The Stuarts - Remember the 5th of November!

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by John Conduitt, Nov 5, 2020.

  1. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    The Stuarts were dogmatic tyrants at a time when their subjects were demanding enlightenment. They make today's politicians look like fair-minded people. It was a recipe for violent turmoil and interesting coins.

    The House of Stuart took the English and Irish crowns in 1603, when James VI of Scotland succeeded his childless cousin Elizabeth I. When he arrived in London to be crowned James I of England, he was mobbed by a crowd. The celebrations were only dampened by an outbreak of plague – no face coverings were to be seen.

    But James suffered several plots against him. These included the Main Plot, for which Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded, and the Catholic Gunpowder Plot, for which Guy Fawkes has been symbolically burned every year since with the rhyme, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Gunpowder treason and plot”. James’s crime was a lack of action on religious freedoms (for anyone not in the Church of England), which led a bunch of Protestant Puritans to board the Mayflower and flee to America.

    The Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620. Not fans of the Stuarts (

    Numismatically, however, James I was a revolutionary. The Royal Mint had long refused to produce copper coins (and therefore usable small change), but James had already done so in Scotland and knew the public would accept them. To get around the Royal Mint, the task was subcontracted to John Harington, Baron of Exton. He promptly died, passing the task to his son, who contracted smallpox and followed his father to the grave. It was left to Harington’s wife to mint farthings at a Token House set up near the Royal Mint.

    (Life imitating art? Kit Harington, aka Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, is descended both from James I and the 1st Baronet of Ridlington, the brother of our John Harington, who’d been in Parliament when Guy Fawkes tried to blow it up. Kit is also a descendent of Robert Catesby, the leader of the Gunpowder Plot. George RR Martin was inspired to write Game of Thrones by the Wars of the Roses, which ended with the accession of Henry VII, great-great grandfather of James I).
    James I, copper farthing, 1620-1621, London Token House. Lennox Type 2 (S 2678). The two sceptres represent England and Scotland. The prominent harp led these to be called ‘Irish’ coins, but in fact they were the only English coins not authorised for use in Ireland at the time.

    Despite demand from the public, the farthings weren't popular with merchants as issuers wouldn't redeem them in silver. Difficulty in circulating them led to counterfeiting. The patent soon passed to the Duke of Lennox (later the Duke of Richmond), who died shortly afterwards. He passed the poison chalice to Lord Maltravers, but he barely outlived Charles I. The farthings are variously known by the names of all the people who died in the making of them.

    Charles I, copper farthing, 1636-1644, London Token House. 1.39g. Maltravers Rose type 3(1C). CAROLVS DG MAG BRIT. FRAN ET HIB REX (S 3203). Made with a brass segment to prevent forgery. Molten brass was poured into a notch in a rod of copper, which was then sliced to create the flans. One of the first bimetallic coins issued in England (predating the £2 by 350 years).

    The public were fond of James, but he’d been unable to satisfy everyone’s incompatible demands. When Charles I came to the throne in 1625, no-one got what they wanted. Like James he believed in the divine right of kings, which for him included imposing taxes without Parliament’s agreement. He was a High Anglican (as close as a Protestant can get to being a Catholic) and married a Catholic, which made everyone suspicious. If James had done too little for minority religions, it was feared Charles would do too much.

    To remove their opposition, Charles dissolved Parliament in 1629. This, though, left him unable to raise taxes to fight his wars. The Scottish Parliament, exasperated, declared itself capable of governing without the King's consent and invaded northern England. So, in 1640 Charles recalled the English Parliament, which immediately set about impeaching his cronies. He tried and failed to arrest the ringleaders. The Parliamentarians took London and he fled to Nottingham. They both raised illegal armies, culminating in the English Civil War.

    Charles I, Ninepence, Newark. C R (Charles Rex). Obs (obsidium, Latin for siege) (S 3144). Struck January-24 March 1645, which we’d call 1646. In the Julian Calendar, New Year was on 25 March (around the vernal equinox), so 25 March 1645 was a year earlier than 24 March 1645.

    This ninepence was struck at a temporary mint in the Royalist town of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, during the last of three sieges in the First English Civil War. In need of cash, the people of Newark hand cut coins from silverware donated by Royalist noblemen (or stolen from Leicester). Despite facing plague and having to eat dogs and horses, they only surrendered when ordered to by Charles, who’d surrendered himself 8 miles away at Southwell. More about that here:

    Commonwealth silver shilling, 1651, London. 32mm, 5.8g. THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND. English and Irish shields. GOD WITH VS (S 3217). This was the first and only time English coins featured legends entirely in English (Latin being viewed as a hangover of a Roman Catholic past).

    Charles refused to accept a constitutional monarchy and was executed in 1649. The Stuarts were replaced for a decade with Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical regime, which it turned out nobody wanted after all. Charles II was able to make a triumphant return for the Stuarts in 1660, on the proviso that he didn’t argue with Parliament. He was known as the Merry Monarch for his hedonism after Cromwell's puritan rule but arrived in time for the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.

