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An Historical Account of English Money, 3rd Edition

Stephen Martin Leake, Esq, 1793
William I and William II

Table of Contents

William I. called the Conqueror, A. D. 1066.
and
William II. surnamed Rufus, A. D. 1087.

[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.]

There seems to have been a great deal of Money coined by the Conqueror, for he is said [Daniel's Hist. of England, in Kennet, fol. Lond. 1719, Notes.] to have left at his death sixty thousand pounds in Money (a prodigious sum in those days), besides jewels, gold, and plate: nevertheless, Mr. Thoresby tells us, [Thoresby's Musaeum, p. 349.] that his utmost diligence could procure but one of either King's, till anno 170¾, that a nest of them was found at York, after a fire, in digging up the foundation for a new edifice, when two hundred and fifty were found in a small oak box, the greater part of one of the Williams. But since that time, by the industry of our English antiquaries, they are become more plenty, and there appears a greater variety than was ever thought of. This has made it more difficult than before, to place them properly, there being no certain rule to distinguish the father's from the son's; for it is generally agreed they have no numerals, and that what has been taken for such, are only imperfect letters. There are indeed two sorts, one with the full face, and another with the side face: the most probable opinion seems to be, that the former [Musaeum, p. 349.] are the Conqueror's, because they are most plenty, for he reigned nigh as long again as his son Rufus, and had greater occasions for Money; and there are some of this sort with the sword and two sceptres, which are undoubtedly his. Of those with the full face, some have the head terminated by the inner circle, others a larger bust, extending to the edge of the Coin, if that makes any difference. So those with the side face, are some looking to the right, others to the left; and these half faces having been found with Harold's, have led some to think them the Conqueror's. In this case, we must admit both sorts of the Conqueror, if not of Rufus, which makes the difficulty still greater to resolve; we must therefore leave it as we find it, for I am not willing to reject a probable opinion, without substituting a better in the room of it.

Both father and son are circumscribed PILLEM, PILEMV, or PILLEMVS, REX, REXA, AN, ANGLO, or ANGLOR; though the Conqueror, on his great seal, [See Speed's Hist. of England, and Sandford's Genealogical History.] writes himself WILLELMVS, and Rufus WILIELMVS, imitating the Confessor, who used P (the Saxon W) upon his Coins, though not upon his seal. The head or bust is full faced, with a beard, though William of Malmesbury (and Stow, and others from him) pronounce him beardless. But however the fashion was in Normandy, he is always represented upon his English Money with a beard. On some Coins the bust terminates at the inner circle, but most commonly extends to the edge of the Coin. The head is crowned, but different from their great seals, where the Conqueror's (something like the Confessor's) is rather a helmet with a circle or coronet of three rays, having pearls on the points cross-wise, and between th rays fleurs de lis: and that of Rufus, on his great seal, is a radiated or eastern crown, with pearls upon the points, like our Earl's coronets: whereas on their Coins they have a like coronet, consisting of a diadem or circle, with a fillet or string of pearl in the middle (calle [Selden's Titles of Hnonour, fol. Lond. 1631, p. 172.] the royal fillet by the Saxons) and three rays with a pearl on each point, being a mixture of the crowns of former Kings, which were various, some times only the royal fillet or diadem, as Harold, Cnut, Hardi-Cnut; sometimes the radiated crown, as Edward, Edmund Ironside, and Edward the Confessor on some of his Coins, though on others, a helmet, a crown fleuri, or pearls upon points, if we are not mistaken in some attributed to that Prince. Mr. Selden [p. 172.] describes the Conqueror crowned with a pearled diadem, labels at each ear, and something like an arch that goes across the head: but this arch is only the folds of the cap, the crown of the head or helmet, which appears sometimes like one arch, and sometimes like two: what he calls the label is like the drop of an ear-ring on some Coins, appearing pendant from the ears, on others from the crown, and are sometimes wanting. One sort has the Conqueror with a sword in his hand, another with a sceptre; one with two sceptres; some without either, as will be afterwards more particularly described. The reverse of all have some device of a cross, said [Camden's Remains, Stow.] to be so deeply impressed, that they might be easily parted, and broken into two halves, which, so broken, they called Half-pence, and into four parts, they called Fourthings, or Farthings. Stow calls it a double cross, in such a manner, that it might be easily broken; and Hoveden says, [In Britannia, p. 177.] this practice continued till Henry the First. This (if true) was a pretty device to destroy the Coin; for the Penny being, by necessity, commonly broken for change, was no longer a Coin, and liable to be counterfeited with impunity, melted down, or lost. But, had this been the practice, we should hardly have had any in our collections at this day: Besides, the story of the cross being made double, or so deeply impressed for the conveniency of breaking the Penny into halves and quarters, is disproved by the Coins now exant, whereon the crosses generally terminate at the inner circle, and instead of being impressed, are imbossed, which prevents their being broken equally: nor is there anything like it, till Henry the Third made a double cross upon his Penny, who likewise coined smaller pieces. The cross upon the Money was the common badge of christianity, which had been used ever since the conversion of the Saxons, and was practiced by all the christian Princes. As the Saxons had small Monies, why might not the two first Williams have had the same? though none have come to our knowledge, for very few remain of our latter Kings', whom we know coined great quantities of them.

