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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England - Elizabeth

Table of Contents

Elizabeth, 1558 to 1602.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne she set seriously to work to complete that reformation in the standard of the coinage which had been commenced by Edward VI. The coinage of her first three years, which consisted of shillings, groats, half-groats and pennies, and were marked with the martlet, cross, crosslet or lis, contained 11 oz. silver to one oz. alloy; but in her second year she restored the standard to its original fineness of 11 oz. 2 dwt. silver, 18 dwt. alloy, and in that state it has continued down to the present time. The weight of her coins was in the proportion of 8 grains to the penny, down to her 43d year, when a slight reduction took place and the penny weighed only 7 25/31 gr. For shillings of the first coinages, see (439). (440). Rud. xii. 1, 2, 3, Sn. vi. 7, 9, 10. Groats (443). Rud. xii. 4, 5, 6. Sn. vi. 3, 4. 8. Half-groats. (445). (447). Rud. xii. 7. Sn. vi. 2, 6. Pence. (450). Rud. xii. 10, 11, 12. Sn. vi. 1, 5.

Soon after the issue of her first coinage much inconvenience was experienced from a want of small money; the shilling and the groat were, therefore, in 1561, for a time discontinued, and order given to issue sixpences, three-pences, three-halfpence, and three-farthings. Coins of the two last denominations were never coined in any other reign before or since. For sixpences, see (441). (442). three-pence, (444). three-halfpence (448). three-farthings, (449). In the year 1582 these pieces of three-pence, three-halfpence and three-farthings were discontinued; shillings, half-groats and pence were revived, and the half-penny was added. Between the first coinage and this year, half-groats appear to have been twice struck in 1567 and 1569, pence three times, 1567, 1574, 1577. Crowns and half-crowns were issued only in the two last years of her reign. But the exact years, in which different denominations of coins were issued, will be best seen when we come to describe each; for, upon the sixpences, which was the most uninterrupted series of this reign, the dates of the years appear as well as the mint marks; and as these marks changed very frequently, seldom continuing more than three years, they indicate with considerable accuracy the date of every other coin. The principle upon which the various mint marks were regulated it is not easy to understand, for while some continued for four or five years, at other times as many as three different ones were used in the same year. As the smaller denominations of coin were of values, and consequently of sizes, very closely approximating to each other, the odd and alternate pieces were distinguished by a rose behind the head of the queen; accordingly we find these ornaments upon the sixpence, three-pence, three-halfpence and three-farthings, while the shilling, groat, half-groat, penny and halfpenny are without it. The following tabular view will shew better than any description of the dates and denominations of the various coins.

The hammered monies, from the shilling to the three-pence and the early half-groat, have generally one uniform type, with very little variations in the workmanship: the Queen's bust to the right crowned, the top of the gown scarcely perceptible, the hair long. Rev. shield and cross fourchee. leg. POSVI &c. There are some slight unimportant variations in expressing the queen's titles. The later half-groats, three-halfpennies, pennies and three-farthings vary in the legends, having E. D. G. ROSA SINE SPINA. with the place of mintage, CIVITAS LONDON on the reverse. This is the last reign in which the name of any place of mintage appears. The halfpennies are without legend, and have for type a portcullis with MM. above, and for rev. a cross moline with three pellets in each angle. (446).

Amongst the shillings there are two with the key MM. differing from the common one in having the bust broader, gown embroidered, much more hair, some appearing in front; one has the shield plain. (440). the other garnished. Rud. xiv. 4. Sn. vi. 16. The work is very neat, and was probably executed by the mill. One shilling with MM. lis. has only a thin wiry line for inner circle, see Rud. xiii. 16. One in the British Museum, with MM. cross crosslet, is countermarked with shield of Zealand. Another in the British Museum has obv. MM. Crescent. Rev. MM. Crescent upon the former MM. escallop shell. (439).

