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

Edward VI,  King of England 1547-1553
Edward VI (1537-1553), Henry VIII's desperately longed-for male heir from his third wife Jane Seymour, was ten when he ascended to the English throne. Edward and his councillors adhered to the reformation. As they wished to prevent an ardent catholic such as his halfsister Mary to succeed to the English throne, Edward excluded both his halfsisters Mary and Elisabeth from the succession. Edward was sickly; very likely he suffered from tuberculosis, and he died young.
England was in an economically precarious situation. Henry VIII's debased coins flooded the country and they continued to be issued for a time. From 1549 on, the government intended to gradually scale up the standard. The improved new coins now circulated alongside the earlier debased ones. This chaotic situation only came to an end during Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558-1603).

Groat, n. d. (1547-49), Southwark (in London).   Ø 24 mm, 2,61 g.   North 1898; S.2456.
Obv.:   EDWARD'.6'.D:G:AG'.FR'.Z:HIB'REX   -   Crowned bust to the right.
Rev.:   (mm. E) CIVI: - TAS: - LON - :DON·:  -  Royal shield on long cross.
Debased coins continued to be struck until 1549, some in Edward's name, others in the name of Henry VIII.

Gold issues of the 2nd period (January 1549 - April 1550)

Sovereign, n. d. (1549-50), Southwark.   Ø 35 mm, 10,90 g.   North 1906; S.2433; Friedb.180.
Obv.:   (mm. y) EDVVARD'.VI.D'eiGratia.AnGLiae':FRAnciae':ET:HIBerniae:REX+
"Edward VI, by the grace of God king of England, France and Ireland"
Crowned king seated en face on throne and holding sword and orb.

"But Jesus, passing through the midst of them, went His way" (Lucas 4,30)
Crowned shield with supporters (lion and griffin) and ER (Edward Rex) in cartouche below.
In 1549, the fineness of the new gold coins was improved from 20 to 22 carats ('crown gold' 916,7/1000 fine). At the same time, they were considerably reduced in weight. The new sovereign valued 20 s.

Half Sovereign, n.d. (1549-50), Tower mint.  Ø 32 mm, 5,38 g.  North 1911; S.2438; Friedb.181.
Obv.:   (mm. grapple) EDWARD¤VI¤Dei¤Gratia¤AnGLiae¤FRAnciae¤Z(et)¤HIBerniae¤REX¤
"Edward VI, by the grace of God king of England, France and Ireland"  -  crowned bust to the right.
Rev.:   (mm. grapple) SCVTVM¤FIDEI¤PROTEGIT¤EVM   "The shield of faith protects him (the king)"
Crowned garnished oval shield between E - R (Edward - Rex).

Halfcrown n. d. (1549-50), Tower.     Ø 19 mm, 1,35 g.   North 1915; S.2443; Friedb.183a.
Obv.:   SCVTVM·FIDEI·PROTEGET·EVM (mm. arrow)   "The shield of faith protects him (the king)."
bare head bust to the right.

Rev.:   EDWAR'·VI·D'·G'·AGL'·FR'·Z·H'·R'  -  crowned garnished shield.
The half crown, struck in gold and first issued in 1526 during the reign of Henry VIII, continued to be minted in Edward's reign. It was the smallest gold coin of the 2nd mint period (1549-50). Its fineness was 22 carat, its weight 21 3/17 grains (1,37 g), and its value was 2 shillings 6 pence or 1/8 sovereign. The small size (18-20 mm diameter) combined with a high value made the coin unpopular. The first silver half crown was produced in 1551.     [Tony Clayton]

