start page Charles V TOUR :   Spanish contemporaries

English contemporaries
Part 1:
Henry VII, King of England 1485-1509
Henry VIII, King of England 1509-1547
Part 2:
Edward VI, King of England 1547-1553
Mary Tudor, Queen of England 1553-1558
 

Henry VII,  King of England 1485-1509
In 1485, Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III (House of York) on Bosworth Field in 1485. His mother Margaret Beaufort belonged to the House of Lancaster. Henry's marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV, united the houses of Lancaster and York, thus ending the dynastic wars, called "War of the Roses" in retrospect. Henry VII associated a Red Rose with the House of Lancaster and a White Rose with the House of York. He combined them to the "Tudor double rose", as emblem for the Tudor dynasty.
Henry VII was diplomatically astute, both when dealing with Parliament and the nobility and when negotiating treaties with foreign powers. He was prudent in economic and trade matters, modernized the crown's administration, and introduced efficient taxation methods. While the measures he took to secure royal rights were unpopular, they increased the wealth of both crown and nation. To his successor, he left a prosperous and powerful country.
Tudor double Rose

Sovereign n.d. (1504-07), 4th type.   Ø 41 mm, 230 grains (14,9 g).   North 1692/1; S.2175, Fr.149
Obv.:   (mm. lily) HENRICVS:DEI·GRA·REX·ANGL·ET·FRAN·DNS·HIBN'
"Henry by the grace of God King of England and France, Lord of Ireland ('Hiberniae')"
Crowned King seated on wide gothic throne and holding orb and scepter.

Rev.:   (mm. dragon) :IhESVS:AVTEM:TRANSIENS:PER:MEDIVM:ILLORVM:IBAT:·:
"But Jesus, passing through the midst of them, went His way" (Lucas 4,30)
Arms of England and France in a shield at the center of the Tudor rose surrounded by a polylobe.
In 1489, Henry VII issued a new gold coin, the 'sovereign'. It was "deliberately so called to reflect the splendor of a great gold coin of 240 grains - twice the ryal - and worth 20 shillings." (Sutherland). They were coined in the Tower of London from 'fine gold', the purest gold of the time (ca. 23 Karat 3½ grains = (23+3,5/4)/24 = 994,8/1000 gold, called 'standard fineness').


Groat, n. d. (1485-90), London.     Ø 25 mm, 3,00 g.   North 1703; S.2193
Obv.:   (mm. halved lis and rose) HENRIC:DI:GRA':REX·ANGL·Z·FRANC'
"Henry by the grace of God King of England and France"
Facing bust in an ornated polylobe, open crown without arches.

Rev.:   (mm. halved lis and rose) POSVI· - DEVM·A - DIVTOR - E·MEVM
Posui Deum Adiutorem Meum = "I have made God my helper"
Inner circle:
 :CIVI - TAS: - :LON - DON:   (City of London, name of the mint)
Long cross with three pellets in each angle.

'Groat' stands for several pennies, usually four. It is derived from the Dutch 'groot' (large penny), and is comparable to the French 'gros tournois', the Italian 'grosso' and the German 'Groschen'.
This coin was issued in a uniform design since 1351. Changes referred mainly to the weight and to king's name in the legend. In Henry's first period of coinage (1485-90), the coin still remained unchanged. In the second period (1490-1504), it was changed slightly by the addition of arches to the king's crown, see next coin.


Groat, n. d. (1490-1504), London.     Ø 25 mm, 3,01 g.   North 1705a; S.2198a
Obv.:   (mm. escallop) HENRIC·DI·GRA·REX·ANGL·Z·FRANC'
Crowned head facing in a polylobe, crown with two arches and orb on top.
Rev.:   (mm. escallop) POSVI· - DEVM·A - DIVTOR - E·MEVM
Inner circle:  :CIVI - TAS: - :LON - DON:   (City London, name of the mint)
Long cross with three pellets in each angle, as before.
In Henry's third period of coinage (1502-09), the sovereign's profile is introduced. While the Gothic lettering remains, additional adornments are abandoned - the upcoming renaissance begins to show, see next coin.

Groat n. d. (1507-09), London.     Ø 25 mm, 2,69 g.   North 1747; S.2258
Obv.:   (mm. pheon) HENRIC·VII·DI·GRA·REX·AGL·Z·F
Crowned head in profile to the right, crown with arch and orb.
Rev.:   (mm. pheon) POSVI· - DEV·A - DIVTOR - E·MEV
Arms of England/France on long cross.
This is the first English coin showing a king's life-like portrait. It was minted at the Tower mint in London.
Compare with the oil painting from 1505 42x30cm, in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 416), London.



