St Edward's Crown
St Edward's Crown is the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. Named after Saint Edward the Confessor, it has been traditionally used to crown English and British monarchs at their coronations since the 13th century; the original crown was a holy relic kept at Westminster Abbey, Edward's burial place, until the regalia were either sold or melted down after Parliament abolished the monarchy in 1649, during the English Civil War. The present version of St Edward's Crown was made for Charles II in 1661, it is solid gold, 30 centimetres tall, weighs 2.23 kilograms, is decorated with 444 precious and semi-precious stones. The crown is similar in weight and overall appearance to the original. After 1689, it was not used to crown a monarch for over 200 years. In 1911, the tradition was revived by George V, all subsequent monarchs have been crowned using St Edward's Crown. A stylised image of this crown is used on coats of arms, badges and various other insignia in the Commonwealth realms to symbolise the royal authority of Queen Elizabeth II.
St Edward's Crown is on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. St Edward's Crown is 22-karat gold, with a circumference of 66 cm, measures 30 cm tall, weighs 2.23 kg. It has four fleurs-de-lis and four crosses pattée, supporting two dipped arches topped by a monde and cross pattée, the arches and monde signifying an imperial crown, its purple velvet cap is trimmed with ermine. It is set with 444 precious and semi-precious stones, including 345 rose-cut aquamarines, 37 white topazes, 27 tourmalines, 12 rubies, 7 amethysts, 6 sapphires, 2 jargoons, 1 garnet, 1 spinel and 1 carbuncle. Although it is regarded as the official coronation crown, only six monarchs have been crowned with St Edward's Crown since the Restoration: Charles II, James II, William III, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. Mary II and Anne were crowned with small diamond crowns of their own; when not used to crown the monarch, St Edward's Crown was placed on the altar during the coronation. Edward the Confessor wore his crown at Easter and Christmas.
In 1161, he was made a saint, objects connected with his reign became holy relics. The monks at his burial place of Westminster Abbey claimed that Edward had asked them to look after his regalia in perpetuity for the coronations of all future English kings. Although the claim is to have been an exercise in self-promotion on the abbey's part, some of the regalia had been taken from Edward's grave when he was reinterred there, it became accepted as fact, thereby establishing the first known set of hereditary coronation regalia in Europe. A crown referred to as St Edward's Crown is first recorded as having been used for the coronation of Henry III in 1220, it appears to be the same crown worn by Edward. An early description of the crown is "King Alfred's Crown of gold wire-work set with slight stones and two little bells", weighing 79.5 ounces and valued at £248 in total. It was sometimes called King Alfred's Crown because of an inscription on the lid of its box, translated from Latin, read: "This is the chief crown of the two, with which were crowned Kings Alfred and others".
However, there is no evidence to support the belief that it dated from Alfred's time, in the coronation order it always has been referred to as St Edward's Crown. St Edward's Crown left Westminster Abbey, but when Richard II was forced to abdicate in 1399, he had the crown brought to the Tower of London, where he symbolically handed it to Henry IV, saying "I present and give to you this crown with which I was crowned king of England and all the rights dependent on it", it was used in 1533 to crown the second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn – unprecedented for a queen consort. In the Tudor period, three crowns were placed on the heads of monarchs at a coronation: St Edward's Crown, the state crown, a "rich crown" made specially for the king or queen. After the English Reformation, the new Church of England denounced the veneration of medieval relics, starting with the coronation of Edward VI in 1547, the significance of St Edward's Crown as a holy relic was played down in the ceremony. During the English Civil War, Parliament sold the medieval St Edward's Crown, regarded by Oliver Cromwell as symbolic of the "detestable rule of kings".