Base silver issues

Shilling 1551, Southwark (London).     Base silver issue.   Ø 32 mm.   North 1944/2; S.2466B
Obv.:   (mm. y) EDWARD.VI:D'.G'.AGL;.FRA'.Z.HIB' REX  -  crowned bust to the right.
Rev.:   TIMOR DOMINI FONS:VITaE. M:D:L:I   "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of live & date"
garnished oval shield between E - R.
The first English coin carrying the year of issue was minted between 1549 and 1551. It was minted with varying debased standards of fineness and weight: The 1st issue did not gain public confidence (66,6% fine, weight 60 grains = 3,89 g). The second issue with 50% fineness was accepted because of its higher weight (80 grains = 5,18 g) although the silver content did not change. Coins of the third issue were 33,3% fine and weighed 80 grains. In 1560, during the reign of Queen Elisabeth (1558-1603), circulating coins of the 3rd issue were punched with a portcullis as countermark so that they could still be used as valid money. Their value was set at 4½ pence.
Details: J. Bispham, The Base Silver Shillings of Edward VI [BNJ 1985, p.134-143]

Fine silver issues of the 3rd period (1550-1553)

Crown 1551, Southwark.    Fine silver issue.   Ø 41 mm, ≈31 g.  North 1933; S.2478; Dav.8245.
Obv.:   (mm. y):EDWARD':VI:D':G':AGL':FRANC':Z:HIBER':REX·
"Edward VI, by the grace of God king of England, France and Ireland"
Crowned king in armor on horseback, shouldering sword, date below.

Rev.:   POSVI: - DEVM:A - DIVTOR - E:MEVm': (mm. y)   "I have made God my helper"
Royal arms layed on a long cross.
This is the first crown (5 shillings) issued in silver. Its size and weight are comparable to Thalers. It was struck in 1551-53 in a fine standard (11 oz. 1 dwt. = (11 + 1/20)/12 = 920,8/1000 fine) and with a weight of an ounce Troy (480 grains = 31,1 g). It was issued in a new design and together with half crowns, shillings, sixpences and threepences of the same fineness.
Many European large silver coins are called crowns using the size and weight of Edwards silver Crown as reference. John S. Davenport titles his voluminous catalog with 'German Talers' and 'European Crowns'.

Shilling, n.d. (1551-53), Southwark.   Fine silver issue.  Ø 32 mm, 6,08 g.  North 1937; S.2482.
Obv.:   (mm. tun) :EDWARD'.VI:Dei'.Gratia'.AnGLiae.FRAnciae:Z(et):HIBerniae'REX:
Crowned head between rose and 'XII' (12 pence worth).
Rev.:   (mm. tun) POSVI - DEVm.A - DIVTOR - E' MEVm'   "I have made God my helper"
Royal arms layed on a long cross.
One shilling stands for 12 Pence or 1/20 Pound (Pound = 240 Pence).
The shilling was formerly a simple monetary unit of account.

Sixpence, n.d. (1551-53), London (mm. tun).   Fine silver issue.  Ø 27 mm, ≈3 g.  N.1938; S.2483.

Threepence, n.d. (1551-53), London (mm. tun).  Fine silver issue.
Ø 21 mm, ca.1,5 g.  N.1940; S.2485.

Gold issues of the 3rd period (1550-1553)

Fine Sovereign, n.d. (1551), Southwark.   Ø 41 mm, 15,34 g.  N.1926; S.2446; Friedb.185.
Obv.:   (mm. ostrich head) EDWARD'.VI'.D:G:ANGLIE - FRANCIE:Z:HIBERNIE:REX
King seated on throne with orb and scepter, portcullis at his feet; in the style of Henry VII's sovereigns.
"Jesus passing through the midst of them went his way" (Lucas 4,30)
Tudor rose with royal shield at center.
The fineness for this 'fine sovereign' was restored to the original 'standard fineness' (23 Karat 3½ grains = 994,8/1000 fine). Its weight was 240 grains, equal to the weight of sovereigns from Henry VII's first mint period. The mintage proved to be too expensive. "A small quantity of these coins was actually produced and put into circulation, possibly even by Edward VI himself." [Challis, p.105]

Half Sovereign (1551-53), 3rd Period, Tower.    Ø 32 mm, 5,54 g.  N.1928; S.2451; Friedb.187
Obv.:   (mm. tun) :EDWARD':VI:D':G':AGL':FRANCI':Z:HIB':REX:
king, armoured and crowned, holding sword and orb, half-length to the right.
Rev.:   (mm. tun) IhS'.AVTEM'.TRANSIE'.PER MEDI'.ILLO'.IBAT.  -  crowned shield dividing E - R
This half sovereign was minted with 22 carats and a weight of 87 3/11 grains (5,66 g).
It valued 10 shillings.

