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An Historical Account of English Money, 3rd Edition

Stephen Martin Leake, Esq, 1793
Henry VIII

Table of Contents

Henry VIII. A. D. 1509.

[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.]

The state of this King's Money was like his mind and humour, very changeable and uncertain. In the beginning of his reign he imitated his father in his Coin, but afterwards both gold and silver were debased; Henry the Eighth, first of all the Kings of England, [Camden's Eliz. fol. Lond. 1688, p. 49.] mixing the Money with brass, to the dishonour of the kingdom, and the damage of his successors and people, leaving thereby a notable example of riot and prodigality, considering that his father left him more wealth than any other King of England ever left to his successor.

In his first year is an indenture [Claus, 1 H. 8, No 20.] with William Lord Montjoy, master of the King's mints in England and Calais, for coining Money of the same goodness and value as his father's, viz. Rials, at ten Shillings each, forty-five to the pound; Half Rials and Quarter Rials, Angels, sixty-seven and half to the pound, and six Shillings and Eightpence each, and Angelets; and of silver Groats, a hundred and twelve and a half to the pound, Half Groats, Pence, Halfpence, and Farthings. The gold of the old standard of twenty-three carrats, three grains and a half fine, and half a grain allay, and the silver of eleven ounces two pennyweights fine, and eighteen pennyweights allay, which is called the old right standard of sterling in England.

In his fifteenth year it was enacted, [Stat. 14 and 15 H. 8, cap. 12.] that of every hundred Pounds worth of gold coined at any mints within the realm of England, (except York, Duresm, and Canterbury) twenty Pounds thereof should be in Half Angels, commonly called pieces of gold of Forty-oence, and every hundred Pounds worth of silver should be coined half into Groats, twenty Pounds in Half Groats, called Pence of Twopence, ten Marks in Halfpence, and five Marks in Farthings: and all persons bringing bullion to the mint to be coined, under the value aforesaid, were to receive the tenth part in Halfpence and Farthings. And, because Halfpence and Farthings had so near a resemblance to each other, being struck with one Coin, that the common people often mistook the one for the other, all Farthings afterwards made within the realm, were to have on one side the print of the portcullis, and on the other side the rose with a cross. Of this last sort I have never seen any; but the former Halfpence and Farthings struck with one Coin, I apprehend, had the King's head full faced, and crowned, H. D. G. ROSA. SIE. SPI. Reverse, CIVITAS. LONDON. for such are extant, and by their weight belong to this Prince.

In his eighteenth year there was a great scarcity of Money, and the causes being enquired into, it was found to be owing to the transportation that had been made into the Low Countries, and the only remedy found, was to raise the Money at home, to the same price it passed abroad. Hitherto we are told [Herbert's Life of H. 8.Stow, p. 527. Annals.] the Angel-Noble was the sixth part of an ounce, in value six Shillings and Eightpence, which in silver was two ounces. Thus the proportion of silver to gold was twelve to one. Again (says our author) an ounce of silver (or Half Angel) passed for three shillings and Fourpence; so twelve ounces, or a pound, was just forty Shillings, but the sixth of September, by proclamation, the value of both being raised one tenth part, the Angel was seven Shillings and Fourpence, which was the value it then passed at in the Low Countries; The Royal eleven Shillings, and the crown, (meaning [Stow, p. 912.] the old French Crown) at four Shillings and Fourpence; and consequently the ounce of gold was forty-four Shillings, and the ounce of silver three Shillings and Eightpence, the proportion being (ut supra) twelve to one. The benefit of this soon appeared, that the fifth of Novemeber following, there was another proclamation, raising the Money one forty-fourth part; so that the Angel was seven Shillings and Sixpence, the ounce of gold forty-five Shillings, and the ounce of Silver three Shillings and Ninepence; and by this means much of our gold was brought back again.

