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An Historical Account of English Money, 3rd Edition

Stephen Martin Leake, Esq, 1793
Henry VII

Table of Contents

Henry VII. A. D. 1485.

[Note: Original spelling style has not been preserved in this transcription. f is rendered in the modern s, etc. ie, Majefty and Reverfe are presented as Majesty and Reverse resepectively.]

In the first year of King Henry the Seventh, is an indenture, [Pat. 1 H. 7, p. 2.] dated the fourth of Novemeber, with Sir Giles Dawbeny, Knight, and Bartholomew Read, masters and workers of his Majesty's Monies in the Tower of London, realm of England, town of Calais, and marches of the same, whereby a pound of gold of the old standard was to make forty-five Rials, at ten Shillings each; Half Rials, and Rial Farthings, Angels, at Six Shillings and Eightpence each, and Angelets: and the pound of silver was to make a hundred and twelve Groats and a Half, or a proportionable number of Half Groats, Sterlings, Halfpence, and Farthings. There is another [Pat. 8 H. 7, p. 2.] like indenture with John Shaw and Bartholomew Read, masters and workers, bearing date the twentieth of Novemeber, in his eighth year; and Lownds [P. 41.] mentions another in his ninth year with Robert Fenrother and William Read, masters and workers, all for coining the same species, and of the same goodness and value, which continued all this reign. But, besides these, were coined pieces called Sovereigns, and Half Sovereigns, for such are mentioned in the statute [Stat. 19 H. 7, c. 5.] in the nineteenth of Henry the Seventh, relating to the Coin; but when they were first coined, does not appear, for they are not mentioned in any indenture that I have seen of this reign.

In the fourth of this King, some regulation [Stat. 4 H. 7, c. 2.] was maade in the allaying of gold and silver, which was formerly done by fire and water, under a rule and order, by the finers at the King's mints, and at Goldsmiths-Hall only; but at this time, it seems, finers had set up in all parts of the realms, who used divers allays, so that no fine silver was to be had, as formerly, either for Money or plate. It was therefore now enacted that no finer should fine gold or silver, nor sell to any person, but to the officers of the mint, changers, and gold-smiths, the silver to be as good as sterling; and that every finer should put his mark upon it. Also [St. 4 H. 7, cap. 23.] the statute of the seventeenth of Edward the Fourth against transporting Money or plate was revived, and the forging [St. 4 H. 7, cap. 18.] of foreign Coin, allowed to be current in England, was made treason. A law very suitable to this provident King, who is said [Rot. Claus. An. 3 H. 8, in Coke's Inst. P. 2, p. 575.] to have left behind him fifty-three thousand Pounds in ready Money, most of it in foreign Coin.

In his nineteenth year, the Coin, but chiefly the silver, was so impaired by clipping and counterfeiting, and bringing in of Irish Coin, that it came under the consideration of Parliament to provide a remedy; and it was enacted, [St. 19 H. 7. cap. 5.] that all manner of gold of the Coins of a Sovereign, Half Sovereign, Rial, Half Rial, and the fourth part of a Rial, the Angel, and Half Angel, being gold, and weight, should be current for the sum they were coined for: and in like manner, all Groats, English or foreign, or Pence of Twopence, except reasonable wear, although cracked; and all Pence of silver, having the print of the King's Coin, except only Pence bearing diverse spurs, or the mullet between the bars of the cross, which were to be current for an Halfpenny; and if any person refused to take the aforesaid Coins according to the terms of the act, he might be compelled, or imprisoned. It was also ordained, that all manner of Groats, and Half Groats, or Pence of Twopence, as well English as foreign, being clipped or otherwise impaired, except reasonable wear, should not be current, but might be brought to the mint to be changed, or converted into bullion; (which loss [Lord Verulam's Life, H. 7.] was nothing in respect of the uncertainty.) And to prevent clipping for the time to come, the King, by the advice of Council, had caused to be made new Coins of Groats, and Pence of Twopenny, every piece whereof was to have a circle about the outer part thereof; and the gold to be coined for the time to come, was to have the whole scripture about every piece, without lacking any part thereof, to the intent that it might be known by the circle or scripture, when they were clipped or impaired. And the warden or comptroller of the mint was to see this done, under the penalty of forfeiting their office, and being fined at the King's pleasure. With regard to Ireland, no bullion, plate, or Coin was to be carried thither, above the value of six Shillings and Eightpence, or brought from thence above three Shillings and Fourpence value. What is here said of a circle and scripture about the Coin, to prevent clipping, was no more than had always been, though the circle and a great part of the letters were wanting upon most of the Money then current. It seems therefore to have been inserted in the act, to ascertain what was lawful Money, that if it had not the scripture and ring entire, it might not be current; and that was, in effect, to bring the clipped Money to the mint, which probably was done at this time; for most of the Money we have of this King's is of this latter coinage.

