THE LONG CROSS PENNIES OF HENRY III
Sometimes known as the "Voided Long Cross" pennies. Issued for Henry from 1247 to 1272.
For the short cross coins issued under Henry III click here.
Henry III MENU
Henry III was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death. The son of King John & Isabella of Angoulême, Henry assumed the throne when he was only nine, in the middle of the First Barons' War. Henry's forces, led by William Marshal, defeated the rebels at the battles of Lincoln & Sandwich in 1217. Henry promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons. His early rule was dominated first by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, the King failed to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father. A revolt led by William Marshal's son, Richard Marshal, broke out in 1232, ending in a peace settlement negotiated by the Church.
Following the revolt, Henry ruled England personally, rather than governing through senior ministers. He married Eleanor of Provence, with whom he had five children. Henry was known for his piety, and was particularly devoted to the figure of Edward the Confessor, whom he adopted as his patron saint.
In a fresh attempt to reclaim his family's lands in France, he invaded Poitou in 1242, leading to the disastrous Battle of Taillebourg. After this, Henry relied on diplomacy, cultivating an alliance with Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. Henry supported his brother Richard of Cornwall in his bid to become King of the Romans in 1256, but was unable to place his own son Edmund Crouchback on the throne of Sicily.
By 1258, Henry's rule was increasingly unpopular, the result of the failure of his expensive foreign policies and the notoriety of his Poitevin half-brothers, the Lusignans, as well as the role of his local officials in collecting taxes and debts. A coalition of his barons seized power in a coup d'état and expelled the Poitevins from England, reforming the royal government through a process called the Provisions of Oxford. Henry and the baronial government enacted a peace with France in 1259, under which Henry gave up his rights to his other lands in France in return for King Louis IX recognising him as the rightful ruler of Gascony. The baronial regime collapsed but Henry was unable to reform a stable government and instability across England continued.
In 1263, one of the more radical barons, Simon de Montfort, seized power, resulting in the Second Barons' War. Henry persuaded Louis to support his cause and mobilised an army. The Battle of Lewes occurred in 1264, where Henry was defeated and taken prisoner. Henry's eldest son, Edward, escaped from captivity to defeat de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham the following year and freed his father. Henry initially enacted a harsh revenge on the remaining rebels, but was persuaded by the Church to mollify his policies through the Dictum of Kenilworth. Reconstruction was slow and Henry had to acquiesce to various measures, including further suppression of the Jews, to maintain baronial and popular support. Henry died in 1272, leaving Edward as his successor. (Wikipedia article).
BNS Research Blog References
M M Archibald and B J Cook, English Medieval Coin Hoards: I Cross and Crosslet, Short Cross and Long Cross hoards, British Museum Occasional Paper 87, 2001- for the detailed description of the Colchester Hoard in particular.
Cassidy, R, Richard of Cornwall and the Royal Mints and Exchanges, 1247-59, in The Numismatic Chronicle, 2012
Churchill, R. & Thomas, B. The Brussels Hoard of 1908. The Long Cross Coinage of Henry III. London, 2012
Churchill, R. Mints & Moneyers During The Reign of Henry III. London, 2012.
Wren, Christopher R, The Voided Long-Cross Coinage 1247-1279, An Illustrated Guide to Identification, 80pp, 2nd edition, 2006
The Irish Issues:
The Irish Coinage of Henry III, 1251to 1254 - website by John Stafford, 2006
Website of Sterling Imitations & Contemporary Forgeries
Other Online Resources
The Conte Collection, purchased by the Fitzwilliam Museum, contains some marvellous Henry III long cross pennies. These can be viewed online starting on this page.
The Brussels Hoard
A prime source of information is data from the vast Brussels Hoard, found in 1906. The hoard is perhaps the largest discovery of medieval silver coins ever made.
In Brussels, during 1908, workmen demolishing an old tavern found almost 150,000 silver coins under a cistern at the back of the house. The hoard comprised roughly 64,000 continental coins but also 81,000 English, Scottish and Irish silver pennies. The English pennies being mainly of the voided long cross type.
The hoard may well have been some sort of Royal payment for trade or military purposes. But whatever the reason for its existence, it seems it was deposited for safe-keeping, perhaps in 1267, during the unrest in the Flemish capital at a time when the city's craft guilds armed themselves and rebelled against the authorities. Perhaps the hoard may simply have belonged to a very rich merchant.
When the hoard was sealed the house in which it was hidden was located just inside the city wall, not far from the main route to Liege. Within a radius of 500 meters the cattle market, the timber market and the hay market were situated. The cathedral was also situated nearby.