By this it appears, that the gold Money had been lessened in weight long before his eighteenth year, in the following proportion, viz. the Angel from sixty-seven and a half to the pound, making twenty-two Pounds ten Shillings in tale, and weighing each three pennyweights, thirteen grains, one fourth, to three pennyweights, eight grains, making seventy-two to the pound, and in tale twenty-four pound. By the first proclamation in September, the pound was raised to twenty-six Pounds eight Shillings, and by the last proclamation to twenty-seven Pounds. So, in like manner, the pound of silver, which in the beginning of his reign made thirty-seven Shillings and Sixpence in tale, viz. a hundred and twelve Groats and a half, each weighing two pennyweights three grains, had been raised to forty Shillings, in tale, or a hundred and twenty Groats, weighing two pennyweights each; and by the two proclamations raised to forty-five Shillings in tale, or a hundred and thirty-five Groats to the pound, and consequently reduced in weight to one pennyweight, eighteen grains and a half. And according to his proportion, both of gold and silver, there was an indenture [Lownds, p. 41.] with Ralph Rowlet and Martin Bowes, masters and workers, which Mr. Lownds has misplaced to the first of Henry the Eighth. By this indenture the pound of gold was to make twenty-seven Pounds in tale, viz. Sovereigns, twenty-four to the pound, at twenty-two Shillings and Sixpence a-piece, or forty-eight Rials, at eleven Shillings and Threepence each, or seventy-two Angels, at eleven Shillings and Sixpence, or eighty-one George Nobles at six Shillings and Eightpence, or a hundred and forty-four Half Angels at three Shillings and Ninepence, or a hundred and sixty-two Forty-penny Pieces, at three Shillings and Fourpence. And a pound weight of gold, of the fineness of twenty-two carrats only, was to be coined into a hundred Crowns and a half of the double rose, or two hundred and one Half Crowns, making by tale twenty-five Pounds, two Shillings and Sixpence. And a pound weight of silver of the old sterling, was to make one hundred and thirty-five Groats, or two hundred and seventy Half Groats, or five hundred and forty Sterlings, (i. e. Pence) or a proportionable number of Halfpence and Farthings, the pound of silver making forty-five Pounds by tale: and there is the like indenture [25 H. 8, p. 1. Claus. m. 38.] in his twenty-fifth year.

This was the first coinage [Stow, p. 912.] of George Nobles and Crowns of the rose, and the first alteration in the standard of the gold Money, which had hitherto been all of the old standard of twenty-three carrats, three grains and a half fine, and half a grain allay.

In his twenty-second year, an author tells us, [Vaughan of Coining, p. 113.] Cardinal Wolsey had a commission granted to him for the alteration of the Coin, which brought in great confusion among the values of Money; and, together with the excessive quantities of gold and silver, about that time brought into Christendom from the West-Indies, was the occasion that the statute of labourers and servents was no further observed; the prices of all things being enhanced, they could not live upon their statute wages: but this seems to be a mistake throughout, for the Cardinal was impeached in the twenty-first of Henry the Eighth, and there was no alteration in the Money from his eighteenth till his thirty-fourth year.

In the thirty-fourth year of Henry the Eighth, the masters and workers (as in the former) by indenture [Lownds, p. 22, 43.] contracted to coin gold of twenty-three carrats fine, and one allay, into Sovereigns at twenty Shillings, Half Sovereigns at ten Shillings, Angels at eight Shillings, Angelets at four Shillings, and Quarter Angels at two Shillings each, (which was the first debasement of these species) making twenty-eight Pounds in tale. And the standard of the silver was now first debased, from the ancient standard or sterling of England, to only ten ounces fine, and two ounces allay, making forty-eight Shillings in tale, to be coined into Testoons, going for Twelvepence a piece, Groats, Half-Groats, Pence, Halfpence, and Farthings.

And by proclamation, [Stow's Annals, p. 587.] the sixteenth of May, 1544, and the thirty-sixth of his reign, gold was raised to forty-eight Shillings, and silver to four Shillings the ounce.

