Upon the death of King William IV. on the 20th June, 1837, his niece the Princess Victoria ascended the
throne, and, in due time, orders were issued to prepare a new coinage formed upon the same
principles as that of the preceding reign, and of the same denominations. Upon the whole series the
bust of the queen is represented turned to the left, the head is bound with a double fillet, and the hair
gracefully collected into a knot behind. The likeness of her Majesty is excellent, and is copied from a
model in wax taken from the life by Mr. Wyon, the chief engraver to the Mint, and by whom the dies
are engraved with admirable taste and skill.
The Half-Crown has the bust, marked on the truncation with W. W. the artist's initials; and has the
legend VICTORIA DEI GRATIA with the date below, 1839. The reverse has a square shield, crowned,
between two branches of laurel, charged with the royal arms; the colours expressed. 1. and 4.
England. 2. Scotland. 3. Ireland. The dominion of Hanover having passed to the heirs male of the late
king, the arms of that kingdom, which had before been borne upon an escutcheon of pretence, are of
course omitted. The legend is BRITANNIARVM REGINA. FID. DEF. Underneath is an ornament
composed of the rose, thistle and shamrock. The reverse dies are engraved by Merlin, assistant
engraver at the Mint, and are executed with great skill, delicacy and precision in the minute details.
The edge is milled. These pieces have as yet been struck only with the dates 1839. 1840. Two years
elapsed between the queen's accession to the throne and the issuing of the first half-crown, a delay
occasioned partly because coins of other denominations were more wanted for the general currency
of the country, but chiefly because the artist was supplied with dies which, either from some original
defect or improper management in the subsequent process, were destroyed in the hardening, so that
at least eight original dies of the obverse of the half-crowns were successively engraved before one
could be prepared for use.
Shillings: The head of the queen upon the shilling is exactly the same as that upon the half-crown,
except that the end of the locks drawn back from the front are not platted, and the truncation is not
marked with the initials of the artist's name. The legend is VICTORIA DEI GRATIA BRITANNIAR: REG: F:
D: The reverse has the inscription ONE SHILLING, between two branches, one of oak, the other of
laurel, the crown above, the date below. The edge is milled. It occurs of the dates 1838. 1839. 1840.
These pieces are very neatly executed, but no opportunity should be lost of protesting against the
decree of those in authority that our coins shall not upon the reverse exhibit any design, which can
enable an artist to exhibit his taste and skill; or that can be creditable to a nation which talks much of
artistical education and establishes schools of design, and yet, in the great work of its coinage, does
not merely neglect, but discourages and depresses, art.
Sixpences: These display the same beautiful head of the queen, the same beautiful workmanship and
the same skilful execution of the reverse, with its poverty of design, which mark the shillings; in type
they exactly resemble them, except that the inscription reads SIX PENCE instead of ONE SHILLING.
These pieces occur of the dates 1838. 1839. 1840.
Groats: The head of the queen upon these pieces is the same as upon the shillings. The legend is
VICTORIA D: G: BRITANNIAR: REGINA: F: D: The reverse, as well as the obverse, is executed by W.
Wyon, and exactly resembles that of the groats of the preceding reign. These pieces occur of the
dates 1838. 1839. 1840.
Maundy Money: The queen's portrait upon these pieces, and also the legend, is exactly the same as
upon the groats just described. The reverses are precisely the same as those of the late king. They
occur of the dates 1838. 1839. 1840. None of these monies were originally intended for circulation,
but, as coin of a low denomination was thought convenient for use in Jamaica, a considerable number
of the three-pences and half-groats were exported to that Island and issued for currency.
There were also small pieces of similar design, both of the last and present reign, having the figures
1½ within the oak wreath, intended to circulate for three-halfpence in the Island of Ceylon, but
as this description of money belongs to the colonial series, it has not any proper connexion with the
No crown pieces have hitherto been struck in this reign; a very beautiful model has been made by the
chief engraver, and has received the royal sanction, but defective dies, or improper treatment of them
in hardening, have again destroyed the labours of the artist. Thus is the time wasted and the spirit
depressed of one of the most skilful and elegant artists, which this country has ever possessed; it is
however in vain to expect any improvement while the affairs of the Mint are committed to some
political adherent who holds the situation with some other office whose duties are considered more
important, and which imperatively claim the whole of his time and attention. The fault is in the
system, not in the individual, who either now or at any former time may have held the office.
William IV |
Table of Contents |