The unsettled state of the nation during King Stephen's reign, may be discovered by the Money. It began to improve under
Henry the First, but now grew worse, that [William Malmsbury, anno 1140.] scarce one piece in ten was good. It is no
wonder then, that it is so great a rarity to have a fair Coin of King Stephen. There seems, however, to have been a great
deal of Money coined of some sort or other; for besides the mints in every chief town, which paid an acknowledgement [English
Hist. lib. p. 251.] pro cuneis monetae accipiendis, that is, for their dyes or stamps, every [Camden's Remains, 238. Stow's
Annals from Hoveden, 146, 147.] Bishop and Baron usurped this prerogative, and erected a mint, and had each his own Coin: But
[Stow, p. 146, 147, from Hoveden.] in the month of May 1149, Henry the Empress's son, (afterwards King Henry
the Second) coming into England, with a great company of chosen men of arms, and others, many castles and strong holds were
delivered, and he made a new Coin, which was called the Duke's Coin; and afterwards (I suppose when he was King) the Duke
did inhibit the most part of these Coins.
The Abbot [Somner's Antiq. of Cant. 4to. Lond. 1640, p. 54, 55.] of St. Augustine in Canterbury, in right of his abbatie, had cuneum monetae, allowance of mintage and coinage of Money, by the grant of King Athelstan, which continued until the time of King Stephen, and then was utterly lost. Silvester, the 45th Abbot, who died anno 1161, being the last Abbot that enjoyed it. As all these little mints were of short continuance, and the Money coined therein soon called in, we hardly know what they were.
The Pennies of King Stephen are of two sorts, one with the full, or rather side-face, shewing both eyes; the other sort in profile, of which some look to the right and some to the left, holding in his hand a sceptre fleuri, and on his head a crown fleuri, appearing sometimes with one arch, and sometimes with two arches, and a fleur de lis in the middle; but whether these were really intended for arches, is uncertain; they rather seem to owe their form to the fault of the workman, or else he meant to express the cap or covering of the head; for upon his great seal he has an open crown fleuri.
These Pennies are inscribed STIEFN REX, being commonly mis-spelt. Reverse, a double cross pelletè at the points, terminating at the inner circle, within a compartment or rose of four leaves, the points fleuri in each quarter of the cross, and coined at London.
That in Speed is something singular, having his figure in profile, looking to the left, holding in his hand a spear, with a streamer or standard slit at the end, and charged with a cross, pretty much like what we see upon his great seal. This streamer [Sandford, p. 18.] is never to be found on seals, but upon those of sovereign Princes; under the standard is a star, which we may likewise see upon his great seal.
Another has two small figures standing, and looking towards each other, supposed to be Stephen and Henry, supporting between them a figure, like the stem of a tree, with a fleur de lis at the top, STEP. Reverse, a cross fleuri, with the nails in the quarters, and in the place of the inscription, figures and other devices.
Another said [Eng. Hist. Lib. p. 252.] to have two angels, is more probably the two figures as the former, STIEFEN RE. with a reverse like the First William's.
Mr. Thoresby [Thoresby, p. 131.] mentions a coin of Eustatius, son to King Stephen, who died before him, EISTAOHIVS; instead of a head, the figure of a horse, and on the reverse, a large cross of flowers de lys, that fills the area, without any inscription.
Another of Eustatius, has his figure standing sideways, holding a broad sword erect before him, and behind him a star, having an ornament or covering upon his head, as before described upon Prince Robert's Coin, EVSTACIVS. Reverse, a pellet in each quarter of a cross, within a compartment of four leaves, EBORACI ED TS. This Prince [Drake's Antiq. of York, Append. cvii.] was sent by his father to York, a sort of Governor, in the dispute with Henry Murdoc, the twenty-ningth Bishop of that see, who obtained it without King Stephen's consent; and being refused entrance into York, returned to Beverly, where he thundered out his Anathema's, and interdicted the whole city. Eustace being then at York, and not able to persuade the Archbishop to take it off, by his own authority caused proclamation to be made, that all divine offices should be performed as usual. It is probable these pieces were struck during this time of his government.