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Richard II's treasure

the riches of a medieval king

treasure roll » coinage


A photograph of gold and silver coins

Gold and silver coins of Richard II (London, British Museum)

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Money of account

Values in the treasure were calculated in pounds, shillings and pence (12 pence = a shilling; and 20 shillings = a pound), although there were no coins equal to pounds and shillings and would not be until Henry VII's reign.

For the purposes of accounting marks were used, worth 13 shillings and 4 pence (the noble, therefore, fitted both systems well, being worth a third of a pound and half a mark).

The noble was the highest value coin in England (and probably in Europe). At 6s. 8d. it was worth a third of a pound or half a mark.

The design of a king standing in a ship (see photograph) was introduced by Edward III in 1344, when the coin itself was first produced as part of England's first successful revival of gold coinage. The design may be a reference to the great naval victory at Sluys (1340), the first victory of the Hundred Years War, although it may be simply a reference to the image of the king as captain of the ship of state.

The design was also used for the half-noble (not illustrated), but was too elaborate for the small quarter-noble, which instead had the shield of England and France. The silver coinage carried the facing stylised bust of a king, a general design introduced by Edward I in 1279, which would survive until the Tudors.

The silver coinage was that used in daily business, with the groat of fourpence supported by the half-groat, and the penny by the fractional denominations of the halfpenny and farthing. The daily wages of a master craftsman might be sixpence.

B. C.

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