The British monarchy was restored in 1660, in preparation for the coronation of Charles II, living in exile abroad, a new St Edward's Crown was supplied by the Royal Goldsmith, Sir Robert Vyner. It was fashioned to resemble the medieval crown, with a heavy gold base and clusters of semi-precious stones, but the arches are decidedly Baroque. In the late 20th century, it was assumed to incorporate gold from the original St Edward's Crown, as they are identical in weight, no invoice was produced for the materials in 1661. A crown was displayed at the lying in state of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England from 1653 until 1658. On the weight of this evidence and historian Martin Holmes, in a 1959 paper for Archaeologia, concluded that in the time of the Interregnum St Edward's Crown was saved from the melting pot and that its gold was used to make a new crown at the Restoration, his theory became accepted wisdom, many books, including official guidebooks for the Cro
On 15 February 1971, known as Decimal Day, the United Kingdom and Ireland decimalised their currencies. Under the old currency of pounds and pence, the pound was made up of 240 pence, with 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound; the loss of value of the currency meant that the "old" penny, with the same diameter as the US half-dollar, had become of low value. The Coinage Act of 1792 had authorized the United States as the first English-speaking nation to have decimalised currency, although Tsar Peter the Great used the concept for the Russian ruble close to a century earlier, in 1704, while China has used such a decimal system for at least 2000 years; the United Kingdom's Parliament rejected Sir John Wrottesley's proposals to decimalise sterling in 1824, prompted by the introduction in 1795 of the decimal French franc. After this defeat, little practical progress towards decimalisation was made for over a century, with the exception of the two-shilling silver florin first issued in 1849.
A double florin or four-shilling piece was a further step in that direction but failed to gain acceptance and was struck only from 1887 to 1890. The Decimal Association was founded in 1841 to promote decimalisation and metrication, both causes that were boosted by a realisation of the importance of international trade following the 1851 Great Exhibition, it was as a result of the growing interest in decimalisation. In their preliminary report, the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage considered the benefits and problems of decimalisation but did not draw any conclusion about the adoption of any such scheme. A final report in 1859 from the two remaining commissioners, Lord Overstone and Governor of the Bank of England John Hubbard came out against the idea, claiming it had "few merits". In 1862, the Select Committee on Weights and Measures favoured the introduction of decimalisation to accompany the introduction of metric weights and measures; the decimalisation movement entered fiction. In Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels, Plantagenet Palliser is a passionate advocate of decimalisation, a cause the other characters seem to find intensely boring.
Palliser's scheme would have divided the shilling into ten pennies. This would have changed the threepence into 2 1/2 new pence, the sixpence into fivepence and the half crown into a two shilling, five pence piece, it would have required the withdrawal and reissuance of the existing copper coinage. At the end of the fifth book in the series, The Prime Minister, Palliser muses that the reform will not be accomplished, since it can only be done by a Chancellor of the Exchequer sitting in the House of Commons, the Duke now sits in the House of Lords; the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage, chaired by Lord Emmott, reported in 1920 that the only feasible scheme was to divide the pound into 1,000 mills but that this would be too inconvenient. A minority of four members disagreed. A further three members recommended that the pound should be replaced by the Royal, consisting of 100 halfpennies. In 1960, a report prepared jointly by the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, followed by the success of decimalisation in South Africa, prompted the Government to set up the Committee of the Inquiry on Decimal Currency in 1961, which reported in 1963.
The adoption of the changes suggested in the report was announced on 1 March 1966. The Decimal Currency Board was created to manage the transition, although the plans were not approved by Parliament until the Decimal Currency Act in May 1969. Former Greater London Council leader Bill Fiske was named as the Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board. Consideration was given to introducing a new major unit of currency worth ten shillings in the old currency: suggested names included the new pound, the royal and the noble; this would have resulted in the "decimal penny" being worth only more than the old penny. But Halsbury decided, in view of the pound sterling's importance as a reserve currency, that the pound should remain unchanged. Under the new system, the pound was retained but was divided into 100 new pence, denoted by the symbol p. New coinage was issued alongside the old coins; the 5p and 10p coins were introduced in April 1968 and were the same size and value as the shilling and two shillings coins in circulation with them.
