeavours were made to accomplish so desirable an end. The principles however were not well understood, the expence of doing it honestly was more than the state of the treasury could conveniently bear, and the reformation of the coinage was therefore marked by vacillation and injustice. The ultimate object of the government was correct and good, but the mode of arriving at it was irregular and dishonest. As their views were not clear, their proceedings were inconsistent, and there is consequently some difficulty in ascertaining to what coinage we must refer the various pieces which we shall have to describe.

His first coinage was ordered to be of the same low standard as that of the last years of his father; viz 4 oz. of silver to 8 oz. of alloy; the weight in the proportion of the peny of 10 gr.; and the denomination of the coins the same, testoons, groats, half-groats, pennies, halfpennies and farthings; but of these, groats, half-groats, and pennies alone are now known, and are all rare.

The type of the groat represents the bust of the king in profile, crowned, surrounded by his titles, variously abbreviated, EDWARD. 6. D. G. AG. FR. ET HIB. REX. The reverse has a cross fleuree over the shield, with POSVI &c. The only now known MM. is the arrow, with a crescent between each fork of the cross. (412). Rud. ix. 1. Sn. iv. 8. MB. Others have CIVITAS LONDON instead of POSVI &c. and MM. a lozenge, with smaller ones at the ends of the words. (413). Rud. ix. 3. Sn. iv. 5. MB. Snelling mentions Canterbury also, but we do not know of a specimen.

The half-groat exactly resembles the groat; that with the leg. POSVI &c. has the MM. arrow. (414). Rud. ix. 2. Sn. iv. 4. MB. The CIVITAS LONDON. MM. ? (416). MB. The CIVITAS CANTOR appears to be without any. One sort spells the king's name EDOARD. Rud. ix. 4. MB. Another with the W. Sn. iv. 1. MB.

The penny has the same type as the groat, but instead of the king's titles it has the legend variously abbreviated of E. D. G. ROSA SINE SPINA. The reverse has the name of the mint, as London, with MM. arrow. Sn. iv. 7. MB. or E--MB. or without any. Rud. ix. 5.

The Bristol penny has CIVITAS BRISTOLIE, a trefoil in each fork of the cross, and a lis after Civitas. The obverse reads SPIPA and has a cross after ROSA. Sn. iv. 6. Another without that peculiar mark has merely MM. a cross. Rud. ix. 16. The museum specimen reads the legend correctly and at length in old English letters, has a cross fleuree ? after ROSA, and a trefoil after SINE, and SPINA. On the reverse it has a cross after CIVITAS, and a trefoil in each fork of the cross. MB. (415). It has also the peculiarity of being of good silver.

After the issuing of his first coinage there was some attempt at improvement in the standard, and testoons or shillings were ordered to be struck with 6 oz. silver and 6 of alloy, and of the weight of 80 gr., and these we shall proceed to describe, premising, however, that there seems to be amongst them considerable difference in the quality of the metal. The king's bust is in profile crowned; and in his style the Roman VI. is always used. On the reverse the arms are upon a garnished oval shield, now introduced for the first time, with the letters ER at the side. Upon these pieces the cross, which from the time of the conquest had invariably appeared upon the reverse of the coins, was omitted. Ipon some we have the legend INIMICOS EIVS INDVAM CONFVSIONE taken from Psalm cxxxii. v. 19. It appears sometimes on the rev. (417). Rud. S. 4. 28. MB. The Museum specimen is not of the basest metal, which that described by Ruding is said to be. Sometimes this legend changes place with the king's titles. Rud. ix. 8. Sn. iv. 9. All have MM. bow.

Upon most of these shillings we ahve the legend TIMOR DOMINI FONS VITE taken from Prov. xiv. v. 27. with the date now also first introduced upon English money. Henry VIII. had introduced a date upon his Tournay groat in Roman numerals. This legend also occasionally changes place with the king's titles, we have seen it so upon pieces with MM. arrow. Rud. Sup. iv. 27. Sn. iv. 10. MB. MM. Y. (418). MB. and without MM. Rud. ix. 9. MB. These are dated MDXLIX. In Rud. ix. 6. one appears with MM. rose and dated MDXLVII. MB. This is generally considered a pattern, as are others varying somewhat in legend, &c. which are dated MDXLVII. and MDXLVIII. MB. With the resective legends properly placed we have MM. Arrow. MB. Grapple. MB. Y. MB. Y. MB. Small t. MB. Swan. Rud. ix. 11. MB. In the same plate, fig. 10, appears one with TG old English letters in monogram, said to be the initials of Thomas Gale, mint master at York. This is a mistake, for that officer's name was George. We have not seen the coin. All the above are dated MDXLIX. Of the same kind we have the swan MM. and date MDL. Rud. ix. 12. Sn. iv. 11. MB. The following of the same type are of the very basest kind, not proceeding with the improvement of his father's standard, as was done in the preceding shillings, but actually descending even lower in the scale, for they have only 3 oz. silver to 9 of alloy. Of these we have of the year MDL. the MM. Lis. on the obv. Y on the rev. MB. Of MDLI. Lis on both sides. Rud. Sup. iv. 29. Sn. iv. 13. MB. Harp. Rud. S. iv. 30. this does not appear to have the letters ER on the reverse. Rose. Rud. ix. 13. We have also MDLII. MB. possibly unique. MM. uncertain. It is not easy to account for this date upon a base shilling, as the money of fine silver was certainly in circulation in the preceding year; it has some indications of the greayhound countermark, but the outline is not correct, and I almost suspect the coin to be one of those counterfeits which history tells us were so prevalent at that time. The base shillings were decried in the third year of Elizabeth, and ordered to pass resepctively for fourpence halfpenny each, and to be countermarked with a portcullis before the face of the king; and for twopence farthing, to be countermarked with the print of a greyhound. The portcullis appears upon one with MM. swan. Rud. ix. 14. Sn. iv. 12. MB. and in margin of the original proclamation. The greyhound upon coins with MM. Lis, MDLI. MB. with Rose. Rud. ix. 15. Sn. iv. 14. and Lion in margin of proclamation. These basest coins, valued at two pence farthing, had for MM. lion, lis, rose, harp. Those marked with the swan, rose, arrow, and bow, are said to have been coined, at the mint in Durham House in the Strand, by Sir Martin Bowes.