The cross upon the reverse of these Pennies is circumscribed with the name of the mint-master, and place of coinage, as London, Canterbury, EO, or EOFER, York; LOYNC, Lancaster; Exeter, Lincoln, PINC, Winchester; DEOTFOVRD, Thetford, Bristow, Oxenford, Gloucester, RVFFA, Rochester, &c. The most remarkable of these I shall describe particularly, placing them, or misplacing them, by conjecture.

The first [listed in Spink as 1259 and of William II] has the King's head full faced and crowned, the bust extending to the edge of the Coin, holding a naked sword erect in his right hand, PILLEM REX. Reverse, within a compartment or rose of four leaves, a cross patè, with a large pellet in the centre, and four lesser in the quarters, at the points of the rose. This we may place with pretty good assurance to the Conqueror. [TreasureRealm: This coin is listed in Spink as 1259 under William II rather than William I]

Another, PILLEM REX ANGLOR, his bust terminating at the inner circle, holding a sceptre in his right hand, surmounted with a cross patè, or holy cross, as we see upon the orb on his great seal, and also upon the Confessor's Money, and another sceptre in his left hand, with three pellets, or pearls, crosswise at the point; both which sceptres may be seen upon the Saxon Coins. Reverse, a cross with four sceptres bottone or pomette in the quarters, in from of an escarbuncle. As Rufus has no pretence to two sceptres, which his father had, this is no doubt ascribed to the Conqueror. [TreasureRealm: This coin is listed in Spink as 1253, but with legend ending ANGLO.]

PILLEMV REX. The larger bust, under a canopy supported by two pillars, but without sword or sceptre. This is likewise thought to be the Conqueror's. [TreasureRealm: This is Spink 1252 but with legend PILLEMVS REX.]

The most common sort have the larger bust, extending to the edge of the Coin, and a star, or mullet, of six points, on either side of the head, PILLEM REX. Reverse a cross of double lines, with something like a nail in each quarter, which are thought to allude to the cross and nails of our Saviour; the heads of the nails, where they are perfect, appear like rings, which perhaps was a particular sort used for such purposes. On the centre of the cross, an annulet. [TreasureRealm: This type is listed in Spink as 1260 under William II and is called the Voided Cross type with no reference to nails.]

PILLEM REX. This has the larger bust, with a long thin face, very different from the former. In the King's right hand a sceptre fleuri, and on his left side a flower, such a one as we see upon Rufus's great seal. The reverse has a cross fleuri, with an ornament in the quarters like leaves. [TreasureRealm: This is Spink 1262 under William II.]

PILLEM REX AN. faving the smaller bust, with a star, or mullet, of six points, on each side the head. Reverse, a square figure, with a pellet at each point, surmounted by a cross bottone. This Speed and others, in conformity to him, place to Rufus. [TreasureRealm: This is Spink 1254 and is placed with William I rather than William II.]

Another has an annulet on each side of the head instead of the mullet. Reverse, the cross, with three pellets in triangle, and the nails in the quarters. [TreasureRealm: This type is not listed in Spink.]

Another ascribed to Rufus, PILLELM REX, holding with his right hand, on the left side, a scepter of an uncommon length, and particular form, with a cross patè on the top. [TreasureRealm: This is most likely the Paxs type of William I rather than William II, and is listed in Spink as 1257, though some doubt as to it's attribution there exists.]