Stow tells us, [Annals, p. 485.] this new Coin appointed by Parliament, that is to say, Groat and Half Groat, bore but half faces; and that at the same time also was coined a Groat, which was in value Twelvepence. These Groats of Twelvepence, or Shillings, had likewise the side face, so that it seems the Money coined before his nineteenth year had the full face. But of those with the full face, whether all with arched crowns belong to this Henry, or only those with the single arch, is uncertain, for the reasons that have been before mentioned under Henry the Sixth.

The silver Money of Henry the Seventh with the half face differs therein from all his predecessors, after King Stephen: and in this his successors followed his example, for we have none afterwards with the full face, but the bad Money of Henry the Eighth, and the good of Edward the Sixth. He was the first likewise (except Henry the Third) that added the number to his name, to distinguish his Money from the former Henries. He also left off the old rose (as it is called) about the head, and, instead of the pellets and place of mintage on the reverse, he placed the arms, which is the first time we see it upon the English silver Money.

The crown, as it appears upon the Money, consists of one arch, with little crosses thereon saltier-ways, surmounted with the orb and cross. The circle composed of crosses patonce, (the cross attributed to Edward the Confessor) a larger and a smaller alternately; for such crosses they appear to be upon a strict examination, though at first sight they look more like leaves, and are sometimes all of an equal height. The crown on his great seal has crosses patè, and fleurs de lis, and the like is upon the crown of his tomb, over the entrance of the screen or inclosure; but in another part they appear to be crosses humet, and fleurs de lis, with lesser flowers between; and in a third place the like with lesser crosses between. As to the arches, Sandford [Genealogical Hist. of England.] gives us his seal with one arch, Speed with two, as it is likewise on his twomb. The same difference has been observed of former Kings upon their Coins and great seals, by which it appears, no certain form was constantly observed. But from this time the arched crown with crosses Patè and fleurs de lis alternately, (as upon Henry the Seventh's great seal) has been constantly used with very little variation, either upon seals or Coins, except upon the first Money of Henry the Eighth.

The Groat coined before his nineteenth year, has his head full faced within the rose, and crowned with the old crown, composed of fleurs de lis, with rays between, and one arch surmounted with the orb and cross. HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. ANGL. Z. FR. with the usual reverse, CIVITAS. LONDON. a cross crosslet the mint-mark.

The Groats coin in his nineteenth year, and afterwards, have his head in profile, looking to the left, with a crown of one arch, the circle adorned with crosses patonce, a larger and a smaller alternately, as before described, HENRIC. VII. DI. GRA. REX. AGL. Z. FR. Reverse, a plain shield divided by the old cross, quartering the arms of France and England, POSVI. DEV. ADIVTORE. MEV. mint-marks, a pheon, a cross crosslet, a rose, &c.

The Half Groats want the title of France. One of York mint has the keys under the arms, and a martlet the mint-mark; in this the crosses of the crown are all of equal heights.

