O’Brien Coin Guide: Knox & Moore’s ‘Patent’ Irish Halfpennies for James II


Although Armstrong & Legge’s patent to produce copper halfpennies for use in Ireland was confirmed by James II, these coins were actually minted by Sir John Knox, the Lord Mayor of Dublin.  On the 17th June 1685, they transferred this patent by deed of appointment to Sir John Knox for the remainder of the time unexpired, subject to the same terms and conditions as the original patent of 1680.

  • Thus, these halfpennies are sometimes referred to as “the Knox coinage” of James II
  • In overall design and weight, they are a continuation of the ‘patent’ halfpennies of Charles II
  • This design would be adopted and continued by regal halfpennies of William & Mary, and then William (alone) in 1696
1686 James II regal halfpenny for Ireland (Knox halfpenny)

1686 James II regal halfpenny for Ireland (Knox halfpenny)

  • Obverse:  IACOBUS . II    DEI . GRATIA
  • Reverse:  MAG . BR . FRA    . ET . HIB . REX    (between crown and harp) 16    88
Year   Poor Good Fine VF EF Unc.
1685  €1     €5   €20   €75 €200      –
1685 Proof in Pewter   –      –      –      – €450 €750
1686  €1     €3   €12   €45 €160      –
1687  €1    €10   €50 €175 €450      –
1688  €1     €5   €25   €75 €300      –

The last year of issue was 1688 when James II abdicated and fled to France – although he arrived in Ireland at the end of the year (March 1688/89) with the aim of raising an army and regaining his crown by force.

To do so, he needed to raise funds …

  • First, he tried to buy up all the foreign silver and gold in Ireland (a scheme that failed to raise the cash required fast enough)
  • Secondly, he introduced a new promissory (fiat) currency, but that story (James II’s gunmoney) is for another blog post !

When James II began to mint his gunmoney in Dublin, he used the two coining presses used by Sir John Knox to mint his regal halfpennies in Dublin’s Capel Street. This equipment was seized from Colonel Roger Moore, who held a patent for coining copper halfpennies (originally issued to Sir John Knox) – it being passed to him via a legacy from Sir John Knox. These were the last regal coins to be minted in Ireland – all others up to and including the pre-decimal and decimal coinage of Ireland were minted by the Royal Mint in London.

Who was Sir John Knox ?

Sir John Knox was the son of William Knox, esq. of Lifford, Co Donegal. John Knox settled in Dublin some time in the 1650’s – he was obviously quite successful for he attained the position of Sheriff of Dublin (along with Walter Motley) in 1675 and later served as Lord Mayor of Dublin for the term 1685–86.

  • Knox received a grant by Privy Seal at Whitehall on 23rd October 1685 to produce copper coinage (halfpennies)
  • This grant was confirmed in Dublin on 29th December 1685 giving him exclusive rights to produce copper coinage for for Ireland for a period of 21 years
  • During his period of office as Mayor, he was knighted in Christchurch Cathedral by the Earl of Clarendon, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 6th February 1685.

He then married Hannah, sister of Colonel Roger Moore of Johnstown, Co Kildare in 1686 but died shortly afterwards (3rd November, 1687) and was buried in the chancel of St Audeon’s Church. His brother, William, who died in 1707, is buried nearby.

  • Upon his death without an heir, Sir John’s patent to produce copper halfpennies for Ireland for a period of 21 years was passed on to his brother-in-law, Colonel Roger Moore.

Who was Colonel Roger Moore ?

Colonel Roger Moore (or, O’Moore) of Johnstown, Co Kildare, was bequeathed Sir John Knox’es mint at Capel Street, Dublin and the two coining presses therein. Amongst those who fought with Rory O’More in his subsequent war against Cromwell were his cousins Roger and Lewis, sons of Calaogh O’Moore by his wife Margaret Scurlock. Described as “the Hellhound of Ballyna” by one plaintiff in the Depositions of 1641 and 1642, it seems strange that Roger would have survived the Cromwellian confiscations and transportations, but he went on to marry Jane Barnewall, daughter of the Catholic hero Sir Patrick Barnewall of Turvey.

  • Roger’s only son Charles was a Colonel in the Jacobite army but was killed at Aughrim on 12th July 1691
  • Of his four daughters,
    • Eleanor married Daniel McMurrough Kavanagh
    • Mary married Tirogh O’Neill and died in Madrid
    • Elizabeth married Christopher Bealing and died in 1729 in her 100th year
    • Anne married Patrick Sarsfield of Lucan and was mother to the famous Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan
  • Col. Roger O’Moore was elected & served as MP for Philipstown, Kings Co (now Daingean, Co Offaly), 1692-1695
  • He was also MP for Mullingar, Co Westmeath, 1695-1703
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