The determination was at length made to issue a coinage of a proper standard, and in 1551 commenced the circulation of crowns, half-crowns, shillings, sixpences and threepences of 11 oz. 1 dwt. to 19 dwt. of alloy; with pennies, halfpennies and farthings, of only 4 oz. silver to 8 oz. alloy. These were struck at the Tower under the direction of Throgmorton, and at Southwark under Sir John Yorke.

The crowns represent the king mounted upon a horse sometimes trotting or walking, and sometimes capering, the date under the horse 1551, 1552, 1553; the king's titles EDWARD VI AGL FRA Z HIB REX, more or less abbreviated. Rev. arms and cross fleuree, POSVI &c. Those of 1551 have MM. Y. for Sir J. Yorke. Rud. x. 1. MB. those of 1552. (420). 1553. have the Ton for Throgmorton. Sn. iv. 18. MB.

The half-crowns are exactly the same as the crowns, except that the king's titles are somewhat shorter. The MM. too are the same, except that the Ton appears upon some of the date 1551. Rud. x. 3. Sn. iv. 19. MB. 1551 with MM. Y. horse walking, richly caparisoned, plume on head. Rud. x. 2. 1551 and 1552 with MM Ton, horse capering, without plumes. 1553 MM. Ton, horse walking, no plumes, caparisons decorated with a cross. (421). Rud. x. 4.

The piece (419) is of fine silver, and, as appears from the date, was struck at this time of improvement; it was probably only a pattern for a shilling, but being, as we believe, unique, and unpublished, we could not refrain from giving a representation of so singular a piece. The king is represented on horseback, galloping, armed and in a menacing attitude. His titles form the legend. Rev. a square topped shield, crowned, between E. R. legend TIMOR DOMINI FONS VITE M. D. L. I. MM. on both sides, a bird's head. MB.

The shillings represented the king, front faced, crowned in ermine robe, and collar of knighthood; his titles as usual, a rose at one side of his head, and XII, for 12 pence, at the other: reverse, the shield and cross fourchee, with POSVI &c. MM. Ton. (422). Rud. x. 5. Sn. iv. 15. or Y Rud. x. 6. MB.

The sixpence exactly the same as the shilling, and same MM. but instead of XII have VI. Rud. x. 7. MB. One with MM. Ton is without the collar around the king's neck. Rud. x. 8. Some were struck at York CIVITAS EBORACI instead of POSVI &c. and MM. mullet pierced. (423). Rud. x. 10. Sn. iv. 16. MB.

Threepence, same as shillings, but no collar around the king's neck; III instead of XII. MM. Ton. Rud. x. 9. MB. or Ton on one side and rose on the other. MB. Some of these also were struck at York differing from the sixpence only in the III at the side of the bust. MM. mullet pierced, on both sides. Rud. x. 11. Sn. iv. 17. MB. Sometimes only on one. MB. (424).

In the commission for making shillings and sixpences, issued in 1551, no mention is made of these pieces. Stowe, in his annals of that year, naming each other sort of money, does not mention them. They differ from the larger monies in not having the collar; they are mentioned in the indenture of 1552 and I therefore conclude that they were struck in that year.

The penny of this coinage occurs of fine metal, and of base. The fine penny has the king seated upon his throne as in his father's and grandfather's, with the leg. E. D. G. ROSA SINE SPI. rev. arms and cross CIVITAS LONDON. MM. on both sides, Ton. (425). Rud. x. 12. Sn. iv. 20. MB.

The base penny has a full blown rose, instead of the king upon his throne, with the same legend, rev. same as the fine money. Those struck at London have MM. Scallop; MB. (426). Trefoil; MB. None. Rud. ix. 17. Sn. iv. 2. MB. or Rose on the rev. MB. There was also one struck at York CIVITAS EBORACI. MM. mullet pierced. Rud. x. 13. Sn. iv. 3. MB. The Museum possesses a London penny of fine silver, of the same type, which weighs 6 7/10 grs. Rud. Sup. iv. 26. This was probably struck in 1552 when order had been given to stop the issue of the base small money.

The halfpence are nearly similar to the penny, having the difference mentioned by Stowe, that while the rose upon the penny is double, that upon the halfpenny is single. MB. (427). it weighs 3 6/10 grs. metal base.

The farthing has the portcullis with E. D. G. ROSA SINE SPI. rev. cross and pellets CIVITAS LONDON. (428). Rud. ix. 18. Sn. iv. 1. MB.

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