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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England - William the Conqueror and William II

Table of Contents

William the Conqueror, 1066 to 1087, and William Rufus, 1087 to 1100.

William, having established himself upon the throne, struck money upon the same principles as his Saxon predecessors, retaining the same weight and fineness and even imitating their types. There has always been great difficulty in assigning to the two Williams, the Conqueror and Rufus, their respective coins, and later discoveries have not done much to elucidate the matter. Had Mr. Thoresby given an accurate description of the types of the 250 pennies found at York in 1703, it is possible that some light might have been thrown upon the enquiry. The large discovery at Beaworth in Hampshire in 1833, consisted scarcely less than 12,000. The coins originally submitted to inspection were 6,500, but some thousands more, in packages of various magnitudes, which had been dishonestly withheld from the proprietor, afterwards found their way to London, and were examined by the author, or his friends, and contained, with the exception of something more than 100, only pieces of the PAXS type; all, therefore, that can be fairly concluded from their examination, is that the other types were nearly cotemporary with the paxs type, and that they just preceded it; for all were new, had never been in circulation, and it is probable that the great mass would consist of the latest struck type. The description of those coins (see Archaeologia, vol. xxvi.) was accompanied by a plate of the eighteen different types of the two Williams, and the author gave his reasons for considering the first eleven, (233) to (243) inclusive, as coins of the Conqueror, and the other seven, (244) to (250) as those of Rufus. Mr. Lindsay of Cork, Gent. Mag. Sept. 1835, who has great knowledge and excellent sound judgment in such matters, proposes a different distribution. He assigns to the Conqueror (233) to (237), to Rufus all the others. He is clearly of opinion that (238) was struck previously to all the following numbers, and that it must be appropriated to Rufus on account of the two stars, which are the distinguishing marks of Rufus upon his great seal, consequently all the numbers after (238) must be assigned to Rufus. The author lays no stress upon the stars, they occur upon two types far removed from each other by difference of workmanship, and with several intermediate coinages; if the stars were adopted as a distinguishing mark by Rufus, it is probable that they would have been used upon all his money, at least after that had been once adopted; which they were certainly not. That figg. (233) to (237) belong to the Conqueror and that (244) to (250) belong to Rufus, Mr. Lindsay and the author are agreed; the intermediates (238) to (243) must, till some future discovery throw new light upon the subject, be left to the decision of individual collectors. The coins of both Williams are, therefore, placed together without any mark of separation, and they are arranged exactly in the same manner as they were in the plate of the Archaeologia. The various types will be best understood by reference to the plate. The types found at Beaworth were (238) to (243), of these the great bulk consisted of (241), (242), which may be considered the same, as they differ only slightly in part of the form of the crown; (240) is only a variety formed by striking some pieces of the PAXS reverse with the obverse of (239). It is almost certain that (238), (239), (243), were the types which immediately preceded (240), (241), 242). Several of the pieces, though new, were cut into halves and quarters to pass for halfpence and farthings, and must probably have been so issued from the mint.

The coins assigned with confidence to the Conqueror, when new could not have generally exceeded 20 gr., corresponding to the average weight of the Confessor's. Those confidently assigned to Rufus weigh upwards of 21 gr. even their worn state, corresponding with those of Henry I.

Pennies alone were coined by the two Wiliams; they ought to weigh 22 ½ gr. but the Beaworth coins, which had never been in circulation did not exceed 21 gr. The metal consisted of 11 oz. 2 dwts fine silver to 18 dwts. of alloy. This mixture is called the old standard, and is the same which after some variation under Henry VIII. and Edward VI. was finally re-established by Queen Elizabeth, and has continued down to the present day.

The rarity of the various types can be scarcely more fairly stated than by giving the numbers of each contained in the Brit. Mus. (233) 19, (234) 19, (235) 1, (236) 17. (237) 38, (238) 35, (239) 9, (240), (241) and (242) 9, (243) 9, (244) 3, (245) 1, (246) 24, (247) 12, (248) 12, (249) 5, (250) 20, exclusive of those found at Beaworth, of which there are of (238) 31, (239) 11, (240) 6, (243) 36; (241) and (242) were so numerous that they are become almost amongst the commonest of English coins; (240) was not known before the Beaworth discovery.

The legend of the reverse always consists of the name of the Moneyer with ON, or very rarely OF, and the name of the place of mintage; the Saxon P is used for W, and the dipthong AE is most frequently expressed by IE; for A or V we have two | | not always inclining towards each other and sometimes in a wrong direction. | or || at the end of the king's name do not indicate numerals but probably more or less of the letter A for Angliae.

The coins of these reigns must have been struck in a collar, for they are uniformly round, of the same size, and a pile of them is as perfectly cylindrical as one composed of coins of the present day.

Harold II | Table of Contents | Henry I

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