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Henry III


The Irish Coinage of Henry III, 1251 to 1254

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© 2006 - Copyright
_ Stafford-Langan
Version 1.13a
1st March, 2006


Introduction to The Irish Coinage of Henry III, 1251 to 1254

In 1251 Henry III reopened the Irish mint in Dublin and struck a coinage of silver pennies. This coinage was also of the same standard as the contemporary English coinage and very similar in appearance to it. Again its purpose was to provide a convenient mechanism for exporting the silver from Ireland, but in this instance no smaller denominations were produced to support the local economy. 

The success of this mechanism is shown by the fact that more than 50% of the surviving specimens of this coinage have been found in European rather than English or Irish hoards. The great Bruxelles hoard of 1908 contained some 1800 pennies of this type and a further selection of European copies of the Irish type sterling. 

This hoard and the other surviving specimens of this coinage make it the medieval coinage of which the greatest percentage of coins struck are known to survive. It is also supported by a large proportion of the original accounts of the mint being available to researchers. And as a result it has helped uncover significant information about coinage production rates, die yields and other statistics.

The English short cross coinage was replaced in 1247 by Henry III with a new long cross issue. The key design change was the extension of the voided cross pommee on the reverse to the edges of the coin. Henry gave the rights to produce this coinage to his younger brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in return for a loan to assist Henry with his activities in France.

Richard's rights included the right to strike coinage in Ireland, and in 1251 he commenced this coinage. The mint operated for three years from 1251 to 1254 under the control of Roger de Haverhull. The dies for the coinage were made in London and sent to Dublin. As the dies were made in London it is reasonable to assume that two existing London moneyers of the period, Richard Bonaventure and David of Enfield are probably the RICARD and DAVI who signed the Irish coins.

There is a similarity in style between some aspects of the London coins and the Dublin issues. Because the London coins feature the king's head in a circle rather than triangle the shoulders do not show on the English coins so some varieties in the Irish issues have no English equivalents. A further study of the comparison between the London and Dublin dies of Ricard and Davi might yield additional date information where some of the English issues can be tied to Irish ones which are clearly associated with this three year period of production.

There is no clear chronological break down of the minor variations in this issue of coins.

Henry III Penny - Type IIIa -Ricard

The coinage consisted only of pennies which were cut in halves and quarters to accommodate the needs of smaller change. These cut halfpennies and farthings do turn up occasionally, but are not in particular demand as from a collectors point of view they are of much less interest than the full uncut pennies.

There is no indication that any particular variety of these coins is representative of a particular event or change in mint policy, so the varieties which are listed in various catalogues are more a representation of those varieties which have been noted in publications or remarked on in auction catalogues rather than being an exhaustive list.

A Copy of an English Penny of Henry III with a Dublin signature

These coins were copied extensively across Northern Europe in the years following the issue. Some copies are easy to detect as they are clearly of a different style from the genuine coinage. Some coins are mules of Irish and English dies as in the illustration above. 

I have attempted a complete revision of the Irish pennies of Henry III into a series of new categories.

The reason that I have done this is that the current catalogue divisions do not seem to match the coins very well.  There are types listed (such as the wide open shoulders types) which are not really types but rather just example from one end of a continuously varying feature.  More  importantly there are distinct clear groupings based on significant features (such as pellets in the obverse legend) which are clearly diagnostic but which cross the existing categories and suggests that the existing categories may not be meaningful.  

Bibliography of The Irish Coinage of Henry III, 1251 to 1254

Dykes, D. "The Irish Coinage of Henry III" - BNJ XXXII, 1963

Dolley, M. & Seaby, W. "Anglo Irish Coins in the Ulster Museum, Part I, John - Edward III" - SCBI, 1968

Index of Images of The Irish Coinage of Henry III, 1251 to 1254

Henry III Penny - Type I a - Ricard

Henry III Penny - Type IIa - Davi

Henry III Penny - Type IIIa -Ricard

Henry III Penny - Type IV - Ricard

Henry III Penny - Type IVb - (three curls) - Ricard

A Copy of an English Penny of Henry III with a Dublin signature