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The Gold Coins of England

Robert Lloyd Kenyon, 1884
James I (1603-1625)

Table of Contents

JAMES I, 1603 TO 1625.

The union of the two crowns by the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England, on the 24th of March, 1602-3, is commemorated in various ways upon his money. His first coinage was struck by virtue of an indenture made with Sir R. Martyn, and dated the 21st of May, 1603, and was similar to that of the last two years of Elizabeth, except that the Scotch title was inserted in the legend, and that the shield, which had hitherto borne the arms of France in the first and fourth quarters, and those of England in the second and third, now bore, 1 and 4, France and England quarterly; 2, Scotland; 3, Ireland; and this arrangement was continued throughout the reign. This first coinage consisted of sovereigns, half-sovereigns, crowns, and half-crowns, all of which have for MM the Scotch thistle. They are made of “crown” gold, and are all rare.

On the 20th of October 1604, a proclamation was issued ordering the title of King of Great Britain, France and Ireland to be used on the coins, and on the 11th of November an indenture for a new coinage was made with Sir R. Martyn and his son. Crown gold was to be exclusively employed, and a pound weight of it was to be made into £37. 4s by tale. The pieces to be coined were, the Unite, at 20s; the double crown, at 10s; the Britain crown, at 5s; the Thistle crown, at 4s, and the half at 2s 6d; and they were made current on the 16th of the same month. The union of the kingdoms is referred to both in the names and in the legends of these coins. The Unite reads “Faciam eos in gentem unam,” from Ezek. xxxvii. 22. The Britain crown has “Henricus rosas regna Jacobus,” “Henry united the roses, but James unites the kingdoms ;“ and the Thistle crown, which is of a denomination never coined before or since, “Tueatur unita Deus,” “May God protect the united (kingdoms).”

To these coins were added next year, by an indenture of July 16th, 1605, some others of the old standard, namely Rose Rialls at 30s, Spur Rialls at 15s, and Angels at 10s. A pound of gold of the old standard was to be made into £40. 10s by tale.

By a proclamation of Nov. 23rd, 1611, the nominal value of all the gold coins was raised 2s in the £, so that the Unite was to pass for 22s, and the Rose Riall for 33s, and the others in proportion. The indenture, however, made in accordance with this proclamation on May 18th, 1612, made a slight increase in the weights of the coins, ordering a pound of crown gold to be made into £40. 18s 4d, and a pound of the old standard into £44. Not many coins were struck by virtue of this indenture, but the only half-angels made during the reign were now struck, though they are not mentioned in the indenture.

The values fixed for the coins in 1611 being found to be very inconvenient, a proclamation for a fourth coinage was issued on July 31st, 1619. The value of the coins now to be made was reduced to that which had been fixed in 1604 and 1605, and the denominations were to be the same, omitting Thistle crowns and Half-crowns; and the weight was reduced proportionally—that is to say, both weight and value were reduced by one-eleventh. As the new pieces were to be current simultaneously with the old ones to which they so nearly approached in weight and value, they were all made very different in type, so as to be easily distinguished. Those made of crown gold have the king’s head wreathed with laurel instead of being crowned, and were hence named by the people Laurels, and half or quarter Laurels. The Laurels were also called Broad Pieces. In 1623 the weight was again reduced, and the pound of crown gold was made into £41 by tale, and the pound of the old standard into £44. 10s. Sir R. Martyn, master of the mint, died in 1617, and was succeeded by Thomas Lord Knyvet and Edmund Doubleday, and they, in or before 1623, by Randal Cranfield, who was removed for misconduct in 1625.

Besides the above, the Scottish six-pound piece of gold was on April 8th, 1603, made current in England for 10s sterling. The French Crown of the Sun also continued to be current in this country. No legal value had been fixed for it since 1561, when it was ordered to be taken for 4s, but in 1610 it is said to have passed for 7s 3d.

The following is a description of the types of the various English coins above mentioned.

