O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Posthumous Irish Coinage of Henry VIII


Introduction:

Edward VI was crowned King of England and Ireland on crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. During Edward’s reign, the realm was governed by a Regency Council because he never reached his majority.

The Council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, from 1551 Duke of Northumberland.

  • His short reign only lasted 6 years
  • He was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
  • Edward VI was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty
  • Edward VI was also England’s first monarch raised as a Protestant

Henry VIII’s Irish Legacy

Henry VIII’s Irish policy not successful. This partially due to the fact that it was too expensive to be carried out in full. Despite declaring himself King of Ireland, Henry actually ruled only a small part of the country, i.e. The city of Dublin (The Pale) and a few coastal towns.

Even within the Pale, Henry VIII’s authority was being challenged by one of the most powerful of the Anglo-Irish barons, the Fitzgeralds of Kildare.

  • Matters came to a head in the 1530s when one of the Fitzgeralds, Lord Offaly (Silken Thomas, as he was known) openly challenged the royal authority and won widespread support in Ireland.
    • Silken Thomas called Henry a heretic
    • He then declared himself champion of the Pope and the Spanish emperor

Henry had to act and he had to act decisively:  he would have to put down the rebellion and force the Irish parliament to agree to his changes just as the English parliament had done

  • First, he sent a large army of 2,300 to Ireland
  • Secondly, he tried to break the power of the Fitzgeralds
    • He confiscated their land
    • He then killed all male members of the family – except one, an infant half-brother to Lord Offaly
  • Thirdly, in 1536, he introduced the Reformation into Ireland, hoping to make Ireland a Protestant county loyal to the Crown
  • Finally, in 1541, he declared himself King of Ireland
    • He declared that all lands in Ireland were to be surrendered to the Crown
    • He promised to re-grant them to the original owners if they pledged their loyalty, i.e. Surrender & Re-Grant
  • Both the Native Irish and Anglo-Irish were reviled by this
    • most Irish people refused to adopt Henry’s Anglican Church

Why did Edward VI continue to issue coins in the name of Henry VIII in Ireland?

Following the death of Henry VIII on 28 January 1547 the Tudor passed, easily and without dispute, to a male heir but Edward VI’s extreme youth ensured that his reign would not immediately be his own.

  • A regency council ruled on his behalf, i.e. Henry’s most trusted advisers

However, Henry’s will was shortsighted and hardly practical; he wanted a regency council of peers, each equal to the other. But even as he lay dying, the earl of Hertford and Sir William Paget were already planning their coup.

  • Hertford, Jane Seymour’s brother and Edward’s uncle, would be made Lord Protector
  • Paget would be first minister.

On 28 January 1547, Hertford rode to his nephew and brought him to the security of the Tower of London. On 31 January the council met there and agreed to Paget’s nomination of Hertford as protector.

  • Only then was Henry VIII’s demise made public and Edward VI proclaimed king

However, even after his coronation, a scramble for titles, influence and increased personal power persisted amongst Edward’s advisers. England’s lords had not all converted to Anglicanism and some of those who did, hid their allegiance to the Catholic faith.

  • Edward VI succession was without opposition but his future was far from assured
  • Protestant England’s future was also far from assured
    • Even after his death, the authority of Henry VIII carried some weight
    • Perhaps, this is the reason the regency council of Edward VI decided to issue a posthumous coinage in Ireland
  • Edward, meanwhile, was allowed to focus on the promotion of the new religion
    • He was a devout Protestant
    • Edward’s ministers demonstrated passionate self-interest in this religious climate
    • These Protestant lords had profitted economically from the dissolution of the monasteries
      • No one – lord or commoner – wanted to reinstate papal taxation

The Posthumous Coinage of Henry VIII

Following the death of Henry VIII, some posthumous coins with his name were struck at Dublin, reopened by the regency council of his son Edward VI.  The larger silver coins, although referred to as groats, continued to be valued at six pence, hence some dealers and collectors refer to them as “sixpenny groats.”

  • There were also smaller silver coins of three pence, three halfpence and three-farthings
    • all four of these coins bear the name and portrait of Henry VIII

Edward VI’s Sixpence (in the name & image of Henry VIII)

Ireland. Edward VI sixpence, posthumous Henry VIII issue. Old Head Coinage" 1547-1550 portrait, type IV. Small bust facing semi right, has been cleaned, nice full flan and good overall definition. Seaby 6488, good very fine.

Edward VI (1547-53), coinage in the name of Henry VIII, Sixpence, 0.54g, (S.6488), nice full flan, good overall definition but has been cleaned. Dublin mint.

  • Good Very Fine (gVF)
  • Scarce

Obverse:

  • Posthumous old head of Henry VIII coinage, Bust of early London Tower style facing semi right
  • HENRIC’ 8 D’ G’ AG’ ET FRA’ Z HIB’ REX
    • Translates as “Henry 8 by the Grace of God King of England France and Ireland”

Reverse:

  • Shield over long cross fourchée
  • CIVITAS DVBLINI
    • Translates as “City of Dublin”

 

Edward VI’s Threepence (in the name & image of Henry VIII)

Edward VI. 1547-1553. BI Threepence (19mm, 0.99 g, 6h). In the name and types of Henry VIII. Dublin mint. Struck 1547-circa 1550. Crowned and mantled bust facing slightly right / Coat-of-arms over long cross fourchée. SCBC 6489. Good Fine, toned, ragged edge.

Edward VI (1547-53), coinage in the name of Henry VIII, Threepence, (19mm, 0.99 g, 6h). Struck 1547-circa 1550. SCBC 6489. S.6489; DF 219. Dublin mint.

  • Good Fine (gF)
    • Toned, ragged edge
  • Scarce

Obverse:

  • Posthumous old head of Henry VIII coinage, Bust of early London Tower style facing semi right
  • HENRIC’ 8 D’ G’ AG’ ET FRA’ Z HIB’ REX
    • Translates as “Henry 8 by the Grace of God King of England France and Ireland”

Reverse:

  • Shield over long cross fourchée
  • CIVITAS DVBLINI
    • Translates as “City of Dublin”

 

Edward VI’s Three-halfpence (in the name & image of Henry VIII)

Edward VI (1547-53), coinage in the name of Henry VIII, Threehalfpence, 0.54g, crowned, bearded facing bust, rev. civitas dvblini, shield over long cross fourchée (D.F. -; S.6492), scratch on obverse, full coin, weak portrait, clear legends, fair / about fine, extremely rare

Edward VI (1547-53), coinage in the name of Henry VIII, Three-halfpence, 0.54g, (S.6492), scratch on obverse, full coin, weak portrait, clear legends. Dublin mint.

  • Fair / about Fine
  • Extremely rare

Obverse:

  • Posthumous old head of Henry VIII coinage, Bust of early London Tower style facing semi right
  • HENRIC’ 8 D’ G’ AG’ ET FRA’ Z HIB’ REX
    • Translates as “Henry 8 by the Grace of God King of England France and Ireland”

Reverse:

  • Shield over long cross fourchée
  • CIVITAS DVBLINI
    • Translates as “City of Dublin”

 

Edward VI’s Three-farthings (in the name & image of Henry VIII)

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Dublin mint.

Obverse:

  • Posthumous old head of Henry VIII coinage, Bust of early London Tower style bust facing semi right
  • HENRIC’ 8 D’ G’ AG’ ET FRA’ Z HIB’ REX
    • Translates as “Henry 8 by the Grace of God King of England France and Ireland”

Reverse:

  • Shield over long cross fourchée
  • CIVITAS DVBLINI
    • Translates as “City of Dublin”

 

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