Those with the side-face and sceptre, are some looking to the right, others to the left, PILLEMV REX. On some of these the crown appears to be arched, the arches being composed of pearls, and the sceptre having three pearls in cross at the point. Some have likewise the figure I, so very distinct, upon so fair a Coin, that it cannot be suspected to be an imperfect letter, or a flip of the dye, though perhaps an error or fancy of the graver. Had it been designed as a numeral, to distinguish the Conqueror's from Rufus's Coins, it would have been found upon all of them; whereas it is now only seen upon some few accidental pieces; nor was the number added to the name upon the Money, till three hundred years afterwards, except by Henry the Third.

Stow [Survey of London, 1720, lib. 1. p. 82.] mentions Pennies of the Conqueror, inscribed LE REY WILAM, which some of our antiquaries think rather belong to William the First of Scotland: but why a King of Scotland should speak French upon his Money, rather than the Conqueror, who brought that language in use amongst us, I do not understand; especially, as, (if I am not mistaken) there is no instance of the like upon the Scotch Money. It is certainly more natural to the Norman, who perhaps coined these pieces in Normandy; and the more probable, because one which I have seen was beardless, which was the Norman fashion. Another sort is inscribed WILLELMVS REX, ascribed likewise to the Scotch William; but this, as well as the former, have the mint-master's name upon the reverse, which the Scotch Coins had not; and it is not very certain that William the First of Scotland coined any Money.

There is likewise a Penny of Robert, eldest son of the Conqueror, and after him Duke of Normandy, RODBERTVS.--The Princeon horseback, with a large sword in his hand, and a strange kind of ornament upon his head, which seems designed for mantling, or lambrequins, anciently worn upon the helmet, as well for ornament, as to keep off the sun. Reverse, a cross potent, with sceptres fleuri in the quarters; and in place of the inscription, flowers, crescents, &c.

These Pennies were the largest, and (if there were no smaller pieces) the only species of Money coined in these times, or long afterwards; for gold they had none of their own, though I have lately heard of a piece of gold of the Conqueror, exactly resembling the silver Penny. The novelty of this piece made it justly suspected, especially when being assayed, it was found no better than our present standard; though had it been of the old standard, it could have been esteemed no other than the fancy of the minter, to strike a piece of gold with the silver stamp, as we sometimes see in Shillings with the Guinea stamp, and Farthings in silver; for it is certain we had no gold Money coined in England till Edward the Third. [TreasureRealm: This is incorrect as there was a gold penny of Henry III, which, though unpopular, was current. See also Kenyon's Gold Coins, Henry III.]

The gold Money in use at this time was Bezants: For the Bishop of Norwich, [Camden's Remains, p. 236.] in the reign of Edward the Third, was condemned to pay a Byzantine to the Abbot of St. Edmundsbury, for encroaching upon his liberty, as it was enacted by Parliament in the time of the Conqueror. They likewise seem to have had Florins, though they are said [Davenzati's Discourse.] not to have been coined till the Year 1252, by the Florentines, when they defeated the forces of Siena at Mount Alcina. But the History of Normandy tells us, [Lib. 6. ch. 54, p. 79, in Le Blanc, p. 147.] the Duke, anno 1067, gave to those who were sent to him from Harold, a courser, a robe, and four florins of gold.

These florins [Le Blanc, 154, 194, 201, 204.] had on the one side a large fleur de lys, and round it FLORENTIA. On the other side the figure of St. John Babtist, patron of the city of Florence, from whence the Money had its name and original; though others [Davenzati's Discourse, p. 12.] think it was so called from the flower de luce, which by allusion shews it to be Florentine, as a rose did Rhodian Money. It was of fine gold, eight to the ounce, and became celebrated all over Europe, so that there hardly was a christian Prince, but struck pieces of this sort. By this means the name of Florin was given to all gold Coin: but afterwards, being coined in different places, and of different values, the name of the place was added, by way of distinction, as Florins of Florence, Florins of Venice, Florins of France, which latter had FRANCIA, instead of Florentia; but those of Florence retaining their purity, were universally esteemed in France as well as England, till our first gold Money was coined, which from them was called a Florin, or Florence.


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