ROSE RYALS. 1605 to 1612. Value 30s or 33s. Weight 213 1/3 grs. Old Standard. These are similar in type to Queen Elizabeth’s sovereigns, but with some alterations. Obv. king seated on throne, crowned and robed, holding sceptre and globe, portcullis under his feet. The throne has a high narrow back, reaching above the king’s head nearly to the edge of the coin, the arms terminating in a column supporting a small ornament. Tressure of 19 arches round field within inner circle, each arch terminating in a trefoil. Both tressure and inner circle are interrupted by the portcullis and the back of the throne. Legend IACOBVS. D. G. MAG. BRIT. FRAN. ET. HIBER. REX. Dot each side of MM. Rev, upon a large double rose within a double tressure of ten arches is a square shield, bearing in the first and fourth quarter the arms of England and France, in the second Scotland, and in the third Ireland. Legend .A. DNO. FACTVM. EST. ISTVD. ET. EST. MIRAB. IN. OCVLIS. NRIS. MM rose. Rud. xii. 1. MB. Scallop, same. MB. Coronet, same, but omitting the dot after Brit. MB. Mullet, as coronet. MB.

1612 to 1619. Value 33s. Weight 216 grs. Old Standard. Exactly like that with MM coronet, except that they read OCV for Oculis. MM’s tower, trefoil. (95) MB. The trefoil seems to be struck over a tower. These do not now weigh more than the earlier ones, but the proper difference between them is so small, that perhaps it can hardly be expected to be now perceptible.

1619 to 1625. Value 30s. Weight 196 4/11 or 194 14/89 grs. Old Standard. These have quite a different type. Obv. king seated on throne, crowned and robed, wearing a ruff and the collar of the Garter, sceptre and globe in his hands, his feet resting on portcullis. The throne has a broad square flowered back which reaches nearly as high as the king’s crown, its sides jewelled, curved arms, field chequered and ornamented with roses and lis, within a beaded inner circle which is divided by the portcullis and the back of the throne. Rev, shield shaped like the last but much larger, upon cross fleury within two beaded circles, the inner one of which is cut by the ends of the cross. Between the two circles, in each quarter of the cross, is a lion between a lis and a rose. Above the shield XXX, to indicate the value. Legends IACOBVS D: G: MA BRI: FR: ET HIB: REX. Rev. A DNO: FACTVM EST ISTVD ET EST MIRAB: IN OC: NRIS. MM’s spur rowel (96) rose, thistle (Rud. xii. 5), lis, trefoil. MB. That with MM lis differs in having : after NRIS (as has the plate of Rud. xii. 5), and that with MM trefoil reads HI: and MIRA: and has no dot after NRIS, and the back of the throne is quite plain instead of being flowered.

SOVEREIGN, 1603-4. Value 20s. Weight 171 63/67 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Obv. king in profile to right, half length, crowned, in armour, sceptre in right hand, orb in left; the crown and top of sceptre pierce the beaded inner circle. Rev, square shield garnished, crowned, between I and R. The arms are arranged as on the Ryals. Legends .IACOBVS. D. G. ANG. SCO. FRAN. ET. HIB. REX. Rev. .EXVRGAT. DEVS. DISSIPENTVR. INIMICI. MM thistle. MB. Rud. xi. 1. Another with the same MM has the king’s figure larger and the armour more ornamented, and the face is perhaps rather older. (97) MB. The legend on the reverse is taken from Ps. lxviii. 1.

UNITE. 1604 to 1612. Value 20s or 22s. Weight 154 26/31 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Type like the sovereign. MM lis, figure as on the second sovereign, legends .IACOBVS. D. G. MAG. BRIT. FRAN. ET. HIB. REX. Rev. .FACIAM. EOS. IN. GENTEM. VNAM. Dot before the MM both on obv. and rev. MB. A similar coin, with MM thistle and a different figure of the king, is Scotch and not English. The Thistle mint-mark was superseded by the lis in England on the 22nd of May, 1604, and it was not till the 20th of Oct. 1604 that the title of King of Great Britain was ordered to be used on the coins. Some silver crowns and half-crowns do indeed seem to have been struck after this with the old mint-mark; but the Unite in question is further distinguished from English coins by the substitution of & for ET in the legend, and by the ornamentation of the crown both on obv. and rev., which is decorated, like the Scotch coins, with a lis between two crosses, instead of, like the English ones, with a cross between two lis. A shilling and other silver Scotch coins similar to this are noticed in Hawkins’s “Silver Coins of England,” second ed. p. 306. MM rose, like lis. Rud. xi. 5. MB. MM scallop, like lis but armour much plainer, falling collar with lace edge. MB. MM grapes. MONTAGU. MM coronet, same as scallop but HI. for Hib. MB. MM key, like coronet but no dot before or after obv. legend. MB. MM bell, like scallop but FRA. ET. HI., no dot after Rex. MB. MM mullet, like scallop but FRA., no dot after Rex or Unam or before Faciam. MB.