The same year, by indenture [Lownds, p. 43.] with Sir Martin Bowes, and others, a pound of gold of the fineness of twenty-two carrats, which, in his eighteenth year made twenty-five Pounds, two Shillings, and Sixpence in Coin, was now to make thirty Pounds by tale, in Sovereigns at twenty Shillings, Half Sovereigns, Crowns at five Shillings each, and Half Crowns; so that the King had two carrats of fine gold for coinage, which yielded him fifty Shillings. The pound of silver, as before, to make forty-eight Shillings in tale, though by half fine and half allay; and the next year it was still worse, [Lownds, p. 44.] the gold being only twenty carrats fine, and the silver but four ounces fine, and eight ounces allay, whereby the pound of pure gold was raised to thirty-six Pounds, and the pound of fine silver to seven Pounds four Shillings. This base Money, for the time, caused the old sterling Money to be hoarded up, so that I have seen (says Stow [Stow's Survey of London by Strype, p. 84.]) twenty-one Shillings given for an old Angel, to gild withal. Also rent of lands and tenements, with prices of victuals, were raised far beyond the former rates, hardly since to be brought down.

The gold Coins of Henry the Eighth, as we have observed, were Sovereigns, Half Sovereigns, Rials, Half and Quarter Rials, Angels, Angelets, and Quarter Angels, George Nobles, Forty-penny Pieces, Crowns of the double rose, and Half Crowns.

His first Sovereigns are of the same goodness and value as his father's, but have a different stamp, and are considerably broader; the inner circle is ingrailed, the points terminating in crosses or flowers de lis: it has no canopy over the king, who is sitting in an armed chair, each arm surmounted with a cross patonce, as upon the scepter in his hand, and at his feet his badge of the portcullis. As these agree in weight, and no number is added to the name to distinguish the father and son from each other, and the portcullis was a badge common to both, some think they may belong to Henry the Seventh. But as he coined Sovereigns without portcullis, and we are not certain he ever used that badge upon his Money, as his son did, and may be seen likewise [See Evelyn's Numismata, p. 87, 88.] upon two famous medals of his, it seems more probable they were the son's than the father's. Besides the weight of some of these, which, though very fair, hardly reach ten pennyweights, demonstrate that those, at least, are the son's, and is a strong presumption that the others, which they exactly resemble, are so too. The reverse of these are like his father's. There were no Half Sovereigns of this sort.

The Sovereign after his thirty-third year, when he stiled himself King of Ireland, as it is less in weight, so it is in size, but exhibits the King's figure sitting in the same manner, only the chair has two angels upon the arms instead of the crosses. His crown is likewise composed of crosses and fleurs de lis, and the scepter in his hand fleuri, which continued in use till the restoration, though it is otherwise upon his great seal. These have likewise, instead of the portcullis at his feet, the double rose, the epigraphe in old English characters, HENRIC. 8. DI. GRA. AGL. FRANCIE. Z. HIBERN. REX. Reverse, the arms of France and England quarterly, in a shield crowned, supported on the dexter-side by a lion, crowned with an open crown, and on the sinister by a dragon, (whereas, in the former part of his reign, he bore the dragon on the right, anda a greyhound on the left, like his father) which supporters were continued by his three children that succeeded him, except after Queen Mary's marriage, [Sandford, p. 479, 499.] she used an eagle on the right side, and a lion rampant guardant on the left side. Upon a pedestal under the shield is his monogram, and circumscribed with the usual legend, of IHS. AVTEM. &C. an S. the mint-mark: Another has a W for the mint-mark. The Half has the title of Ireland abbreviated to HIB.

Another sort has a chair of a different fashion, with larger angels upon the arms. The supporters on the reverse being properly standing, whereas in the former they are rather sitting; and they have the inscription in Roman miniscules, and I. the mint-mark.

I have never seen any of his Rials, but probably they are so like his father's, as not to be known from them.

The Angel is like his father's, HENRICVS. VIII. DEI. GRA. REX. ANGL. ET. FRA. Reverse, the ship and arms, &c. PER. CRVCE. TVA. SALVA. NOS. XPE. REDETO. an inescocheon with St. George's cross the mint-mark. This, in some of the Dutch Placarts, is called the Old Angelot.

Another, HENRIC. 8. D. G. AGL. FRA. Z. HIB. REX. This last has an annulet on the side of the ship, commonly called a gun-hole.