Medal on Edwards Coronation
Medal 1547 (Ø ca.58 mm, of an unknown artist, Rev. with scriptures in Latin, Hebrew and Greek),
on display in the Munich coin cabinet (author's photo);
compare with a portrait at age of six, Ø 32 cm, ca.1545 and later,
workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

Mary Tudor,  Queen of England 1553-1558
Mary Tudor (1516-1558), daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, was the first woman to become queen in her own right (queen regnant). Edward VI, fearing Mary's commitment to catholicism and to the Pope, had excluded her from the succession. However, Mary was well liked and her claim to the throne was widely considered legitimate. After Edward's death, she and her followers soon succeeded in asserting her right to the throne.
In 1554, Mary married Philip II, son of Emperor Charles V, and king of Spain since 1556. The relationship was unpopular. It entangled England into continental broils thus causing the loss of Calais in 1558, England's last possession in France. The marriage remained childless.
After her coronation, Mary began to undo her father's break with Rome and to return to Catholicism as state religion. Her mother's marriage was declared valid, which exonerated Mary from being illegitimate. She repealed her father's and her brother's religious laws, including the Act of Supremacy of 1534. England was returned to Roman jurisdiction and therefore also to the laws against heresy. Around 300 heretics burnt at the stake between 1555 and Mary's death in 1558. This caused anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish feeling, damaged Mary's prestige and earned her the name of 'Bloody Mary'.
English economy was in a bad shape when Mary succeeded. The crown was heavily indebted, coinage was debased and inflation was high, bad weather yielded bad harvest and the Antwerp cloth trade was on decline. However, Mary was successful in reforming the fiscal system: the revised "Book of Rates" of 1558 helped to increase revenue from import taxation. Plans for a currency reform were not implemented until after her death.

Fine sovereign 1553, London.     Ø 44 mm, 15,15 g.   North 1956; S.2488; Friedb.192.
Obv.:   MARIA:(mm.pomegranate):D':G':ANG':FRA - Z:HIB':REGINA: M:D:LIII   date MDLIII
Crowned queen facing, holding scepter and orb, portcullis below.

Rev.:   A DomiNO FACTVm EST ISTVd Z(et) EST MIRAbile IN OCVLis NostRIS
"This is the Lord's doing and it is wonderful in our eyes"
Coat of arms within a Tudor Rose, ornaments.
Mary ordered all gold coins to be of the old 'Standard fineness' 23 carats 3½ grains fine (994,8/1000).
She issued the sovereign (30 s.), the ryal (½ sovereign = 15 s.), the angel (10 s.) and the ½ angel (5 s.).
The weights were restored to 240 grains for the sovereign down to 40 grains for the ½ angel.

Ryal of 15 Shillings.     Ø 35 mm, 7,46 g.   North 1957; S.2489; Fridb.193.
Obv.:   MARIA◦(mm. pomegranate)◦D'◦G'ANG'◦FRA'◦Z◦HIB'◦REGINA◦M◦D◦L - III◦
Crowned Queen standing on a ship and holding sword and shield, flag 'M', rose below.
Rev.:   A:DnO'◦FACTV'◦EST:ISTVD◦Z(mirrored)◦EST◦MIRABI'◦In'◦OCVL'◦NRI'◦
A Domino Factum Est Istud Et Est Mirabile In Oculis Nostris
"This is the Lord's doing and it is wonderful in our eyes"
Floriated cross with lions within a tressure of eight arches; rose on radiant sun at center.
Mary's gold coins are medieval in appearance. Non of the gold coins carries her portrait.