Another suggestion for the existence of the hoard is that the money was perhaps connected to the building of the cathedral which had started in 1222, some decades before the coins were abandoned. The building of the cathedral was one of the few projects in medieval Brussels that would have needed such a large sum of money.
The coins ended up being sold at auction in October 1909 in Brussels; they were divided into two lots - one for the continental coins and the other for the British issues. At the sale, the British coins were purchased by Albert Baldwin. He paid fr15,250 (plus a commission of 10%), then equivalent to about £9000, to purchase the lot. That would be equivalent to about £750,000 today, or about £9.25 per coin.
Today less than 20,000 of the Flemish pennies and a large part of the English pennies are believed to be in existence. The majority of the Flemish material seems to have been melted down, most probably in the 1910s and 1920s. A portion of the English material has also been melted down, though presumably the poorer quality coins. By the year 2000 there was still over half the British portion of the hoard remaining intact at Baldwin’s, about 51,000 coins of which about 47,000 were English and the remainder Scottish or Irish, awaited the mammoth task of being analysed and fully recorded. The results of this major study were published in 2012 in a book entitled “The Brussels Hoard of 1908” written by Ron Churchill & Bob Thomas. Effectively a new reference work on Henry III coinage, the book, which took over 12 years to complete, presents a detailed analysis of the coins, and has become the prime specialist reference work to consult on the voided long cross series.
The Colchester Hoard
A hoard from Colchester contained the largest amount of voided long cross pennies ever found in England, and provides a valuable data source to supplement the information now available for the Brussels Hoard.
In fact two coin hoards, and an empty container of a possible third hoard, have all been found within a 20m square area along the High Street in Colchester between 1902 and 2000. The first was discovered in 1902 and consisted of over 11,000 English short cross pennies and contemporary Scottish and Irish issues buried in a lead vessel; the closing date being c.1237.
The second hoard is the one of interest here and was discovered within the same house plot in 1969. It consisted of 14,065 silver pennies buried in a lidded lead canister, mainly of the English voided long cross type alongside some contemporary Scottish and Irish issues. Over 11,300 VLC pennies of classes 1 thru' 5 were found, and in addition there were 1,916 class 6 coins of Ion of Bury. Most of the coins were struck before 1256, with a few additional coins added 16 to 22 years later, giving a final date of deposition of around 1278.
The Colchester hoards are likely to have been the property of a Jewish financier. Moreover, their non-recovery maybe directly connected to Jewish persecution of the late thirteenth century that culminated in the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. It is known from contemporary evidence that in the 1270s several stone houses of the Jewish community stood on the site where the hoards were found.
Data from the hoards
The statistical analysis of the data from these two hoards, particularly The Brussels Hoard, provides us with a good idea of relative scarcity of the different types for most classes. The Brussels Hoard was sealed sometime during class 5g, so class 5g is incomplete, and data on classes 5h, 5i, 6 & 7 is not present. Similarly, the Colchester Hoard was first sealed during class 5c times, and was then later re-opened for the addition of over 1900 class 6 coins.
Mints & Moneyers (incl. provincial mint details & coins)
Examples of Coins from the Provincial and Eclesiastic Mints
During the summer of 1257 a gold penny was introduced, and was worth 20 silver pennies. All were issued by moneyer William at the London mint. The issue was not popular, and production ceased no later than October 1258. The above example is from the Penn Collection and auctioned in January 2021 by Heritage Auctions; the images and much of the text here is taken from their auction website.
Henry III (1216-1272) gold Penny of 20 Pence ND (c. 1257) MS63 NGC, London mint, Willem (likely William of Gloucester [William Fitz Otto], the King's goldsmith) as moneyer, Fr-80 (7 known), S-1375, N-1000 (ER), Schneider-1, Ruding, Annals of the coinage of Great Britain and its dependencies, 3rd ed. (1840), Vol II, pg. 378, Supplementary Plate VI, 18, n. 4 (this coin cited), Evans, "The First Gold Coins of England", Plate XI, 4 (this coin), Lawrence, "The Long Cross coinage of Henry III and Edward I" (British Numismatic Journal 9, 1912, pp. 145-79), Type II. 21mm. 2.95gm. h | ЄNRIC' | RЄX : I-I-I' | :, bearded and crowned king enthroned facing, lis-tipped scepter in right hand, globus cruciger in left / WILL | ЄM : O | N LVn | DЄN (quatrefoil), voided long cross with rose and three pellets in each angle (second N in London lombardic).
Heritage Auctions have been able to locate only seven pieces remaining of this issue, three of which are in private collections, with this likely being the finest known. The remaining four are housed in museum collections: three in the British Museum and one in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Coronation of King Henry III.