Penny n. d. (1484-94), Durham.     Ø 16 mm, 0,704 g.   North 1730; S.2231
Obv.:   HENRIC DI GRA REX  -  King seated on throne, facing, with sceptre and orb.
Rev.:   CIVITAS DIRHAM  -  Arms (England/France) om long cross between D - S
John Shirwood, Prince Bishop of Durham (1484-93), enjoyed extraordinary power in the North-East of England and could mint small coins such as this 'long-cross' penny on his own account. The 'long-cross' penny had replaced the 'short-cross' penny in 1247. The long cross extending to the rim was intended to protect the coin against clipping silver from the edges. It also facilitated dissecting of the coin into halves or quarters for change.

Henry VIII ,  King of England 1509-1547
When Henry VII's eldest son Arthur died shortly after marrying Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII (1491-1547) as next heir in line married his brother's widow at his father's wish (1509). The divorce of this marriage and the ensuing five further marriages led to England's separation from the catholic church and the introduction of the reformation into England.
Henry VIII had inherited from his father a country at peace, with a healthy economy, an orderly monetary system, and a considerable fortune. But unlike his father, Henry loved luxury and kept a costly court. Moreover, he got embroiled in French and Spanish rivalries and his military engagements depleted the revenues. When selling off the confiscated monasteries did not suffice to head off bankruptcy, Henry resorted to debasing the coinage, which led to a severe inflation.
In 1521, the pope had proclaimed Henry "Fidei Defensor" (defendor of faith) for a paper he had written against Luther. In 1544, after the pope had excommunicated Henry on the proclamation of his divorce, the English Parliament awarded him the same title as a hereditary one.  "F.D." has been used on coins since the reign of George I (1714-1727).

1st Coinage 1509-26 with the profile of the father


Groat, n. d. (1st Coinage, 1509-26), Tower (London).     Ø 26 mm, ca. 2,7 g.   S.2316
Obv.:   (mm.) HENRIC × VIII × DI'×GRA'×REX×AGL'×Z×FRA'
"Henry VIII by the grace of God King of England ('Anglia') and France"
The third 'I' in 'VIII' of the legend is constrained and reduced.
Crowned profile to the right of Henry VII, father and predecessor, an orb on the crown.
The mintmark, a crowned portcullis, refers to the Tower mint, London.

Rev.:   (mm.) POSVI - DEV'm·A - DIVTOR - E':MEVm   "I have made God my Helper"
Long cross behind royal coat of arms with three French lilies and three English lions.
Compare details of the design with the groat of Henry VII.



Groat (gros à la tête), n. d. (1513-17), Tournai.     Ø 27 mm, 2,80 g.   S.2317
Obv.:   (mm. of Tournai) HENRIC × DEI GRA × REX + FRANC + Z + AGLIE ×
Rev.:   (mm.) CIVI - TAS ‡ - ‡ TORN - ACENs     "city of Tournai"
In 1513, Henry VIII assisted the Netherlands (Habsburg) against the French King Louis XII. Attacking from Calais, England's last continental property, 30,000 English soldiers took Tournai, a French enclave inside Habsburg territory. Tournai became once again French in 1517 until it finally fell to Charles V and the Netherlands in 1521.


2nd Coinage 1526-44 with the own profile


Groat n. d. (1526-29), London.     Ø ca.25 mm, ca.2,6 g.   North 1797; S.2337D
Obv.:   (mm. rose) HENRIC9 × VIII9× DI'×G'×R×AGL'×Z×FRAC   -   effigy of Henry VIII
Rev.:   (mm. rose) POSVI - DEV':'A - DIVTOR - E':MEV'   -   as before.
Compare the effigies of the coins above and below with the oil painting from 1520,
51x38cm, in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG 4690), London.

Groat n. d. (1526-29), London.     mm. rose     Ø 25 mm, 2,58 g.   North 1797; S.2337E
Very similar to the coin before, an impressive portrait of Henry with a Roman nose.



Groat n. d. (shortly before 1530), York.     Ø 25 mm.   North 1799; S.2339.
similar to the coin above, but with a special reverse

Rs.:   CIVI - TAS -EBO - RACI   "city of York"
Coat of arms between the initials T - W for Thomas Wolsey, archbishop of York; cardinal's hat below the arms.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey did not stick to the minting of small coins. Not only did he mint groats, he even added a cardinal's hat to his initials thus severely annoying the king. Wolsey, once the councillor Henry had most relied on, died as the king's prisoner on his way to the London court in 1530. Soon after, the ecclesiastic mint privileges in York, Canterbury und Durham were retracted.


3rd Coinage 1544-47: full face on debased issues


Groat, n.d. (3rd Coinage, 1544-47), Tower.     Ø 25 mm, 2,46 g.   North 1844; S.2369
Obv.:   (mm. lily) HENRIC9.8:D.G.REX.ANGLIA Z FRANC   -   impressive three-quarter-face portrait
Rev.:   (mm. lily) POSVI - DEVm·A - DIVTOR - E:MEVm   "I have made God my helper"
Compare with the three-quarter-face oil painting , (28x20cm, 1537) by Hans Holbein d.J., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, and with the full-face oil painting, (89x67cm, 1542) by an unknown artist , National Portrait Gallery (NPG 496), London.