1612 to 1619. Value 22s. Weight 154 418/491 grs. Fineness 22 cts. MM tower, type like MM scallop, but reading BRI. FRA. ET. HI. MB. MM trefoil. MONTAGU. MM cinquefoil, face and collar different, and reading .IACOBVS. D. G. MA. BRI. FRA. ET. HI. REX. Rev. .FACIAM : EOS : IN: GENTEM : VNAM (98) MB. MM ton, face slightly different, armour nearly as on MM scallop, legends as cinquefoil but one dot after each word on rev. MB. MM book. MONTAGU. MM crescent, same as ton. MB. MM cross, same as ton but face slightly different. MB.

UNITE or LAUREL. 1619 to 1625. Value 20s. Weight 140 380/491 or 140 20/41 grs. Fineness 22 cts. These have a type quite different from that of the former Unites, and are the first English coins since the conquest on which the king’s head is represented wreathed with laurel. From this circumstance the people soon gave them the name of Laurels. MM spur rowel. Obv. Bust in profile to left, not crowned, laureate, scarf fastened in a bow on left shoulder, nearly concealing the armour. The figures XX, indicating the value, behind the head. The whole within an inner circle. Rev. Plain square shield on cross fleury, crown above it concealing top of cross. The harp in the shield is ornamented by a bird’s or griffin’s head. IACOBVS D: G: MAG: BRIT: FRAN: ET HIBERN: REX Rev. FACIAM EOS IN GENTEM VNAM MB. Or reading BRI: FRAN: ET: HIB:, with : after Eos. Rud. xi. 9. MM rose, face different and very plain, bust smaller, more of armour showing. .IACOBVS D: G: MAG: BRI: FRA: ET HIB: REX. Otherwise like the first. MB. MM thistle, like the last but bust a little larger, harp has not got griffin’s head, no dot before or after obv. legend. MB. Rud. xi. 10, which has: after Eos. MM lis, similar but bust not identical. MB. Or reading FRAN: EVANS. MM lis, same but bust smaller than before, face different and looking rather bloated. (99) MB. MM trefoil, bust broader, face not so bloated, .IACOBVS. D. G. MA. BRI. FRAN. ET. HIBE. REX. MB. Or with two dots between each word on obv., none before lacobus, HIB instead of Hibe. MB.

SPUR RYAL. 1605 to 1612. Value 15s or 16s 6d. Weight 106 2/3 grs. Old Standard. Obv. King standing in ship, crowned, sword in right hand, large shie]d bearing the arms, arranged as on the Rose Ryals, on his left arm. Mast on each side of the king, none visible behind him, but three ropes from above his head to each end of the ship. The ship has a beak and is sailing to left, flag marked I at prow, two rows of port-holes. Rose on side of ship. Beaded inner circle. Rev, like former ryals, rose on sun concealing centre of a cross, each limb of which ends in a lis between two cartouches, a lion with a crown above him in each angle, all within a double tressure of eight arches, having a trefoil in each spandril. .IACOBVS. D. G. MAG. BRIT. FRAN. ET. HIB. REX. Rev. .A. DNO. FACTVM. EST. ISTVD. ET. EST. MIRABILE. MM rose. Rud. xii. 2. MB. Scallop, MB. Star or mullet, Cuff’s sale catalogue.

1612 to 1619. Value 16s 6d. Weight 108 grs. Old Standard. Exactly like the others. MM tower, (100) MB. Trefoil, Num. Chron., N. S., ii. 232. Cinquefoil, ib. iv. 229. Book, MB.