The Penny has the King's figure in his robes, and crowned, sitting in a chair of state, and holding in his hands the sceptre and orb, HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. ANG. Reverse, the arms and cross, as upon the Groat, and under the shield the keys, shewing it to be of the Archbishop's coinage, CIVITAS. EBORACI. These Pennies (says Mr. Thoresby) cannot be of Henry the Sixth, because of the arms, nor of Henry the Eighth, because too heavy, weighing upwards of eleven grains; whereas the other sort (with a different epigraphe) of Henry the Eighth, are lighter by two or three grains: but though the heaviest of these may probably belong to Henry the Seventh, yet they may likewise be his son's, whose Money for some years was the same weight as his father's. Mr. Thoresby was, no doubt, led into this mistake by Mr. Lownds, misplacing the indenture of the eighteenth, to the first of Henry the Eighth.

These kind of Pennies of Durham mint are very common, HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. A. Reverse, the arms, and CIVITAS. DVRHAM. with the letters R. N. or C. D. on each side of the arms, which must be for the minter, for they do not answer to the name of any Bishop of this see.

The Shilling, which before was a name of weight, was first made a Coin by this King, [Camden's Remains.] anno 1504, in the nineteenth year of his reign. Stow [Annals, p. 485. Survey Lond. B. 1. p. 83.] calls them Groats, which were in value Twelvepence, I suppose, for no other reason, but because they were the greatest Coin then made, as pieces of Fourpence were for the same reason called Groats. But Fabian, who lived at the time, calls them Shillings, from their value, which name they have ever since retained, except only in the beginning of Henry the Eighth, they are sometimes called Testoons. Of these, as Stow informs us, there were but few coined, after the rate of Fortypence the ounce; so it seems they were only specimens, or designs, for such species of Money, which makes them very great rarities. They are of two sorts, both like the Groat, and neatly stamped, but they have different epigraphs; one HENRIC. DI. GRA. the other, HENRIC. SEPTIM. DI. GRA. A few years after, the French [Le Blanc, p. 11.] coined a new species of Money like this, and perhaps in imitation of it, but called it a Testoon, from whence, no doubt, Henry the Eighth took the name.

King Henry is also said [Camden's Remains, ch. Money.] to have stamped a small Coin called Dandy-Prats, but what sort of Money this was, we are not informed.

This King is the first that coined pieces called Sovereigns, or, as some call them, Double Rose Nobles, or Rose Rials, from their value. They had their name, no doubt, from the figure of the Sovereign thereon upon his throne of state; but when, and for what purpose they were coined, does not appear; but they were coined before his nineteenth year, because the statute for Money of the nineteenth of Henry the Seventh, mentions gold of the Coins of Sovereign and Half Sovereign. As they are exceedingly scarce, and not mentioned in any indentures of this reign that I have seen, or the first indenture of his son, and were too valuable to be of use at that time for current Money, it is probable they were struck, upon extraordinary occasions, only in the nature of medals, and perhaps were first coined in honour of the King's coronation, as his figure thereon, in the attitude of that solemnity, seems to intimate. We are told [Evelyn, p. 91.] such were distributed at the coronation of Queen Mary, and Sovereigns were coined in every reign afterwards to King James the First inclusive.

These Sovereigns have the King's figure in his royal robes, the crown on his head, sceptre in his right hand, and orb in his left, sitting upon his throne, under a canopy of Gothick work, the back of the throne net-work, and semè de lis. The epigraphe in old English characters, HENRICVS. DEI. GRA. REX. ANGL. ET. FRAN. DNS. HIBN. This is the first time we meet with the orb and cross in the King's hand upon the Coin, though it had been used [Selden's Tit. Honour, p. 183.] upon other occasions by almost all our Kings from Edward the Confessor, the sceptre being likewise surmounted with the cross patonce, or St. Edward's cross, of which crosses the crown is likewise composed, different from all his predecessors. Reverse, a large, full-blown, or double rose, in respect of the union of the two houses of York and Lancaster, as we see upon his stately monument in his chapel at Westminster. In the centre of the rose, a plain escutcheon of the arms of France and England, quarterly, IHESVS. AVTEM. TRANSIENS. PER. MEDIVM. ILLORVM. IBAT. The mint-mark a dragon, which was one of his supporters. This agrees exactly with the draught in Speed, which he has misplaced to Henry the Sixth, who did not coin any such pieces.