The Angelet, or Half Angel, commonly called [St. 14 and 15 H. 8, c. 12.] from its value the piece of Forty-pence, is like the Angel, HENRIC. VIII. DI. GRA. REX. AGL. Reverse, the ship, &c. CRVX. AVE. SPES. VNICA. a portcullis crowned the mint-mark. But by the indenture in his eighteenth year, when the Angel was raised to seven Shillings and Sixpence, and the Half Angel to three Shillings and Ninepence, there is, besides these, mention [Lownds, p. 41. Indent.] of Fortypenny Pieces, a hundred and sixty-two to the pound, which was just half the weight and value of the George Nobles; and therefore it is most likely they had the same stamp; but whether they bore the impression of the George Noble, or the Angel, I do not know.

The Quarter Angel, HENRIC. VIII. DI. GRA. REX. AGL. Reverse, FRANCIE. ET. HIBERNIE. REX. a fleur de lis the mint-mark.

The George Noble has the ship like the Noble Angel, with a cross for the past, and the initial letters H. and R. on the sides of the mast; and in the place of the shield of arms, a large rose, HENRIC. DI. G. R. AGL. Z. FRANC. DNS. HIBERNI. Or, HENRICVS. DI. G. R. ANG. Z. FRA. DNS. HIBER. Reverse, St. George with his spear killing the dragon, TALIDICATA. DIGNO. MENS. FLVCTVARE. NEQVIT. a rose the mint-mark.

Another sort has St. George trampling on the dragon, with a drawn sword in his hand, and the ship has three crosses or masts, but wants the inital letters; HENRICVS. D. G. R. ANG. Z. FRANC. DNS. HI. and a rose the mint-mark.

The crowns of the double rose, have on one side a double rose, crowned with a crown, composed of crosses patonce, which upon the silver Money, is only found in those of the first coinage. On the sides of the rose, the letters H. R. crowned, HENRIC. VIII. RVTILANS. ROSA. SIE. SPINA. Reverse, the arms under a like crown, between the letters as before, DEI. GRA. ANGLIE. Z. FRA. DNS. HIBERIE. a pheon the mint-mark.

Another, HENRIC. 8. RVTILANS. ROSA. SINE. SPI. and H. R. as before. Reverse, DI. GRA. AGLI. FRANC. Z. HIB. REX. An annulet the mint-mark.

Others, instead of H. R. have H. K. for Henry and Katherine, a rose or cinqfoil the mint-mark: or H. I. for Henry and Jane. Another has the crown composed of crosses, and fleur del lis, and the legend in Roman characters.

The Half Crowns have the initial letters without crowns above them. H. D. G. RVTILANS. ROSA. SINE. SPI. Reverse, RVTILANS. ROSA. SINE. SPI. One has H. K. the rose crowned, and the legend, RVTILANS, &C. and upon the reverse the arms crowned, between H. K. HENRIC. 8. DEI. GRA. REX. ANGL. Z. FRA.

There is likewise a crown, having on one side the arms crowned, HENRIC. 8. DEI. GRA. REX. ANGL. Z. FRANC. and on the other side a cross fleuri, with a large rose in the centre; and in the quarters alternately the initial letters of his name crowned, and a lion of England, HENRIC. VIII. RVTILANS. ROSA. SINE. SPIN. a lion passant guardant the mint-mark.

The first Groats of Henry the Eighth have the half face, looking to the left [viewer's right?], as like his father's as possible, HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. AGL. Z. FRA. Reverse, the arms of France and England quarterly, divided by the old cross, POSVI. DEV. ADIVTORE. MEV. The Half Groats generally want the title of France, and have the crosses of the crown all of equal height; whereas upon the Groats they have alternately a larger and a smaller cross: mint-marks a portcullis crowned, a castle, &c.

A Half Groat of the Archbishop of Canterbury's mint, CIVITAS. CANTOR. and the arms between WA. for Archbishop Warham; the mint-mark, a Canterbury cross, or long cross patè, fitched in the foot. Another with WA. instead of the place of mintage, has the motto, POSVI, &C.

