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The Gold Coins of England

Robert Lloyd Kenyon, 1884
Commonwealth (1648-1660)

Table of Contents

COMMONWEALTH, 1648 to 1660.

On the 6th of February, 1648 what then remained of the House of Commons voted that the House of Peers was useless and dangerous and ought to be abolished, and on the 7th that the kingly office was unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous, and ought to be abolished. The bills carrying out these resolutions were not declared to be statutes till the 17th and 19th of March, but on the 13th the House ordered that money of gold and silver should be coined with its own style and authority, and the type and inscription were settled by a resolution of the 25th of April and an Act of the 17th of July, 1649. This alteration Sir Robert Harley, master of the mint, refused to carry out, and he was accordingly removed, as well as other officers of the mint who refused either to deliver up their patents from the late king or to accept new ones; and Dr. Aaron Guerdain was appointed master of the mint.

The new coins were all of crown gold, and consisted of pieces of 20s, 10s, and 5s, all bearing the same device, from the appearance of which they got the name of “breeches money.” The weight of the Unite was 140 ½ grs., and the others in proportion. They all have on the obverse a shield bearing St. George's Cross, with a sprig of laurel to the right, and of palm to the left, with the inscription THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND; and on the reverse two shields, one bearing the cross of St. George, the other the harp, touching at the top, within an inner circle, numerals indicating the value above the shields. Legend GOD WITH VS, and the date above. The mint-mark is always a sun or an anchor, and is placed on the obverse only. Coins with the anchor mint-mark are rare.

UNITES. MM sun, .XX. above shields on rev., dot after every word, before The, and after date. 1649, Rud. xiv. 4. 1650, 1651, 1652, 1653 with no dot after VS or THE (or with dot, EVANS), 1654 and 1656 like 1649, 1657; there are two dies of this last date, the principal difference being in the shape of the laurel branch. The dots, &c. are as in 1649. MM anchor, 1660, otherwise as 1649. (126) All in MB. except that of 1654, which is in Mr. Evans’s collection.

DOUBLE CROWN. MM sun, .X. above shield otherwise as first Unite. 1649, 1650 (127), 1651 no dot before or after obv. legend, 1652 and 1653 like 1649. MM anchor, 1660, otherwise as 1649. Rud. xiv. 5. All in MB.

BRITAIN CROWN. MM sun, .V. above shields, no dot before or after obv. legend, otherwise as first Unite, 1649. 1650 with dots (128) 1651 with no stops on obv. 1652, as 1649, or with no stops on obv. and reading ENGLAN. 1653, as 1651. 1654, dot after every word and before legend on both sides of the coin. MM anchor, no stops on obv., ENGLAN, 1658, Rud. xiv. 6, 1660. All in MB. except that of 1654, which is in Mr. Evans’s collection.

On the 23rd February, 1656-7, the proposal was made to the House of Commons, which was afterwards carried, to offer to the Protector the title of King; and on the 4th February, 1657-8, the Protector dissolved his last Parliament after a 16 days’ Session, because it was not submitting to his authority. The idea of exalting the personal authority of Cromwell was therefore rife in those years; and this may explain the fact that in 1656 and 1658 the officers of the mint struck some 20s pieces, as well as some silver coins, with Cromwell’s head on one side and a shield crowned on the other side. They were beautifully engraved by Simon, and were made with the mill and screw which were now re-introduced; and upon them the name and title of OLIVAR D. G. R. P. ANG. SCO. ET. HIB &c PRO (Protector of the Republic of England, &c.) takes the place of the name of the Commonwealth; but he appears never to have ventured to put them into circulation, and they therefore do not come within the design of this book as current coins. Those of 1656 did not occur in the trial of the Pix made on the 3rd December, 1657, as they would have done if they had been then current; and there was but little time to put those of 1658 into circulation before the death of the Protector, which took place on the 3rd September in that year. They are not mentioned in the proclamation of 1661, which called in all coins stamped with the name of the Commonwealth.

Unite. Double Cr. Brit. Cr.
Sun, 1649 + + +
Sun, 1650 + + +
Sun, 1651 + + +
Sun, 1652 + + +
Sun, 1653 + + +
Sun, 1654 Evans Evans
Sun, 1656 +
Sun, 1657 ++
Anchor, 1658 +
Anchor, 1660 + + +

Charles I (1625-1648) | Table of Contents | Charles II (1660-1684)

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