There is a very rude shilling, evidently a forgery, but of her times, which has an egg shaped MM. as if copied from a worn out woolpack. MB.

The sixpence of 1564 has the queen's head much larger than the others, scarcely confined within the inner circle. (441).

A sixpence of 1569 in the British Museum and others in other collections have the Zealand countermark. Rud. xv. 2. 4. and several instances occur of the dies having been altered by punching the succeeding MM. or date upon a previous one, as 1579 has been altered to 1580--1587 to 1588. The escallop has been stamped upon the A. &c. &c.

There are two dies of the groat, MM. lis. one has the bust and shield much smaller than usual, Rud. xii. 6. the other is without inner circle.

Some of the half-groats with bell MM. and all the subsequent coinages have two dots behind the head to indicate the value, and these coins are generally smaller than those of the preceding years. Those of the first coinages have the POSVI &c. legend, (445). but upon the revival of these pieces in 1582, the obv. has E. D. G. ROSA SINE SPINA with CIVITAS LONDON. (447). Rud. xii. 8. 9. gives two half-groats with MM. cross crosslet and lis, with the legend ROSA &c. there must surely be some mistake here, for those MM. were not used after 1561, and the legend upon half-groats not before 1582. The lis may, on the coin, have been a sword, but we have not seen such a piece. On Rud. xii. 18, the queen's titles and the castle MM. appear on the same coin: this also we suppose to be by mistake.

It was stated that during the great interruption in the issue of half-groats from 1561 to 1582, there has been two issues of such coin, in 1567, and 1569; the MM. upon these are the coronet and castle, and by reference to the table it will appear that these coins may have been struck in any year from 1567 to 1571, but that they may also have issued only in 1569, in which year both these MM. were used; we are inclined to believe that this was the case, and that there was one issue only, and that in 1569, of half-groats during the great interruption.

The pennies are without date, except one of those with MM. lis. which is dated 1558. The type of all is like that of the later half-groats. The three-halfpennies and three-farthings are all dated and have similar types.

The halfpence have no legend, have a portcullis on one side with the MM. over it, Rev. a cross moline with three pellets in the angles. (446). They do not appear to have been struck earlier than 1582, as we have not met with any MM. earlier than the letter A. For view of hammered shillings, see (439). (440). Rud. xii. 15. Sixpences. (441). (442). 13. 14. xiv. 1, 2, 3. Sn. vi. 14. 15. Groats. (443). Three-pence. (444). xiii. 16. Sn. vi. 13. Half-groat. (445). (447). xiv. 17. 19. Three-halfpence. (448). Rud. xii. 20. Sn. vi. 12. Penny. (450). 21. 22. 23. Three-farthings. (449). Rud xii. 24. Sn. vi. 11. Halfpenny. (446). 25. 26.

In 1561, a new process of coining was introduced by a Frenchman, by means of the mill and screw; the name of the Frenchman is unknown and the whole history of the process and its employment is involved in singular obscurity. The pieces struck by this process, which are known by the name milled money, are similar to the hammered in type, but better executed, much neater in appearance, rounder in form, have their edges grained with various patterns, and are without inner circle. It seems unaccountable why two coinages so dissimilar in execution should have been carried on concurrently for a period of about fifteen years, and with a totally different arrangement of mint marks. These upon the milled sixpences from 1561 to 1566, are stars; from 1567 to 1570, lis; 1570 mullet pierced; 1571 castle; 1574, 1575 mullet. In 1561, part of 1562, and 1563, the gown is plainly seen and richly embroidered; (453). Rud. xiii. 2. 4. Sn. vii. 10. in others of 1562, the gown is perfectly plain without emboidery, (454). Rud. xiii. 5. Sn. vii. 9. and a third sort has the gown embroidered as before, the cross upon the reverse having the ends patee instead of fourchee. 1563, 1564, 1566 are similar to these last. Rud. xiii. 8. Sn. vii. 11. In 1567, 1568, the bust is much smaller, and the reverse cross fourchee, MM. lis. Rud. xiii. 9. Sup. iv. 33. Sn. vii. 12. In 1570, MM. lis, mullet pierced; and 1571 castle, the bust becomes larger and descends, through the legend, to the outer edge. (455). Rud. Sup. iv. 34. 36. 36, reverses only. Sn. vii. 13. 14. 15. In 1574 MM. mullet, the bust is very large, the crown extends to the outer circle, chains, &c. hang around the neck, a rich bandeau decorates the head. Rev. the cross is very broad, plain and flat. This pieces is of large size. (452). Rud. xiii. 13. Sn. vii. 16. The sixpence of 1575 is similar, without the bandeau, and work more minute, Rud. xiii. 14. Small roses in both divide the words of the legends, over which are the last letters of the abbreviations of a small size. These two pieces are extremely rare.