Shilling 1553, Dublin.    Ø 31 mm, 6,00 g.   North -; Dowle/Finn 224; S.6495; Coincraft's IMASH-005.
Obv.:   MARIA:(mm. lily):D'.G'.ANG'.FRA'.Z:hIB'.REGINA  -  crowned bust to the left.
Rev.:   VERITAS.(mm. lily).TEMPORIS:FILIA:M:D:LIII:     M:D:LIII = 1553
VERITAS TEMPORIS FILIA = Truth, the daughter od time (Gellius, Noctes Atticae 12,11,7)
Crowned harp between her crowned monograms M and R (= Maria Regina).

Groat n. d., London.     Ø 25 mm, ca.2 g.   North 1960; S.2492.
Obv.:   MARIA·(mm. pomegranate)·D'.G'ANG'FRA'.Z.HIB'REGI'.  -  crowned bust to the left.
Rev.:   VERITA - S(mm. pomegranate)TEM - PORIS - FILIA  -  cross over royal shield.

Compare with the painting by 'Master John' in 1544, 71x51cm, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 428), London.

1554: Mary's marriage to Philip

Groat n. d. (1554-58), London.     Ø 23 mm, 2,05 g.   North 1973; S.2508.
Obv.:   PHILIP.Z[et]·MARiA·D·G·REX Z·REGINA   -   crowned bust to the left.
Rev.:   POSVI - MVS·DE - VM·ADIV - TOrem·NOStrum   "We have made God our helper"
cross over royal shield.

shilling 1554.     Ø 30 mm, 5,84 g.   North 1967; S.2500.
Obv.:   Busts of Philip II and Mary facing each other, a crown divides the date on top.
Rev.:   Crowned arms (half Spanish, half English), above X - II (worth 12 pence).
POSVIMVS·DEVM·ADIVTOREM·NOSTRVM     "We have made God our helper"
Compare Philip's mezzo ducato, n.d.(1554-6) from Naples with a similar reverse side.
Note the central dot on both sides of the coin.

Compare the effigy of Mary on the above coin and on the following medal with this
section of the painting by Anthonis Mor (1555), 109x84 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Bronzemedaille von Jacopo Nizzola da Trezzo.   Ø 70 mm.   Attwood 80; Armand I,241,3; Scher 54
Picture taken over from Web gallery of art.

"Mary I, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith"
Bust wearing an ornately embroidered gown and a brooch with pendant pearl; the cap is adorned with jewels and has a veil at the back; below the bust, the signature IAC TREZ from medalist.

Rev.:  CECIS VISVS TIMIDIS·QVIES     "Sight to the blind, tranquility to the timid"
A figure of Peace seated on a throne, wearing antique drapery and a radiating crown. She holds palm
and olive branches in her right hand; in her left she holds a torch with which she ignites a pile of
arms and armors. A set of scales and a cube below the throne show two clasped hands in relief.
To the left, a group of suppliants is beset by storms; more figures and a temple are to the right;
above are rays issuing from a cloud and below is a river.
Another piece: 67,7 mm, 151,80 g. (Num. Genevensis, Auct.12 No.196 (11.2019) hammer price 800.000 CHF.)
This is the most spectacular of da Trezzo's (1514-1589) medals. It would appear that the medal of Mary was commissioned by Philip, who intended it as "a compliment to Mary upon her government of the kingdom." The jewel hanging at her breast is probably the one Philip sent her in June 1554, since described as "a great diamond with a large pearl pendant, one of the most beautiful pieces ever seen in the world". The reverse symbolizes the peaceful state of the kingdom under Mary and the blessings enjoyed by her subjects thanks to reconciliation with Rome. The queen herself appears as Peace. Below her throne are symbols of stability (the cube), unity (the clasped hands), and justice (the scales). As an emblem of peace, the motif of an allegorical female figure setting fire to the accoutrements of war can be traced back to ancient Roman coins. The figures beset by storms are Mary's subjects before her accession. Under her reign, they bask in radiant sunlight.   [S.K. Scher (Ed.): The Currency of Fame, Portrait medals of the Renaissance, 1994]

See further medals by Jacoppo Nizzola da Trezzo

• 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:   and an extract: Introduction to Tudors Coinage

back to Part 1:
Henry VII, King of England 1485-1509
Henry VIII, King of England 1509-1547

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