1619 to 1625. Value 15s. Weight 98 2/11 or 97 7/89 grs. Old Standard. Obv. lion crowned standing on his hind legs, holding in his right fore-paw a sceptre, his left supporting in front of him a shield bearing the royal arms. To left of shield X, to right V, indicating the value of the coin. The lion’s crown extends to the top of the coin, dividing the circle, which is beaded, and the legend. Rev. Rose on sun concealing centre of a cross, each limb of which terminates in a lis, with a crown above it; a lion with a crown above him in each angle; all within a double tressure of eight arches, having a pellet in each spandril. IACOBVS D : G : MAG : BRIT : FRA : ET HI : REX Rev. A DNO : FACTVM EST ISTVD ET EST MIRABI : MM spur rowel, with a dot on each side of it on the obverse. MB. Rud. xii. 6. MM rose, same. MB. MM trefoil, no such dot, and reading BRI : FR : and MIRABILE. (101) MB. Spur ryals are all rare; fine specimens of those before 1619 have sold for from £8 to £13, and those of the later dates for from £9 to £17.

HALF-SOVEREIGN. 1603-4. Value 10s. Weight 85 65/67 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Obv. small bust in profile to right, crowned, in armour, within inner circle. Rev. Plain square shield crowned between I and R, the crown dividing inner circle, and legend. MM thistle. .IACOBVS. D. G. ANGL. SCO. FRAN. ET. HIBER. REX. Rev. .EXVRGAT. DEVS. DISSIPENTVR. INIMICI (102) Rud. xi. 2. MB.

DOUBLE CROWN, or HALF UNITE. 1604 to 1612. Value 10s or 11s. Weight 77 13/31 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Type like the half-sovereign, but the bust is not the same, the king wears a falling collar with lace edge, and his armour is more ornamented. .IACOBVS. D. G. MAG. BRIT. FRAN. ET. HIB. REX. Rev. .HENRICVS. ROSAS. REGNA. IACOBVS. (Henry united the roses, James unites the kingdoms.) MM lis. MB. MM rose, same. MB. Rud. xi. 6. MM scallop, face somewhat different and different armour. (103) MB. MM coronet, same. MB.

1612 to 1619. Value 11s. Weight 77 209/401 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Like the last but face and armour different, hair longer, I and R on rev, much smaller; and reading MA. BRI. FRA. MM ton. EVANS. MM cross, MA BRI FRAN. MB.

DOUBLE CROWN or HALF-LAUREL. 1619 to 1625. Value 10s. Weight 70 190/491 or 70 10/41 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Type like the corresponding laurels. The harp on all of them has got the griffin’s head. Figure X behind bust. .IACOBVS D : G : MAG : BRI : FRA: ET HI : REX. Rev. HENRICVS ROSAS REGNA IACOBVS MM spur rowel. MB. MM rose, bust similar to that on corresponding laurel, legends as last, but HIB:, no dot before or after obv. legend, the MM on rev, is placed after Regna. (104) MB. Another specimen has a slightly different bust. MB. MM lis, same, with same bust as one of those with MM rose. MB. Or reading IACOB’ for Jacobus on both sides. MB. Or like the last, with HENRIC, and a dot after Rex. MB. Or IACOBVS D : G : MAG : BR : FRA : ET HI: REX Rev. HENRIC ROSAS REGNA IACOB MB. MM trefoil, bust like those with MM lis. Obv. legend like spur rowel, but no dot before or after it. Rev. HENRIC. ROSAS REGNA IACOB. The MM on rev, is placed after Regna. MB. Or IACO. EVANS. Rud. xi. 11 reads FR: ET. HIB:.

ANGEL. 1605 to 1612. Value 10s or 11s. Weight 71 1/9 grs. Old Standard. Obv. St. Michael and the dragon, as on previous angels. Rev. Ship as on previous angels, but with no cross above the shield in front of the mast, on which is a top-castle. Two ropes from mast to each end of ship, which is sailing to right. Arms on shield arranged as on ryals. I to left, rose to right of mast. .IACOBVS. D. G. MAG. BRIT. FRA. ET. HI. REX. Rev. .A. DNO. FACTVM. EST. ISTVD: MM rose. MB. Scallop. MB. Coronet, Rud. xii. 3. MB. On these three the ship has a bowsprit. MM mullet, same, but with no bowsprit. (105) MB. The A in FRA is omitted in the plate.

