TUDOR COINAGE FROM HENRY VII. TO ELIZABETH
DURING the Tudor period English coinage developed from a medieval into a modern currency. For the first stage of the development the practical Henry VII was responsible. The early issues of his reign were distinctly medieval, no farther advanced in art or technique than the coins of the preceding century and a half. His later coins, on the other hand, were of true Renaissance style, showing signs of classical influence in the fine, dignified portrait and in the decorative detail.
A comparison of Henry VII's first issues of coins with his last issues shows that during the course of his reign almost every denomination -- from the gold sovereign (20 s.), ryal (10 s.), angel (6 s. 8 d.), and half-angel (3 s. 4 d.) to the silver testoon (1 s.), groat (4 d.), half- groat (2 d.), penny, halfpenny, and farthing -- completely altered its appearance. The only exceptions were the angel and half-angel, and even these showed modifications of detail which gave greater elegance to the design.
Two of the denominations, the gold sovereign and the silver testoon, were new; now, for the first time, England had coins which corresponded to the monetary values long used in computations. The gold sovereign, with a weight of 240 gr., and a fineness of 23 carats, 3 1/2 gr., made its first appearance in 1489. Its currency value was 20 s. Its large flan, measuring 1.6 inches across, invited magnificence and spaciousness of design, and the early issues of the sovereign do in fact rank among the finest products ever to come out of the English mint. The testoon or shilling, issued in the last years of the reign, was no less beautiful in its own way. It bore, along with contemporary groats and half-groats, for the first time in the history of the English coinage, a portrait of the king which was a true likeness.
Henry VII used the mint of London only for the issue of his gold coinage, and of his testoons and groats. The smaller denominations in silver were issued from time to time at the royal mints at Canterbury and York, and at the ecclesiastical mints of the archbishops of Canterbury and York and of the bishop of Durham. Towards the close of his reign, however, he imposed certain restraints on these ecclesiastical mints.
In the last fifteen years of his reign Henry VII struck into coin at