A Groat of Cardinal Wolsey's mint, as Archbishop of York, HENRIC. VIII. D. G. REX. AGL. Z. FRAC. Reverse, CIVITAS. EVORACI. On the sides of the shield of arms, T. W. for Thomas Wolsey, and underneath is the Cardinal's hat. A Half Groat of the same mint, has the hat in like manner, and on each side, above it, between the hat and the bottom of the shield, is a key, being part of the arms of the Archbisoprick. It was an article of the Cardinal's impeachment, That he presumptuously imprinted the Cardinal's hat under the King's arms upon his Majesty's Coins of Groats, made at York, which had never been done by any subject before: so that his crime was not for coining Money with the Cardinal's hat thereon; for the smaller Coins, which bore the same stamp, are not taken notice of; but for coining Groats, which had never been done by any subject before: but as to small Money, it had been immemorially coined in the Bishop's mints at Canterbury, York, and Durham. But this power dwindled away with the Pope's authority here, and was discontinued after this reign, Edward Lee, Wolsey's successor, being the last that used this privilege.

The King had likewise a mint at York, for there is a Groat with CIVITAS. EBORACI. And, after the dissolution, [Somner's Antiq. Cant. 4to. Lond. 1640, p. 124.] he had a mint at Canterbury, where, it is said, he coined Money for the service of the French wars.

The Groat of the next coinage, has the King's bust, with the face in profile, turned to the left, the contrary way from the former, and not so good a dye: the crown composed of crosses patè and fleurs de lis, as it was continued afterwards by him and all his successors, HENRIC. VIII. D. G. R. AGL. Z. FRANC. or FRANCE. Reverse, the arms and cross like the former, and the same legend.

Mr. Thoresby [No 259.] mentions, under this reign, a Durham Groat, good Money, a little broader than the Penny, but two grains heavier than the strict standard for the Groat, having the King's figure sitting, in his robes, as upon the Penny, and the same legend, H. D. G. ROSA. SINE. SPINA. Reverse, CIVITAS. DVRHAM. with or B. by the arms, perhaps, (says he) for Christopher Bambridge, Bishop of Durham, 1507. But the Bishop was translated to York before this reignl and as there is a Penny of the same mint, having the letters CD. for the mint-mark, and we have no instance of the Bishop's coining Groats, except Wolsey, it was, no doubt, the letters of the minter, and, by the size, the Penny stamp.

The Half Groats have generally the title of France abbreviated to FR. Mint-marks, a fleur de lis, a pheon, a rose, a cinqfoil, &c.

The Half Groat of Canterbury mint, CIVITAS. CANTOR. has the arms between WA. a cross flory the mint-mark, or a fleur de lis. Another with WA. has the legend, POSVI. &C. Another of the same mint with TC. for Thomas Cranmer Archbishop; a Catherine wheel the mint-mark.

One of York mint, CIVITAS. EBORACI. and EL. for Edward Lee, Archbishop, and a Halfpenny the like.

The Groats of his thirty-fourth and thirty-sixth years, have his head almost full faced, and on these he has the title of King of Ireland, which he was proclaimed [Stow, p. 583.] the twenty-third of January, in his thirty-third year, HENRIC. 8. D. GRA. ANG. FRA. Z. HIB. REX. This is bad silver, but a Half Groat of the same kind, CIVITAS. CANTOR. is much worse metal.

Of the very bad Money of his thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh years, are two sorts, one having the head almost full faced, like the former; the other having the head something more inclined to the left, the same epigraphe and reverse as the foregoing.

Penies, with the eipgraphe, H. D. G. ROSA. SINE. SPINA. A base sort has the very full face, crowned. Reverse, the arms and cross, CIVITAS. CANTOR. Another, of the worse Money, has the face inclining to the left, CIVITAS. LONDON. The fine Money with this legend has the King's figure sitting in his robes, with crown, sceptre, and orb, CIVITAS. CANTOR. Reverse, the arms and cross, with TC. a large rose the mint-mark. Another CIVITAS. DVRHAM. a crescent the mint-mark. Whether any of those with the name and titles, ascribed to Henry the Seventh, do belong to this King, can only be determined by the initial letters of the Bishops, which those who have the opportunity to examine a great number of these pieces may perhaps be able to ascertain.

The portcullis Farthings, by the statute, were to have on the reverse a rose, but I have never seen or heard of any such: but there are Farthings having on one side the portcullis, and on the other the cross and pellets, which probably were coined in their stead.

