O’Brien Coin Guide: The First Irish Coinage of Edward I (c. 1276)


Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land – a crusade which accomplished little and was, effectively, the last of the great crusades. By this time, the so-called crusader spirit had waned considerably and there was little appetite shown by the kings of Europe. It also foreshadowed the imminent collapse of the last remaining crusader strongholds along the Mediterranean coast.

  • Edward was almost killed by an assassin in 1271 but survived the ordeal – receiving a festering wound from a poisoned dagger and delaying his departure from Acre – the last surviving Christian stronghold in Asia Minor and, at that time, the capital of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem
  • In September 1272, Edward departed Acre for Sicily and, while recuperating on the island, he first received news of the death of his son John, and then a few months later news of the death of his father.
    • In Edward’s absence, the country was governed by a royal council, led by Robert Burnell
      • Burnell was an English bishop who also served as Lord Chancellor of England from 1274 to 1292
      • When Edward went on the Eighth Crusade in 1270, Burnell stayed in England to secure the prince’s interests.
      • He served as regent after the death of King Henry III of England while Edward was still on crusade
        • He was twice elected Archbishop of Canterbury, but his personal life—which included a long-term mistress who was rumoured to have borne him four sons—prevented his confirmation by the papacy
          • In 1275 Burnell was elected Bishop of Bath and Wells
    • In 1273 Edward started his homeward journey via Italy, Gascony and Paris
      • On his way back, he visited the pope in Rome and suppressed a rebellion in Gascony
    • Edward finally reached England in the middle of 1274
      • He was crowned King of England on 19 August 1274 at Westminster (the Feast of St Magnus)

The Early Reign of Edward I

Soon after assuming the throne, Edward set about restoring order and re-establishing royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Henry III. To accomplish this, he immediately ordered an extensive change of administrative personnel.

  • The most important of these was the appointment of Robert Burnell as chancellor
  • Edward then replaced most local officials, such as the escheators and sheriffs – this was done in preparation for an extensive inquest covering all of England, that would hear complaints about abuse of power by royal officers

Edward I’s frequent military campaigns put a great financial strain on the nation but there were several ways through which the king could raise money for war, including customs duties, money lending and lay subsidies

  • In 1275, Edward I negotiated an agreement with English merchants that secured a permanent duty on wool
  • Another source of crown income was represented by England’s Jews. The Jews were the king’s personal property, and he was free to tax them at will
    • Also in 1275, Edward had issued the Statute of the Jewry, which outlawed usury and encouraged the Jews to take up other professions
    • By 1279, in the context of a crack-down on ‘coin-clippers’, he arrested all the heads of Jewish households in England and had around 300 of them executed
    • By 1280, the Jews had been exploited to a level at which they were no longer of much financial use to the crown
      • The final attack on the Jews in England came in the Edict of Expulsion in 1290, whereby Edward formally expelled all Jews from England
      • This generated new revenues through royal appropriation of Jewish loans and property
        • Beneath a thin veneer of anti-semitism, this move was primarily driven by financial necessity and greed, even though Edward had the excuse of following precedents set by other European territorial princes:
          • Philip II of France had expelled all Jews from his own lands in 1182
          • John I, Duke of Brittany, drove them out of his duchy in 1239
          • Louis IX of France had expelled the Jews from the royal demesne in the late 1240’s

Edward I in Ireland

Edward I never actually visited Ireland but his early administrative reforms did affect Ireland, when he resumed striking ‘long cross’ coins like those of Henry III in Dublin in 1276. This issue was short lived, since Edward I ordered a complete re-coinage in 1279/80

  • This would have involved ‘calling in’ all coins in circulation and exchanging them for new coins
  • The ‘re-call’ of the existing coinage must have been over 99% effective because the first Irish coinage of Edward I is now extremely rare – with less than 10 coins known to survive !
  • <no image available yet>



I have no images of Edward I’s Irish ‘long cross’ pennies but the image below depicts an English version

EDWARD I - LONG CROSS PENNY - CANTERBURY 1301-1307 AD. Class 10ab. Obv: facing bust with +EDWARD R ANGL DNS HYB legend. Rev: long cross with CIVI TAS CAN TOR legend for the Canterbury mint. 1.40 grams


  • Obv: facing bust with +EDWARD R ANGL DNS HYB legend.
  • Rev: long cross with CIVI TAS CAN TOR legend for the Canterbury mint. 1.40 grams

The ‘long cross’ series was introduced under Henry III in order to prevent the coinage of the country being clipped and thus reduce the weight and intrinsic value of the silver content of the coin. The idea was that an extended ‘long’ cross on the reverse would make much clearer to the user if coin had been tampered with and merchants were advised to refuse to accept a coin for payment, if the ends of all four limbs weren’t visible.

  • The long cross also made easier the task of cutting the coin into halves and quarters
  • This was how medieval merchants producing half-pennies and ‘fourthings’ (root word for ‘farthings’)
    • No ’round’ small change would appear until Edward I’s reform in 1279/80
    • Previous to this, the last Irish ’round halfpennies and farthings were produced by King John
  • Long cross coins were minted from 1279 till 1489 and cover the reigns of 11 kings – from Henry III to Henry VII



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