Edward IV issues Irish coins of the English standard (1463)


Edward IV was the King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death in 1483. He was the first Yorkist King of England and most of the Irish Norman families (most notably, the Fitzgeralds of Desmond and Kildare) seem to have supported him, despite the Lancastrian Henry VI ascending the throne well in advance of him.

  • Before becoming king, he was 4th Duke of York, 7th Earl of March, 5th Earl of Cambridge and 9th Earl of Ulster
    • In 1460 Edward landed in Kent with Salisbury, Warwick and Salisbury’s brother William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, raised an army and occupied London
    • When Edward’s father (Richard, Duke of York) was defeated and killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, Edward was declared heir
      • Edward now took the more radical step of proclaiming himself king in March 1461.
      • He then advanced against the Lancastrians and defeated them in the exceptionally bloody Battle of Towton
      • Having effectively broken the military strength of the Lancastrians, Edward returned to London for his coronation.

At a meeting of his Irish Parliament in Wexford in 1463, Edward IV declared (via Thomas Earl of Desmond, deputy to George Duke of Clarence, his Lord Lieutenant) that

  • Germyn Lynch was “to make a piece of silver running at and of the value of four deniers” at Galway
  • He was also to make “another piece of silver coine, of the value of two deniers” plus one at “one denier
    • In modern parlance, these would be a groat, half-groat (twopence) and penny
  • King Edward IV also gave Germyn Lynch permission “to make as much or as little of every sort of the said moneys or coins of brass or copper, as he shall think to be profitable and good
    • Two denominations were proposed:
    • four pieces of brass or copper running at one penny of our said silver, to be imprinted with the figure of a bishop’s head, and a scripture of this word “Patrick” about the same head on the one side, and with a cross with this word “Salvator,” then about on the other side
    • eight pieces of brass running at and of the value of one penny of our said silver
  • Three mints were specifically mentioned: Dublin, Trim and Galway

Two types of coinage emerged from this Act:

  • Titled Crown Issue (1463-64)
    • An issue of silver groats, half-groat (twopence) and penny
    • <no image yet>
    • This is really an extension of the First ‘Anonymous’ Issue (1460-1462) issued by Edward’s father, Richard, Duke of York, who had negotiated a pact with Henry VI whereby he (Richard, Duke of York) would be his undisputed heir after Henry’s death.
    • These coins do not bear a portrait of Edward but do bear his name
  • Heavy portrait Isssue (1465-66)
    • An issue of silver groats, half-groats (twopence), pennies and halfpennies
    • Edward IV 1465 heavy portrait groat, Dublin mint

      Edward IV 1465-66 ‘heavy portrait’ groat, Dublin mint

    • In 1465 Edward again changed the design of the Irish coinage, when he authorised the striking of coins of a purely English type – something that proved ‘troublesome for the English merchants but disastrous for the Anglo-Norman economy in Ireland as the silver coinage quickly drained out of the country
      • English merchants petitioned Edward IV asking him to either restore the weight standard or make the ‘slightly lighter’ Irish coins more distinctive
      • There is also a suspicion that the entrepreneurial Germyn Lynch (who had extensive trading contacts in Bristol and further afield) was in the business of exporting Irish coin.

Previous to this Act of 1463, Richard Duke of York was Henry VI’s Lord Deputy in in Ireland but he grew increasingly frustrated with Henry’s governance and mounted an invasion of England from Dublin with the support of the Anglo-Irish nobility. Richard died in battle at Wakefield in 1460, with his son Edward (IV) went on to become king in 1461.

  • The Anonomous Crown Issue (1460-62)
    • An issue of silver groats and pennies + a half-farthing in copper
Edward IV Groat, Anonymous Crown Coinage, (c 1460-1463), Dublin mint

Edward IV Groat, Anonymous Crown Coinage, (c 1460-1463), Dublin mint

  • The copper half-farthing is interesting insofar as there had been no base metal coinage issued in the English series for many generations (not since the Middle Anglo-Saxon stycas of c. 850 AD)
    • These copper coins are usually difficult to decypher
    • They have a single legend ‘PATRICUS’

The Geraldine backers of the Yorkist expedition however adopted a cautious stance when it came to the coinage. Fearing the possible failure of their Yorkist allies in England, this coinage is anonymous, i.e. no portrait of a king, nor any reference to a king – a prudent measure for the Geraldine if a victorious Henry VI should look to Ireland after defeating his Yorkist cousins