His Shilling was called Testoon, [Le Blanc, xi. 259.] from the Italian, because it had the King's head upon it, wherein this King seems to ahve imitated the French, who, in 1513, coined pieces of that denomination; but much more properly called Shillings, as in his father's time, from their value, and therefore by [t]his name they were ever afterwards known. These Shillings, of fine silver, have his half face, like his first Groats, and CIVITAS. EBORACI. on the reverse, instead of POSVI, &C.

Another Shilling, in his thirty-fourth year, has his bust, with a full face, and crowned; HENRICVS. 8. DEI. GRA. AGL. FRA. ET. HIB. REX. Reverse, the double rose crowned between HR. crowned, POSVI. DEVM. ADIVTOREM. MEVM. These were afterwards intolerably debased.

His Tournay Groat, struck there when he took that city, anno 1513, exactly resembles the English Groat of his first coinage; HENRIC. DI. GRA. REX. FRANC. Z. AGL. Reverse, the arms and cross, CIVITAS. TORNACEN. a Saxon T. crowned for the mint-mark.

Another has the arms crowned, HENRIC. 8. DI. GRA. FRANC. Z. ANGLIE. R. Reverse, the old rose and cross, with the double rose in the centre, CIVITAS. TORNACENSIS. 1513. This was the last Money coined by any of our Kings in France.

There is likewise a Crown Piece of silver of this King, which, like the Shilling of his father, seems only a design for such a Coin, and in the nature of a Medal, upon occasion of his taking upon him the title of supreme head of the church; and thereby disclaiming the Pope's authority, which was afterwards, in 1545, commemorated by a noble medallion, [Evelyn, p. 88.] the reason perhaps, why these Crown Pieces were not made current, and are now such great rarities. This famous Crown has his demy-full figure, the face a little inclined to the left, crowned, and holding in his right hand a drawn sword, resting upon his shoulder, and in his left the orb with the cross, as ready to defend his dominion and faith by the sword; HENRIC. 8. DEI. GRACIA. ANGLIE. FRANCI. Z. HIBERN. REX. Reverse, the arms crowned, and supporters like his later sovereign. ANGLICE. Z. HIBERNICE. ECCLESIE. SVPREMVM. CAPVT. the same title as upon his great seal, the King, by authority of parliament, [St. 26 H. 8, cap. 1.] in 1534, being declared supreme head of the church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia. By the title of King of Ireland upon this crown, it appears not to have been coined till after January, in his thirty-third year, when he was proclaimed King in Ireland.

In Ireland [Irish Hist. lib. p. 164. Thor. 260.] he coined new Groats, Twopences, and Pennies, in his thirty-second year, which were not to be exported into England, under the forefeiture of treble the value, with fine and imprisonment. These have on one side the King's arms, divided by the old cross, and crowned with an arched crown, consisting of crosses and fleurs de lis; HENRIC. VIII. D. G. R. AGL. Z. Reverse, a harp crowned between HR. crowned; FRANCI, or FRANCIE. DOMINVS. HIBERNIE.

The next year he assumed the title of King of Ireland, which was proclaimed the twenty-third of Janary 1542, in his thirty-third year. After which time we have Groats like the former, but coarser metal, and with a different epigraphe; HENRIC. VIII. DI. GRACIA. ANGLIE. Reverse, FRANCIE. ET. HIBERNIE. REX.

In his thirty-sixth year was an indenture [Mint-Books.] with Martin Bowes, and others, for making two manner of monies for Ireland, eight ounces fine silver, and four ounces allay, which was one ounce coarser than the English of the same year: Sixpences Irish at Fourpence, the pound to contain a hundred and forty-four; and Threepences at Twopence, two hundred and eighty-eight to the pound. One of the Sixpences weight one pennyweight sixteen grains, which was the exact weight of an English Groat. These exactly resemble his English bad Money, having his head crowned, a little inclining to the left, HENRIC. 8. D. G. AGL. FRA. Z. HIB. REX. in Roman characters. Reverse, the arms divided by the old cross, CIVITAS. DVBLINE. a P. the mint-mark.

Some of these have H. I. for Henry and Jane, H. A. for Henry and Anne, and H. K. for Henry and Katherine.


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