In October 1969 the 50p coin was introduced, with the 10s note withdrawn on 20 November 1970. This reduced the number of new coins that had to be introduced on Decimal Day and meant that the public was familiar with three of the six new coins. Small booklets were made available containing all of the new denominations; the old halfpenny was withdrawn from circulation on 31 July 1969, the half-crown followed on 31 December to ease the transition. There was a substantial publicity campaign in the weeks before Decimalisation Day, including a song by Max Bygraves called "Decimalisation"; the BBC broadcast a series of five-minute programmes, "Decimal Five", to whi
The guinea was a coin of one quarter ounce of gold, minted in Great Britain between 1663 and 1814. The name came from the Guinea region in West Africa, where much of the gold used to make the coins originated, it was the first English machine-struck gold coin worth one pound sterling, equal to twenty shillings, but rises in the price of gold relative to silver caused the value of the guinea to increase, at times to as high as thirty shillings. From 1717 to 1816, its value was fixed at twenty-one shillings; when Britain adopted the gold standard the guinea became a specialised term. Although the coin itself no longer circulated, the term guinea survived as a unit of account in some fields. Notable usages included professional fees, which were invoiced in guineas, horse racing and greyhound racing, the sale of rams. In each case a guinea meant an amount of one pound and one shilling, or one pound and five pence in decimalised currency; the name forms the basis for the Arabic word for the Egyptian pound الجنيه el-Genēh / el-Geni, as a sum of 100 qirsh was worth 21 shillings at the end of the 19th century.
The first guinea was produced on 6 February 1663. One troy pound of 11⁄12 fine gold would make 44 1⁄2 guineas, each thus theoretically weighing 129.438 grains. The denomination was worth one pound, or twenty shillings, but an increase in the price of gold during the reign of King Charles II led to the market trading it at a premium; the price of gold continued to increase in times of trouble, by the 1680s, the coin was worth 22 shillings. Indeed, in his diary entries for 13 June 1667, Samuel Pepys records that the price was 24 to 25 shillings; the diameter of the coin was 1 in throughout Charles II's reign, the average gold purity was 0.9100. "Guinea" was not an official name for the coin, but much of the gold used to produce the early coins came from Guinea in Africa. The coin was produced each year between 1663 and 1684, with the elephant appearing on some coins each year from 1663 to 1665 and 1668, the elephant and castle on some coins from 1674 onward; the elephant, with or without the castle, symbolises the Royal African Company, whose activities on the Guinea Coast of Africa resulted in the importation of much gold into England.
The obverse and reverse of this coin were designed by John Roettier. The obverse showed a fine right-facing bust of the king wearing a laurel wreath, surrounded by the legend CAROLVS II DEI GRATIA, while the reverse showed four crowned cruciform shields bearing the arms of England, Scotland and Ireland, between which were four sceptres, in the centre were four interlinked "C"s, surrounded by the inscription MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX; the edge was milled to deter clipping or filing, to distinguish it from the silver half-crown which had edge lettering. Until 1669 the milling was perpendicular to the edge, giving vertical grooves, while from 1670 the milling was diagonal to the edge. John Roettier continued to design the dies for this denomination in the reign of King James II. In this reign, the coins weighed 8.5 g with a diameter of 25–26 mm, were minted in all years between 1685 and 1688, with an average gold purity of 0.9094. Coins of each year were issued both without the elephant and castle mark.
The king's head faces left in this reign, is surrounded by the inscription IACOBVS II DEI GRATIA, while the reverse is the same as in Charles II's reign except for omitting the interlinked "C"s in the centre of the coin. The edge of the coins are milled diagonally. With the removal of James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, his daughter Mary and her husband Prince William of Orange reigned jointly as co-monarchs, their heads appear conjoined on the guinea piece in Roman style, with William's head uppermost, with the legend GVLIELMVS ET MARIA DEI GRATIA. In a departure from the previous reigns, the reverse featured a new design of a large crowned shield which bore the arms of England and France in the first and fourth quarters, of Scotland in the second quarter, of Ireland in the third quarter, the whole ensemble having a small shield in the centre bearing the rampant lion of Nassau. By the early part of this reign the value of the guinea had increased to nearly 30 shillings; the guineas of this reign weighed 8.5 g, were 25–26 mm in diameter, were the work of James and Norbert Roettier.