1612 to 1619. Value 11s. Weight 72 grs. Old Standard. MM tower, like mullet, but MA. BRI. FR., one dot after Istud. MB. MM trefoil, like mullet, but only one dot after Istud. MB. MM cinquefoil, like tower. EVANS. MM ton, like tower, but FRA. MB. MM crescent, like tower, but no dot after Istud. MB.

1619 to 1625. Value 10s. Weight 65 5/11 or 64 64/89 grs. Old Standard. Type of obv. as before, but with the figure X, indicating the value, under the angel’s left wing. Rev. Very different ship, sailing to left, side ornamented with lions and lis alternately, a row of port-holes below them; lis on poop, three masts, one large sail set embroidered with the royal arms, above it a pennon with two streamers, embroidered with a lion. A small lion holding a sword stands on the ship’s beak, and a small lion crowned on the stern. IACOBVS D: G: MAG: BRIT: FRA: ET HI. REX. Rev. A DNO: FACTVM. EST. ISTVD: Scroll ornament after A. MM spur rowel. This MM is placed on both sides of the mast on rev. MB. MM rose, similar, but reading BRI: and HIB: Rev. A DOMINO FACTVM EST ISTVD. No ornament after A, no MM to left of mast on rev., ship slightly different. MB. Rud. xii. 7. MM thistle, Cuff's Sale Catalogue. MM lis, EVANS. MM trefoil, legends as rose, but dot before A and after every word on rev., none after Rex. Ship almost the same as the last. (106) MB.

HALF-ANGEL. 1612 to 1619. Value 5s 6d. Weight 36 grs. Old Standard. Type like the angels. .IACOBVS D. G. MA. BRI. FRA. ET. HI. REX. Rev. .A. DNO. FACTVM. EST. ISTVD. MM tower. EVANS. MM cinquefoil. (107) MB. MM cross, same, but IACOBVS. D. G. MA. BR. FR. ET. H : REX, no dot before A on rev. MB. Rud. xii. 4. One in Mr. Cuff’s collection was catalogued as having MM mullet, and if so it would have belonged to the second coinage, and have been struck in 1611-12. Half-angels are not mentioned in any of the indentures or proclamations, and it is only by their mint-marks that we know when they were struck.

CROWN. 1603-4. Value 5s. Weight 42 66/67 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Obv. like half-sovereign, and rev, similar, but the shield descends through the inner circle nearly to the bottom of the coin, I and R are above it on each side of the crown. MM thistle .IACOBVS. D. G. ANG. SCO. FRA. ET. HIB. REX. Rev. .TVEATVR. VNITA. DEVS. (108). MB. Rud. xi. 3.

BRITAIN CROWN. 1604 to 1612. Value 5s or 5s 6d. Weight 38 22/31 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Like the former crown, but the shield on rev, does not descend through the inner circle, and the crown above it is much smaller. .IACOBVS. D. G. MAG. BRIT. FRA. ET. HIB. REX. Rev. .HENRICVS. ROSAS. REGNA. IACOBYS. MM lis. MB.Rose, Rud. xi. 7. MB. Scallop. MB. Or with a different and larger bust, armour rather plainer, no dot before or after obv. legend, MM mullet. MB.

1612 to 1619. Value 5s 6d. Weight 38 350/491 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Type as before but bust different again, beard more projecting, armour different, MA. BRI. FRA. ET. HI., no dot at end of legends. MM ton. (109) MB.