  • It was superceded by a similar ‘Crown’ issue – this one with a reference to the victorious Yorkist king Edward IV.
    • The later viariant of this ‘early’ issue is, therefore, known as the ‘Titled’ Crown Issue (1463-64)

Most importantly, 

  • The silver content would be comparable to those produced in the Tower of London
  • and, presumably, therefore be acceptable for both foreign trade and taxation (revenue for Edward IV’s war chest)
    • Henry VI had lost most of his French territory in the 1440’s and his remaining territories there in the 1450’s
    • Edward’s father, the 3rd Duke of York saw this as the ‘actions of traitors’
      • Edward IV went on to crush any further notion of another Lancastrian rebellion in England
      • To do this, he required money to pay his soldiers and to retain the loyalty of the barons
        • He also made the duchy of Lancaster property of the crown, which it still is today
        • This was another ‘nice little earner’ for him
    • Edward IV had no revenue coming into his coffers from France
    • Much of England was in ruins due civil war and a huge influx of refugees from the wars in France
    • He now looked to his feudal vassals in Ireland to provide him with additional revenue
      • Was this the real reason for Edward’s new ‘high quality’ coinage? 
      • Or, did Germyn Lynch have his own reasons for doing so?
    • Unfortunately, this new coinage had the added effect of completely ruining the Irish economy
      • Irish silver flooded out of Ireland and commerce ground to a halt due to a lack of coinage
      • The Irish barons were thus unable to pay their suppliers and, eventually, the king his taxes and fees
        • A recession in Ireland also had the effect of reducing taxes payable to the king, so (if intentional), the strategy seems to have back-fired badly on the new king
        • Within 4 years, he too would have to introduce a new, de-valued currency for Ireland – just as his Lancastrian predecessor (Henry VI) did in 1460

Edward IV: Act of 1463 (Irish Coinage)

At a Parliament held at Weys (Wexford) before Thomas, 7th Earl of Desmond, deputy to George Duke of Clarence, was passed:

An Act for confirming letters patent made to Germyn Lynch of London, goldsmith. for coining money, the substance of which letter patent is as follows :-

viz., Edwardus &c., we have ordained Germyn Lynch of London, goldsmith, warden and master-worker of our moneys and coins within our castle of Dublin, and within our castle of Trymme, [Trim] and graver of the punsons [puncheons] of the said minie [money] and coins to occupy by himself or deputy during his life, giving him and them authority to make all our said moneys and coins, according to the ten or and effect of our statute or statutes by authority of a parliament holden at Drogheda before Richard late duke of Yorke then lord lieutenant. on the Friday after the feast of St. Blase the bishop, 38 Hen. VI. We give full power to the said Germyn Lynch and his deputy, during his life, to make all our said money and coins, and to do all things needful thereto within the town of Galway, that is, to make a piece of silver running at and of the value of four deniers, whereof one hundred and twenty shall go to the pound of troy, and to the ounce of the same, ten ; whereof the master to answer us of one plate of every such pound so made for the coinage, and the merchant one hundred and fourteen plates, and the master to have the other five plates to his use. And also another piece of silver coine, of the value of two deniers, whereof two hundred and forty to go to the pound, or to the ounce of the same twenty, with proportionable allowance as before :-Also another piece of silver coin of the value of one denier, whereof four hundred and eighty go to the pound, and to the ounce of the same forty, with proportion able allowance as before, and that the ounce of every of the aforesaid money coined, shall be departed in like form after the said afferance and rate. Also eight pieces of brass running at and of the value of one penny of our said silver. That all the aforesaid moneys and coins of silver an d brass shall be imprinted and bear scripture, and be of the weight, allaie [assay] and fineness, as is specified in the said statute or statutes. We give full power to the said Germyn or his deputy or deputies during his life,’ to make and strike in the said castles and town, and every of them, four pieces of brass or copper running at one penny of our said silver, to be imprinted with the figure of a bishop’s head , and a scripture of this word ” Patrick ” about the same head on the one side, and with a cross with this word ” Salvator,” then about on the other side, and to make as much or as little of every sort of the said moneys or coins of brass or copper, as he shall think to be profitable and good . And we grant to the said Germyn all the said moneys and coins of brass and copper to his proper use, in sustentation and finding of our labourers about the said money at his charges, free and quit, without any thing therefore paying to us during his said life. The master of the ming [mint] to account for our share of the profits of the said coinage to such person, as shall be assigned by the lieutenant or other governor of our said land, and not in the exchequer. That the weight and quantity of the said moneys of brass or copper be devised and made continually by the discretion of the master. As the said silver moneys may not be always made according to the right standard, because sometime, in default of the said master or workers, the said money of silver may be made too much or too little in weight or in allay, or in the one or in the other, by six penny-weight in every of the said pounds of troy ; which six penny-weight shall be called remedy for the said master, and if such default be found in any of the said pounds upon the due assen [trial or assay] before the deliverance over of the said six penny-weight called remedy, that then it shall be challenged by the merchant, and not to be delivered, and then the said master shall reforge the said moneys so found defective, at his proper costs, till it be made able according to the ordinance. We grant power to the said Germyn to make all manner of punchons, screws, graves, and other instruments necessary to the said minters, at London or elsewhere, for which instruments to be made, we grant to him ten marks yearly to be received by his own hand out of the profits of our said moneys arising by such mints, to be allowed him on account. That he shall make a privy sign on every piece of silver money. Power to take at all times as many labourers yearly as shall be necessary. And if any labourer refuses to work at the said mints, that the master or his deputy shall arrest, and put them in prison, till he labours as desired. All officers ministers commanded to assist the said Germyn in the execution of the premisses. Grant to all merchants repairing to any of the said mints, free entry and issue in and out of the said castles and towns.

