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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England

Table of Contents


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 present work.

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 | Mint Marks

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