This King is said to be the first that called in the Easterlings, to reduce the silver Money to its due fineness, from
whence it had the name of sterling; but, as I have obvserved before, sterling was the known and approved standard in
England, in all probability, from the beginning of King Henry the Second's reign. But King John was
undoubtedly the first who introduced sterling Money in Ireland. In the year 1210, says Stow, in the month of
June the King led an army into Ireland, expulsed Hugh Lacy, and brought all Ireland under his
subjection. This was in his eleventh year, when John de Grey, [Mat: Paris, ad Ann. 1210. Holingshed, p. 174.] (Bishop
of Norwich, and Lord Justice of Ireland) by the King's command, caused Pence and Farthings (Stow [p. 168.]
says both Halfpence and Farthings) to be stamped, of the same weight and fineness with those of England, which had an
equal currency in both kingdoms. King John made the standard of Irish Money equal to the English, at the
same time that he published the laws of England and required the execution of them, in his new erected counties in that
These Pence and Halfpence have his head full-faced, with a crown fleuri, (whereas that on his great seal has rays like an eastern crown) holding in his right hand a sceptre, with a cross flory like leaves, and on the other side a rose, or flower, with four leaves, all within a triangle, intended to represent the Irish harp, circumscribed, JOHANNES, or IOHANNES REX. Reverse, within a like triangular harp, a crescent, and blazing star or planet, (aw we see upon his brother Richard's first great seal) and three lesser stars in the angles, each point of the triangle terminating in a cross patè, and the like cross on each side, above the legend, ROBERD ON DIVE. Divelin or Dublin.
There is another piece of John's Irish Money, or rather Money coined in Ireland, the head and reverse both resembling the English Money, having his head full faced, without the triangle, but with the title of Dominus Hiberniae; and reverse, a cross with an annulet in each quarter. King Henry, his father, in a parliament at Oxford, granted him the kingdom of Ireland; and in the annals of Ireland we read, that Johannes, Filius Regis, Dominus Hiberniae, (as he stiles himself also upon his seal) de dono patris, venit in Hiberniam, anno aetatis suoe duodecimo, which will fall in the twenty-fifth year of his father's reign, anno 1178. Upon this occasion, no doubt, he asserted his prerogative of coining Money, stiling himself Dominus Hiberniae; which title being granted to him, neither his father nor brother used. But John retained it after he was King, being the first that used that title.
The Coins that have been hitherto found of King John, are all Irish, but we must not therefore conclude he coined no Money in England. If King Richard exhausted the wealth of the nation, and coined very little Money, there was the greater need of it in the reign of his successor. Stow observes, that in his seventh year, the Penny was so sore clipped, there was no remedy but to have it renewed. Now, there was no mint erected in Ireland till the latter end of his eleventh, or the beginning of his twelfth year; and it is not likely the nation should suffer this inconvenience near five years longer, till his conquest of Ireland, and then that bullion should be sent thither to be coined, and afterwards sent back again in Money for the use of England; for that this Irish Money was to be equally current in both was the natural consequence of its being made of equal weight and fineness with the English, not that it was coined, as English Money, for the use of England: nor is it probable the mints in England should stand still for eighteen years that this King reigned, especially the Bishop's mints; for in his sixth year is a grant [Claus, 6 Joh. m. 3. in Blount's Law Dict. Verb. Cuneum Monetae.] of this privilege to the Bishop of Chichester; sciatis quod concessimus venerabli patri nostro Cicester Episcopo, quod habeat cuneum suum in civitate Cicestriae, &c. teste, 29 April. Many others claimed the same privilege. And, according to Stow, [Survey of Lond. Strype's Edit. vol. 1. lib. 1. p. 83.] in the ninth of King John there was, besides the mint at London, other mints at Canterbury, Winchester, Chichester, Exeter, Rochester, Ipswich, Norwich, Linne, Lincoln, York, Carlisle, Northampton, Oxford, St. Edmundsbury, and Durham. The reason why we do not find English, as well as Irish Coins, may be, that there was but little coined in the English mints. And the clippers, who were very notorious in England, were not so bad, or hardly known in Ireland; whereby some of the latter escaped, though in such small quantities, that even an Irish Coin of King John's is a very great rarity.