A quadruple Noble, or Double Sovereign, has exactly the same stamp.

There is another Sovereign with a portcullis at the King's feet, which some have therefore attributed to this Henry. It is true, that Henry the Seventh assumed this badge of the portcullis, in respect of his mother's descent [Sandford, p. 463. Notes.] from the Beauforts; that as the portcullus was an additional secuirty to the gate, so his descent from his mother strengthened his other titles; from which devise he also instituted the Pursuivant at Arms, called Portcullis. But as Henry the Eighth likewise used the badge of the portcullis, and some of these Sovereigns, by their weight, are undoubtedly his, it is not improbable but they may all be so.

The statute of the nineteenth of Henry the Seventh likewise mentions Half Sovereigns, which must be the exact value of the Rial, and therefore, as no such pieces (I think) have yet been discovered, it is probable there were never any coined.

Rials were like the former Henry's.

The Angel has St. Michael killing the dragon, like the Angel of Henry the Sixth, but a better dye, HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. AGLI. Z. FRA. Reverse, like the former Henry, but instead of the fleur de lis, has a rose like Edward the Fourth's, PER. CRVCE. TVA. SALVA. NOS. XPE. RED. One of these Angels I have seen stamped with the arms of Zealand, (done in Queen Elizabeth's reign) to make it current in that province.

Besides the English gold Coins, there is a curious piece struck by this King in France, in the year 1492, and the eighth of his reign, when pretending to assert his title to that kingdom, he laid siege to Bulloigne. This has the King's figure standing in a ship, like the English Rial or Noble, the side of the ship being charged with roses, and the King crowned with a double-arched crown fleuri; at the head of the ship a banner, inscribed with the initial letter of his name, and at the stern another banner of the dragon, the ancient British standard, which as descended from Cadwalladar, he used [Sandfor, p. 464. Notes.] at Bosworth, and after the victory offered up at St. Paul's. This red dragon, he likewise used for one of his supporters, and commemorated by the institution of Rougedragon, Pursuivant at Arms. Epigraphe, HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. ANG. Z. FRANC. DNS. IBAR. Reverse, the double full-blown rose, like the Sovereign, and the same legend, but with the single arms of France in the centre.

This piece, from the stamp of the Rial on one side, and rose on the other, may not improperly be called a Rose-Rial, and by the value might either be a Rial, or a Half Sovereign. It is certainly now a great curiousity, but was formerly more common, for I find draughts of it in two [Fo. Antwerp, 1633, 4to. Gravenhague, 1626.] Dutch placarts for Coins, in 1626, and 1633, as a species of Money then current.

In the third plate of Coins published by the society of Antiquaries of London, there is likewise and extraordinary silver Coin, supposed to be struck in Flanders, by order of the Duchess of Burgundy, for use of Perkin Warbeck; having within a rose of four leaves, a fleur de lis, and lion of England under a crown; and at bottom a rose, MANI. TECHEL. PHARES. 1498, alluding [Daniel, ch. 5, v. 25.] to the hand-writing upon the wall at Belshazzar's impious feast. Reverse, the arms of France and England quarterly, under an arched crown fleuri, and on the sides of the shield, a fleur de lis, and rose crowned, all within a rose, DOMINE. SALVVM. FAC. REGEM. (Psalm xx. v. 9.)

It does not appear that Henry the Seventh coined any Money in Ireland.


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