Whether half-crowns of this description were struck for general circulation is perhaps doubtful, but there are pieces in existence of extreme rarity, which were intended as patterns for such, if not really coins, Rud. xiii. 16. Sn. vii. 21. Two only are known, one in MB. from the cabinet of King George III. 223 grains, the other in possession of the author, 211 grains; both have the appearance of having been in circulation, and have suffered from wear, but not sufficiently so as to account for the deficiency of weight. They have MM. lis. and must therefore have been struck about the year 1568; and they resemble in type the coins of that period, but the head is in very high relief. See vignette, title page.

The milled shillings vary from the hammered chiefly in neatness of work and absence of inner circle, the dress is rather more decorated. They vary from each other chiefly in size, some being much broader than others; the broadest has the MM. mullet. (451). the others a star. Rud. xiii. 1. Sn. vii. 17. Some broad milled shillings have MM. lis. Rud. Sup. iv. 32. Sn. vii. 18.

The milled groat is like the earliest sixpence, MM. star. (456). Rud. xiii. 3. Sn. vii. 7.

The three-pence like the sixpence. (457). Rud. xiii. 6. 7. Sn. vii. 1, 2, 3. There are also some corresponding in type, date, &c. with the sixpences of 1574 and 1575. Rud. xiii. 12. 15. Sn. vii. 4.

The half-groat like the groat. (459). Rud. xiii. 10. Sn. vi. 5.

The penny is mentioned by Snelling and Ruding, but we have not seen one. See Sn. vii. 20.

The three-farthings is dated 1563, legend ROSA &c. Rev. shield, cross patee CIVITAS LONDON. MM. star. (458). Rud. xiii. 11. Sn. vii. 6. ext. rare.

In 1601 and 1602 were issued the only crowns and half-crowns of this reign; the type represents the bust of the Queen crowned, holding a sceptre in one hand, the orb in the other. The reverse has the shield garnished and cross fourchee. The only MM. are 1 for 1601. (460). 2 for 1602. Rud. xiv. 5, 6. 12. 13. Sn. vi. 21. 22. The other coins of these dates are shillings. Rud. xiv. 7. 14. Sn. vi. 20. Sixpences. Rud. xiv. 8. 15. Sn. vi. *19. Half-groats. Rud. xiv. 9. 16. Sn. vi. 19. Pennies. Rud. xiv. 10. 17. Sn. vi. 18. Halfpennies. Rud. xiv. 11. 18. Sn. vi. 17.

Some of the coins of Elizabeth are countermarked with the arms of Zealand, said to have been done in the low countries, to give currency there to the money taken over, as subsidies, by the Earl of Leicester. Rud. xv. 2. 4. others with H for Holland? 1. There are some sixpences upon which a large escallop shells has been stampt, and which are called Pudsey sixpences; it is unnecessary to mention the foolish tale which has been told about them, they are nothing more than the caprice probably of some silversmith.; Rud. xv. 3. Sup. 2. xvi. 20. Mr. Cuff has one stampt with a rose in the same way.

Mary | Table of Contents | Elizabeth, Table of Mint Marks


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