Dated 6th Augusti primo Regni per Regem authoritate Parliamenti.

Who was Thomas, 7th Earl of Desmond?

Thomas FitzJames FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond (died 1467/68), called ‘Thomas of Drogheda’, known as the Great Earl, was the son of James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond and Mary de Burgh.

  • He was Lord Deputy of Ireland for the Duke of Clarence from 1463 to his death
  • In 1464, he founded the College of Youghal but his plan to found a University at Drogheda (almost 130 years before that of Trinity College Dublin) failed due to his judicial assassination

Upon the death of his father, James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond, in 1462, Thomas FitzJames FitzGerald, became the 7th Earl of Desmond. That same year Desmond, having sided, as had his father, with the House of York, put down a Lancastrian invasion of Ireland by John and Thomas Butler, brothers of the Earl of Ormond.

  • Local memory claims that the Battle of Piltown was so violent that the local river ran red with blood, hence the names Pill River and Piltown (Baile an Phuill – Town of the blood)
  • Piltown was the only battle of the Wars of the Roses fought in Ireland

In appreciation, the following year King Edward IV appointed Desmond Lord-Deputy under the Duke of Clarence.

  • Desmond built castles around the Pale, and continued the hereditary feud with the Butlers.
  • In 1466 he was badly defeated in an expedition to Offaly, which permanently weakened the defence of the Pale

He was beloved in Ireland for his defence of the Irish people against the difficulties of English law

  • the parliament in the Dublin Pale passed an act in 1465 that every Irishman dwelling in the Pale was to dress and shave like the English, and take an English surname such as the name of a town, or of a colour such as Black, Brown, Green or White, or of a trade such as Smith, Carpenter, Thatcher, or forfeit his goods.
  • Another measure forbade ships from fishing in the seas off Ireland, because the dues went to make the Irish people prosperous.
  • Another provided that it was lawful to decapitate ‘thieves’ found robbing “or going or coming anywhere” unless they had an Englishman in their company.
  • On bringing the head to the mayor of the nearest town, ‘head money’ was paid.

Desmond was the main defence of the Irish against such exactions. In 1468 Edward IV replaced Desmond as Lord Deputy with John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester, a Crown servant notorious for cruelty and ruthlessness, (nicknamed “the Butcher of England”).

  • Accused by his political enemies of treason, for aiding the Irish against the King’s subjects, as well as extortion, Desmond attended a Parliament held in Drogheda
  • He, along with Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare were attainted for treason
  • The fact that Desmond had been seized in a Priory, in breach of the right of sanctuary, caused particular indignation
  • Desmond was summarily beheaded, while Kildare managed to escape to England to plead his case before the King
  • Desmond was buried at St. Peter’s Church, Drogheda, then afterwards removed to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Who was Germyn Lynch?

Germyn Lynch (1441 – 1483) was a merchant and entrepreneur from Galway.

  • Lynch was a member of one of ‘The Tribes of Galway’
  • He was at various times a goldsmith, freeman and Alderman of City of London, and Master of the Irish mints
    • He was dismissed five times during his career for making lightweight coins
    • This seems like a series of lucky escape given the usual penalties for shortcomings in the manufacture of coins
  • As shipmaster he carried pilgrims to Santiago, sailed to Iceland for goods, as well as merchandise to/from Bristol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s