O’Brien Rare Coin Review: First coinage of John as Lord of Ireland (First Profile issue)


Prince John was the youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and was not expected to inherit significant lands – hence his nickname John Lackland. Following the failed rebellion of his elder brothers between 1173 and 1174, however, John became Henry’s favourite child.

  • In 1173 John’s elder brothers, backed by their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, rose in revolt against Henry in the short-lived rebellion of 1173 to 1174
    • Growing irritated with his subordinate position to Henry II and increasingly worried that John might be given additional lands and castles at his expense, Henry the Young King travelled to Paris and allied himself with Louis VII
    • Eleanor, irritated by her husband’s persistent interference in Aquitaine, encouraged Richard and Geoffrey to join their brother Henry in Paris.
    • Henry II triumphed over the coalition of his sons, but was generous to them in the peace settlement agreed at Montlouis.
      • Henry was allowed to travel widely in Europe with his own household of knights
      • Richard was given Aquitaine back
      • Geoffrey was allowed to return to Brittany
      • Only Eleanor was imprisoned for her role in the revolt

John had spent the conflict travelling alongside his father, and was given widespread possessions across the Angevin empire as part of the Montlouis settlement; from then onwards, most observers regarded John as Henry II’s favourite child, although he was 5th in line for royal succession. Henry II began to find more lands for John, mostly at various nobles’ expense.

  • In 1175, he appropriated the estates of the late Earl of Cornwall and gave them to John
  • In 1176, Henry disinherited the sisters of Isabelle of Gloucester, contrary to legal custom, and betrothed John to the now extremely wealthy Isabelle
  • In 1177, at the Council of Oxford, Henry dismissed William FitzAldelm as the Lord of Ireland and replaced him with the ten-year-old Prince John

John as Lord of Ireland – First ‘Profile’ Issue (1179)

The first issue of Anglo Irish coins for Ireland was a short-lived issue of round halfpennies struck in Dublin by three moneyers. John had been recently given the Title ‘Lord of Ireland’ by his father Henry II and, although only 12 years old at the time, his advisors saw fit to have coins issued.

This first issue featured a profile portrait of John with the legend IOHANNES (or a contracted form) on the obverse. The reverse design was of a central cross with a lis in each angle and the moneyers name around the periphery.

John as Lord of Ireland (First Profile issue) - Moneyer: Roger

John as Lord of Ireland (First Profile issue) – Moneyer: Roger

  • There are three recorded moneyers:
    • ELIS (Dublin mint)
    • ROGER

Elis’s coin are signed from Dublin but the others are presumably also from Dublin.

  • These coins are extremely rare
    • There are less than 10 specimens in museum collections
    • There are less than 5 specimens are in private hands

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