CROWN or QUARTER LAUREL. 1619 to 1625. Value 5s. Weight 35 95/491 or 35 5/41 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Type like the corresponding laurels, but V behind head. The harp on the first three has not the griffin’s head, on those with MM trefoil it has. The MM on the reverse is placed after the word Regna, except on the coin with MM lis. IACOBVS. D : G : MAG : BRI: FR : ET HIB : REX Rev. HENRICVS ROSAS REGNA IACOBVS MM rose. MB. MM thistle, same but FRA : ET HI : MB. MM lis, as last but IACOB’ on obv. instead of Jacobus, the MM on rev, placed at the beginning of the legend. MB. MM trefoil, bust slightly different, obv. legend as rose but HI : Rev. HENRIC ROSAS REGNA IACOB, the harp has a griffin’s head. (110) MB. Or same as last with no inner circle on rev. MB. Or as last but one, but reading FRA : Rud. xi. 12.

THISTLE CROWN. 1604 to 1612. Value 4s or 4s 4 3/4d Weight 30 30/31 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Obv. rose on stalk with two leaves, crowned, between I and R. The crown divides the legend. Rev. Thistle on stalk with two leaves, crowned, between I and R; the crown divides the legend. .IA. D. G. MAG. BR. F. ET. H. REX. .TVEATVR. VNITA. DEVS. MM lis. (111) MB. Rose, Rud. xi. 13. Scallop, MB. Bell, MB. Mullet, MB. Those with the last two mint-marks differ in having no stop before or after obv. legend. These coins do not seem to have been struck after 1611, when the addition to their value made them extremely inconvenient for reckoning.

HALF-CROWN. 1603-4. Value 2s 6d. Weight 21 33/67 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Like the earliest crown, but the crown over the shield on rev, is larger in proportion, though the globe and cross on its top alone divide the legend. IACOBYS. D. G. AN. SC. FR. ET. HI. REX Rev. .TVEATVR VNITA. DEVS MM thistle. Rud. xi. 4.

1604 to 1612. Value 2s 6d or 2s 9d. Weight 19 175/491 grs. Fineness 22 cts. Same type as before, but bust different. Legends .I. D. G. ROSA. SINE. SPINA. Rev. .TVEATVR. VNITA. DEVS MM lis, MB. Rose (112) MB. Or with stop after Deus. MB. Scallop, Rud. xi. 8. MB. Coronet. EVANS.

1612 to 1619. Value 2s 9d. Weight 19 175/491 grs. Fineness 22 cts. As the last but different and larger head, beard more prominent, no dot after Tueatur. MM cinquefoil. THORBURN. Same with dot after Tueatur, none after Deus, two after Spina, MM ton. MB. Another with the same MM has the bust different again, different armour, broader collar; the shield on rev, scarcely descends through inner circle and does not divide legend, the crown above it does. Only one dot after Spina, none after Deus. MB. One with this reverse was sold at the Pembroke sale, in 1848, as having MM crescent. Gold half-crowns were not coined after 1619.

The following list of mint-marks is copied from Hawkins’s “Silver Coins of England,” and was copied for that book from Snelling.

Date when
ordered to be
Unite or
½ Sov.
½ Laurel.
Angel. Crown ½ Angel Thistle
½ Crown
Thistle May 21, 1603 ++ + + Rud.
Lis May 22, 1604 + + + + +
Rose June 20, 1605 + + + + + + Rud. +
Escallop July 10, 1606 + + + + + + + +
Grapes June 30, 1607 Montagu
Coronet Nov. 11, 1607 + + + + Evans
Key May 17, 1609 +
Bell May 11, 1610 + +
Mullet May 9, 1611 + + Cuff + + Cuff +
Tower May 22, 1612 + + + + Evans
Trefoil Apr. 28, 1613 + Montagu Nm.Chr. +
Cinquefoil Oct. 20, 1613 + Nm.Chr. Evans + Thorbrn.
Ton May 17, 1615 + Evans + + ++
Book Nov. 13, 1616 Montagu +
Crescent Aug. 23, 1617 + + Pemb.
Plain Cross May 15, 1618 + + +
Saltire Cross June 9, 1619
Spur Rowel Aug. 20, 1619 + + + + +
Rose June 23, 1620 + + + ++ + +
Thistle June 8, 1621 + + Cuff +
Lis July 3, 1623 + ++ + Evans +
Trefoil June 27, 1624 + + + + + +

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