Testoon n. d. (3rd Coinage, 1544-47), Tower.     Ø ca.31 mm, 6,99 g.   North 1841; S.2364
Obv.:   (mm. lily) HENRIC'·VIII'·DI·GRA·AGL'·FRA'·Z·HIB'·REX
crowned bearded bust, full-face, crown with arch and orb.
Rev.:   (mm. lily) POSVI:DEVM·ADIVTORIVM:MEVM   Here the motto is not abbreviated.
crowned Tudor rose with crowned h and crowned R at the sides.
Compare the effigy with the full-face engraving 1545 by Cornelis Metsys, 17x13cm, National Portrait Gallery (NPG D24929), London.
The first testoon (named after the Italian 'testone') was struck during the reign of Henry VII. It showed the king's profile and valued 12 pennies. Towards the end of Henry VIII's reign, coinage rapidly deteriorated. From 1544, testoons showing the full-face of Henry VIII were issued with decreasing content of silver (1/3 silver to 2/3 copper) and they were manufactured with little care. The high abrasion of the coin gave rise to a nickname for the king: "Old Coppernose". The testoon is called 'shilling' since the reign of Edward VI. More on The Testoons of Henry VIII at AMR Coins.


Sovereign n. d. (1538-41), London.    Ø 41 mm, 15,4 g.   North 1782; S.2267; Friedb.157
Obv.:   (mm. lily) hENRICVS:DEI:GRACIA:REX - ANGLIE:ET:FRANCiae:DomiNuS:HIBernia
Seated king holding orb and scepter; portcullis under the feet.
Rev.:   (mm. arrow) IhESVS:AVTEM:TRANSIENS:PER:MEDIVM:ILLORVM:IBAT
"Jesus passing through the midst of them went His way" (Lucas 4,30)
Royal shield in the center of the Tudor rose surrounded by ornaments and a polylobe.
This is the highest nominal value. It was introduced by Henry VII. This valuable and prestigious coin was minted with great care during the 2nd Coinage without debasement. Though medieval in appearance, it was continually minted until the beginning of the 17th century.


Sovereign n. d. (1544-47), Southwark.     Ø 37? mm, 11,56 g.   North 1825; S.2291; Friedb.166
Obv.:   (mm. S) HENRIC':8:DI:GRA:AGL' - FRANCIE:Z:HIBERN:REX
Bearded King en face, seated on a throne with curved sides, holding orb and scepter, a rose at the feet.
Die break at 3 h on the obverse rim.

Rev.:   (mm. S) IhS.AVTEM:TRAnSIEnS:PER MEDIVM:ILLOR:IBAT
Crowned shield with crowned lion and dragon as supporters, HR in cartouche below.
The pieces from the 3rd Coinage (1544-47) are of lowered weight and of reduced fineness (up to 20 carats).


Posthumous coins


6 Pence n. d. (1547-50), Dublin.    Ø 25 mm, 2,70 g.   Dowle/Finn 214; S.6486.
Obv.:   HENRIC 8 D' G' AGL FRAN [...]EX  -  Crowned bust nearly facing.
Rev.:   CIVI - TAS - DVBL - INIE   "City of Dublin"  -  Shield on long cross.


Penny n. d. (1547-51), Canterbury.    Ø 15 mm ?, 0,70 g.   North 1887; S.2422.
Obv.:   h D G.ROSA.SINE.SPINA   "Henry, by the grace of God, a rose without a thorn"
Bearded and crowned bust facing.

Rev.:   CIVI - TAS - CAN - TOR   "City of Canterbury"   -   Shield over long cross fourchée.
The cross with bifurcated ends (see above) is known as 'cross fourchée' or 'fitchée',
in contrast to the cross with blunt ends (see below) 'cross pattée'.


Halfpenny n. d. (1547-51), Tower.    Ø 10 mm, 0,35 g.   North 1889; S.2426.
h D G ROSA SINE SPINA  //  CIVI - TAS - LON - DON
without mintmark, medieval design but Roman lettering.

Summary :   six pictures and no words

Ref.:
• North, Jeffrey J.: English Hammered Coinage, vol.II (Edward I to Charles II., 1272-1662), London 3rd ed. 1991
    extract (p.16-19): History: Tudors Coinage
• Seaby et al.: Standard Catalogue of British Coins - England and UK, 33. ed. 1997 Spink London
• TreasureRealm, Edward Hawkins (1841): Silver Coins of England
• TreasureRealm, Robert Kenyon (1884): Gold Coins of England
• Tony Clayton: Coins of England and UK
• Paul Shields website: Mintmarks and Coin Inscriptions
• Christopher E. Challis: The Tudor coinage [administrative and institutional history], 1978
• Herbert A. Grueber: Handbook of the Coins of Great Britain and Ireland in the British Museum, London 1899.
    Full text and 64 tables: archive.org   and an extract: Introduction to Tudors Coinage

Part 2:
Edward VI, King of England 1547-1553
Mary Tudor, Queen of England 1553-1558

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