    Unfortunately, Charles II couldn’t resist meddling, and alienated Parliament by starting the Third Anglo-Dutch War (by supporting Catholic France) and trying to suspend all penal laws against Catholics and religious dissenters. Fortunately, he was more of a diplomat that his father and withdrew the attempt.
    Charles II, silver halfgroat, 1660-1662, Tower mint (London). 12mm, 1.01g. CAROLVS II D G M B F & H REX. CHRISTO AVSPICE REGNO (S 3318). An early milled coin, listed in Spink under hammered issues but labelled ‘machine made’.

    In terms of coins, Charles II was perhaps the most successful Stuart. After abortive attempts under Elizabeth I and Charles I, milling machines had become productive enough and from 1662 hammered coinage ceased. To counter forgeries, some coins were inscribed on the edge with 'decus et tutamen' (an ‘ornament and safeguard’), seen later on the pound coins of Elizabeth II. Charles II also introduced the first ‘official’ English copper coins in 1672, which featured the return of Britannia for the first time since the Romans. He was the last monarch to face in different directions on his coins.
    Charles II, copper farthing, 1675, London. CAROLVS A CAROLO (Charles son of Charles). BRITANNIA (S 3394). Milled before collars were used, which led to irregular flans of varying diameters. Unused to producing copper coins, the mint was not able to produce rolled sheets of copper, so they imported planchets from Sweden.

    When Charles II died, the Stuarts regressed. The first Catholic monarch since Bloody Mary, James II and VII of Scotland returned to the old arguments over religion and the divine right of kings. With the threat of a Catholic dynasty, the Protestants William of Orange and his wife Mary (James’s daughter) were invited to take the throne, which they did with ease in 1688 in the ‘Glorious Revolution’. They accepted the primacy of Parliament over the Crown and Britain has had a constitutional monarchy ever since.

    James attempted to retake the throne from his daughter through Ireland in 1689. To pay to supply his army he struck 'silver' denominations in bronze. He promised to exchange them for silver once he won but was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690 and was exiled to France. James’s defeat meant the coins were only worth the value of the metal – a halfcrown was now worth a penny. More about Gunmoney here:

    James II, ‘Gunmoney’ halfcrown, May 1690, Dublin. 29mm, 11.08g (SCBC 6580B). Made from scrap metal, including old cannons, hence ‘Gunmoney’. They featured the month of issue to help redeem them.

    Never again would a monarch be Catholic. William of Orange’s victory is still commemorated in Northern Ireland by the ‘Orangemen’, dragging this 300-year-old conflict into today. William III and Mary II fought France in the 9 Years War and the War of the Spanish Succession and were heralded Protestant champions.

    But their dealings with coinage were less popular. The hammered coins still in circulation were recalled at face value and replaced with milled coins. This was paid for by a window tax, which left many larger buildings with bricked up windows that can still be seen today (tax evasion or avoidance?).

    To save money, and to give the Cornish tin industry a boost, farthings and halfpennies were produced in tin instead of copper. They were a failure – not much tin was used and it soon became apparent they corroded badly. William III and Mary II produced the last, 8 years after Charles II produced the first. More here:

    William III and Mary II, tin farthing, 1690, London. GVLIELMVS ET MARIA. BRITAN NIA (S 3451). The Stuart’s tin farthings feature a copper plug to prevent counterfeiting, making them England’s second bimetallic coins of the 1600s, still 180 years before the world’s first modern bimetallic coin, the Italian 500 lire of 1982.

    William III and Mary II had no children, so the throne passed to Mary’s sister, Anne. Despite their father being a Catholic, they’d been brought up Protestants on the insistence of their uncle, Charles II. It proved a wise decision, at least in terms of keeping the throne. It was during Anne’s reign that Great Britain came into being with the Acts of Union, uniting England and Scotland as a single sovereign state.

    Anne, sixpence, 1703, London. VIGO issue. 21.00mm, 3.00g. ANNA DEI GRATIA. MAG BR FRA ET HIB REG (S 3590). During the War of the Spanish Succession, the Anglo-Dutch fleet heard the Spanish Treasure Fleet was unloading in Vigo Bay and destroyed it. This led to Portugal defecting to their side and Britain capturing Gibraltar, allowing Britain to expand their empire. 'VIGO' indicates the coin was struck from silver captured at Vigo Bay. The haymarking shows it contained tin.

    Anne was the last monarch to try to cure people with the ‘Royal touch’. Originally a Roman tradition but based on the divine power of kings, it was seen by William III and George I as Catholic superstition. The monarch gave coins to the afflicted as ‘touch pieces’ to avoid any actual touching. Gold angels (depicting St Michael casting out the Devil) were minted for the purpose. They might not be the best collectibles – frequently holed so people could wear them and often rubbed on the diseased area. More here:

    Ironically, Anne was plagued by ill health. She had seventeen pregnancies but no surviving children. She died in 1714, the last Stuart monarch. The throne was given to George I, a German – who was chosen as he was the least Catholic in the line of succession they could find. For more Stuart coins:


    The Royal Farthing Tokens, the British Numismatic Society BNJ/pdfs/1906_BNJ_3_11.pdf

    Newark 1646 and the story of English Civil War siege coins at auction, Antiques Trade Gazette

    O’Brien Coin Guide: James II Gunmoney, The Old Currency Exchange

    Early Milled Coins, Ken Elks

    Stuart Period, Wikipedia
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. SensibleSal66

    SensibleSal66 Well-Known Member

    Very interesting . Thanks . Here's my 1694 William an Mary -Unbarred , Thanks again. WilliamMary1694.jpg
  4. Bradley Trotter

    Bradley Trotter Well-Known Member

    That was a fascinating write-up @John Conduitt. Here are some of my coins depicting Monarchs of the House of Stuart along with a 2005 Gunpowder Plot commemorative £2 coin.

