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The Gold Coins of England

Robert Lloyd Kenyon, 1884
Henry III (1216-1272)

Table of Contents

HENRY III, 1216 TO 1272.

From the end of the 9th century there was no gold coinage either in England or in any of the neighbouring countries till the reign of Henry III. The gold bezants of the Greek Empire, and the gold coins struck during the 9th and 10th centuries by the Arabic princes in Sicily, were probably used more or less in mercantile transactions all over Europe, and are found occasionally in this country, but they had no legal currency here and were probably accepted merely as bullion. In the middle of the 13th century, however—an age of revolutions and of new ideas all over the world—a native gold coinage was almost simultaneously adopted by the European nations. The first gold “Florin” was issued by the republic of Florence in 1252. Louis IX introduced gold coins in France, and the Emperor Frederick II in his kingdom of Naples, and at about the same time the same innovation took place in England. On the 16th of August, 1257, a writ dated at Chester was issued commanding the Mayor of London to proclaim in that city that “the Gold Money which the king had caused to be made should be immediately current there and elsewhere within the realm of England, in all transactions of buying and selling, at the rate of 20 pennies of sterlings (i.e., 20 silver pennies) for every gold penny.” The times, however, were by no means favourable to the issue of pieces of a denomination so much higher than had been previously known. The kingdom was in a very disturbed state; the “mad parliament,” by which the king was practically deposed, was to meet the next year, and so great distress prevailed throughout the country that a quarter of wheat, the average price of which was about 7s, is said to have sold this year for as much as 24s. Accordingly, on the 4th of November in the same year, the City of London petitioned against these coins, and the king had to issue another proclamation that no one was obliged to take them, and that whoever did might bring them to his Exchange, and receive there the value at which they had been made current, deducting only a halfpenny for each piece. The coins nevertheless continued to be current, and are mentioned in several records down to the year 1270; and in 1265, the year of Montfort’s Parliament, their value was raised by proclamation from 20 to 24 pence; probably equivalent in purchasing power to £2. 10s at the present day. It is not likely that any great number of these coins was ever struck, and being unpopular and, from their high value, inconvenient, they would soon be melted down, a process which would be greatly facilitated by the fact that they were of pure gold, without alloy of any kind; and this will account for their being at present of extreme rarity, only three or four specimens being known. The type is, obv. the king crowned, in royal robes, seated on his throne, holding a sceptre in his right hand, an orb in his left; the legend, HENRIC REX III, is interrupted both at top and bottom by the king’s figure, and the cross on the orb separates the H in Henric from the E. Rev, a cross of double limbs, each botone, extending nearly to the edge of the coin, as on the silver pennies of 1248, a pellet in the centre of the cross, and a rose surrounded by three pellets in each angle; a beaded inner circle; legend, WILLEM ON LVND. MB. Rud. Suppl. pl. vi. 18. Or with the arms and legs of the throne formed by pellets instead of straight lines, legend WILLEM ON LVNDE. MB. Num. Chron. N. S., iii. 190 The weight of both these coins is 45 1/5 grains. One of them was bought for £41. l0s. See woodcut on title page. Another, reading LVNDEN, sold at Capt. Murchi son’s sale in 1864 for £140. Mr. J. Evans has a fourth specimen, reading LVND, and having a hole through the field, which was formerly Mr. Cuff’s and Mr. Wigan’s. They are the last English gold coins on which the name of a moneyer appears, and are the only ones which have been struck of pure gold. The amount of gold contained in them is about of that in a modern sovereign, but their purchasing power may be considered equal to that of £2 or in £2. 10s of our present money.

Introduction | Table of Contents | Edward III (1327-1377)

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