They were produced in all years between 1689 and 1694 both without the elephant and castle. Following the death of Queen Mary from smallpox in 1694, William continued to reign as William III; the guinea coin was produced in all years from 1695 to 1701, both with and without the elephant and castle, the design being the work of Johann Crocker known as John Croker, since James Roettier had died in 1698 and his brother Norbert had moved to France in 1695. The coins of William III's reign weighed 8.4 g with an average gold purity
The half sovereign is an English and British gold coin with a face value half that of a sovereign: equivalent to half a pound sterling, ten shillings, or 120 old pence. Since the end of the gold standard, it has been issued only in limited quantities as a commemorative coin with a sale price and resale value far in excess of its face value; the main reason for this is because they are used, along with other coins of this type, as bullion coins. Common date half sovereigns tend to be worth more than melt value; the half sovereign was first introduced in 1544 under Henry VIII. After 1604, the issue of half sovereigns, along with gold sovereigns, was discontinued until 1817, following a major revision of British coinage. Production continued until 1926 and, apart from special issues for coronation years, was not restarted until 1980, it was used extensively in Australia, until 1933. Modern half sovereigns, from 1817 onwards, have a diameter of 19.30 mm, a thickness of c. 0.99 mm, a weight of 3.99 g, are made of 22 carat crown gold alloy, contain 0.1176 troy ounces of gold.
The reverse side, featuring St. George slaying a dragon was designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, whose initials appear to the right of the date; the half sovereign is a "protected coin" for the purposes of Part II of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. British Coins - Free information about British coins. Includes an online forum. Online Coin Club / Coins from United Kingdom / Half Sovereign
The Quarter guinea was a British coin minted only in the years 1718 and 1762. As the name implies, it was valued at one-fourth of a guinea, which at that time was worth twenty-one shillings; the quarter guinea therefore was valued at threepence. At the beginning of the reign of King George I the price of silver had risen resulting in much British silver coinage being melted down and few silver coins' being struck. Isaac Newton, the Master of the Mint, wrote a minute dated 21 September 1717 in which he blamed the rising price of silver on the overvaluation of the guinea at twenty-one shillings and sixpence. Newton's memo resulted in a Proclamation of 20 December reducing the value of the guinea to twenty-one shillings. In 1718 it was decided to strike a new gold coin equal to a quarter guinea to provide a useful coin worth the same as the five-shilling silver crown; the new coin had to be proportionate in size to the other gold denominations, this resulted in a coin which weighed 2.1 grams and was 16 millimetres in diameter.
It had not been realised at the time that a coin of this size was impracticably small to use, would prove unpopular. 37,380 coins were minted, but many of them were put aside as keepsakes and many of the rest were lost. The coin was discontinued after 1718, for the next few years there was an increased output of guineas and half guineas. Despite its minuscule size, the coin took the form of a scaled-down version of the guinea and half guinea, including all the intricate cruciform shields on the reverse and all the king's Hanoverian titles; the coin is a fine example of the mint's work, although a magnifying glass is needed to properly appreciate it. The obverse shows a right-facing portrait of the king with the legend GEORGIVS D G M BR FR ET HIB REX F D, abbreviation for Georgius, Dei Gratia Magna Britannia, Francia, et Hibernia Rex, Fidei Defensor, Latin for "George, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith"; the reverse shows four crowned cruciform shields separated by sceptres, with a central Star of the Order of the Garter, the legend BRVN ET L DVX S R I A TH ET PR EL 1718 – Brunswick et Luneburg Dux, Sacrum Romanum Imperatoria Arch-Tresorum et Princeps-Elector, Latin for "Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Arch-Treasurer and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire".
The dies for all quarter-guineas of King George I were engraved by John Croker, from Dresden. When George III came to the throne in 1760, the price of silver had again risen dramatically. Despite the unpopularity of the 1718 quarter guinea it was considered necessary to produce this coin again, to the same size and weight as before, to fill the gap between the low-denomination silver coins and the larger gold coins, it met the same fate as its predecessor and was only produced in 1762. The obverse shows a right-facing portrait of the king with the legend GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA, while the reverse shows a large crowned shield bearing the arms of England and Scotland, France and Hanover, the legend M B F ET H REX F D B ET L D S R I A T ET E 1762 – abbreviation for Magna Britannia, Francia, et Hibernia Rex, Fidei Defensor, Brunswick et Luneburg Dux, Sacrum Romanum Imperatoria Arch-Tresorum et Elector - Latin for "King of Great Britain and Ireland. British Coins - Free information about British coins.
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