Here’s my beautiful coin dating from the reign of the first Tudor king of England, Henry VII.
The groat was a silver coin worth four pence. Strictly speaking, the groat should have contained 6.2g sterling silver, but the amount of silver in the coin had progressively diminished since its introduction during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). This particular groat contains only 3.1g silver.
Various versions of the groat were issued by Henry VII. This example was probably minted in London at the Tower Mint. It dates from late in the reign (1507-1509) and shows an exciting development in English coinage. Up to this point, English kings were generally depicted full-face, with a simple open crown and stylised curled hair, whereas this form of the groat shows the king in profile, wearing an ornate crown, and we can clearly see that there has been an attempt at realistic depiction of hair. The appearance is a good deal more ‘modern’ than the traditional medieval portrayals of Henry’s predecessors: here we find, for the first time, the influence of Renaissance art on English coinage.
The reverse of the coin shows the royal arms: the lions of England quartered with the lilies of France (English kings of the period were still asserting their claim to the French throne). Overlaying the royal arms is a long cross with ornate ends. The purpose of the cross (which commonly appeared on coinage of the time) was to discourage ‘clipping’. Clipping was the practice in which thin crescents of metal were shaved from the outside of a coin for melting down and reselling. Because the cross extended right to the outside rim and its arms terminated in decorative details, any clipping that had occurred would be more obvious (or that was the idea; it was still a commonplace crime, though theoretically punishable by death)
I’m particularly thrilled to own this coin because of its special place marking the transition from medieval to early modern coinage.
Guest Writer : Sophy Boyle
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Author of Wyvern and Star, www.wyvernandstar.com
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