    England 1676 Crown

    Charles II


    1676 English Crown Obverse.png


    1676 English Crown .png

    Great Britain 1711 Shilling



    1711 Shilling Obverse.PNG


    1711 Shilling Reverse.PNG

    Great Britain 2005 £2 Gunpowder Plot

    2005 2 Pound Coin.jpg
  5. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Well-Known Member

    Very interesting and well-told presentation, John Conduitt. I enjoyed the story and the coins. This era may be my favorite period in English history. Thanks for sharing.
    +VGO.DVCKS and John Conduitt like this.
  6. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Я люблю черных кошек

    Well done, it was funny - this morning I was thinking it was a good day for a bonfire. Guy Fawkes day, how appropriate.

    One thing stands out with 17th century British history - was an amazingly violent time to live in Britain. Every religious belief was under attack from some other belief. Religious pogroms were actually quite common until after the Massacre at Glencoe in 1692.

    So when they got the chance some fled across the ocean to a mysterious and not very well mapped N. America - where incredibly the same thing happened - the Pilgrims in New England were persecuted in England, but came to America and persecuted those against them - think Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island. Colonies were largely established on religious lines ie Protestants in Virginia, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Roman Catholics in Maryland.


    A fascinating memento from Scottish and British history, this AR medal by Nicholas Briot was struck in 1633 to commemorate Charles I's very belated Scottish coronation that year. His coronation should have been much earlier, he ascended the throne in 1625, but he carelessly delayed said coronation until finally giving into demands that it be done in 1633. His introduction of Anglican liturgy into the coronation ceremony did little to endear him to his Scottish subjects, and things went decidedly sour thereafter. On his return trip to London his baggage including many crown jewels were lost in the Firth of Forth, just off of Burntisland. Subsequently alleged witches were brought to trial in London, on charges of causing the shipwreck. Things went down for Charles I from there on, both in Scotland and in England.

    This lovely medal, with a lifelike portrait of the monarch, was commissioned to Nicholas Briot, a famous and skilled coiner. This medal was struck in a screw press, and is actually much better detailed as a result. One of these medals was struck piedfort in gold, which was presented to the King, he kept it as a pocket piece until his death in 1649. The silver examples like this one were thrown by the king to the crowds at the coronation ceremony.
  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great coins and information. Last month my local dealer had a James I halfgroat for $15 which sounded reasonable, so I bought it - I really like the "rose without thorns" logo he used:
    UK - James I halfgroat AZ Oct 7 2020 (0aa).jpg
    England Half Groat
    King James I
    n.d. (1619-1625)
    Third Coinage

    Lis (mintmark) I : D : G : ROSA SINE SPINA, crowned rose within inner circle / TVEATVR VNITA DEVS crowned thistle within inner circle.
    Spink 2671.
    (1.02 grams / 15 mm)

    Here is the title page to the first Gunpowder Plot sermon, The Sermon Preached at Paules Crosse, the tenth day of November, Being the next Sunday after the Discoverie of this late Horrible Treason. Preached By the right Reverend Father in God William Lord Bishop of Rochester.
    Esay 59.5
    They hatch Cockatrice egges : but weave the Spiders Webbe (NOTE: Isaiah 59:5)
    Printed for Mathew Lawe

    UK_1606 Barlow Sermon Title Page.jpg
    +VGO.DVCKS and John Conduitt like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @John Conduitt, thanks for a magnificent initial post, with top-drawer content and coins to match.
    @Marsyas Mike, a terrific halfgroat ...and anything in print from this period kind of Pavlovianly makes me sit up in my chair. I only wish I could find the .jpgs for the run of late Tudor -early Stuart halfgroats and pennies I got, that long ago, mostly because they're just that cool. As you, for one, are extremely likely to know, the 'Rosa sine spina' meme begins as an element in the legends of Queen Elizabeth. ...(Ditto: ) The Tudors effectively appropriated the rhetoric of the Lancastrian and Yorkist roses, along with the heraldry.
    In a different medium, this is one instance of the already revisionist Tudor rose continuing into the early Stuart period. GENEALOGY, ENGLAND, HARNESS MOUNT, TUDOR ROSE, OBV..JPG GENEALOGY, ENGLAND, HARNESS MOUNT, TUDOR ROSE, REV..JPG
    If you go to the bottom of this website, there's another example, better in very way, that was excavated from the house of an early settler of what's now Maine. (...Right, an ancestor. Which got me looking for ones on UKebay. The one I landed was found in --without checking-- East Anglia.)
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2020
    John Conduitt and Marsyas Mike like this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page