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James II Irish Emergency Coinage

Started by Deeman, September 02, 2022, 09:48:50 PM

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James II succeeded to the throne in 1685. Later that year James faced rebellion, led by Charles II's illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth. The rebellion was easily crushed after the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685 and savage punishments were imposed by the infamous Lord Chief Justice, Judge Jeffreys, at the 'Bloody Assizes'. Monmouth himself was messily beheaded.

This, together with James's attempts to give civic equality to Roman Catholic and Protestant dissenters, led to conflict with Parliament. In 1685, James prorogued it and ruled alone. He attempted to promote Catholicism by appointing Catholics to military, political and academic posts.

In Jun 1688, James's second wife Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward. Fearing that a Catholic succession was now assured, a group of Protestant nobles appealed to William of Orange, husband of James's older, and Protestant, daughter Mary. On 5 Nov 1688, William landed with an army in Devon. Deserted by an army and navy who he had completely alienated, James completely lost his nerve and fled to France in Dec 1688. In Feb 1688/9, Parliament declared that James's flight constituted an abdication and William and Mary were crowned joint monarchs on 11 Apr 1689.

Meanwhile James then set about building an army in Catholic Ireland with the aim of invading England and regaining his throne by force. On 12 Mar 1688/9, James landed at Kinsale with a contingent of French officers and Irish refugees in an attempt to win back his throne with the help of the Irish Catholics who remained loyal to him. He was in Dublin on the last day of the year, 24 Mar 1688 where he gathered reinforcements of Irish Jacobites. The following day he issued a proclamation for raising the current value of all English and foreign gold and silver coins, at that time circulating in Ireland. The following day was 25 Mar 1689 (known as Lady's Day). Until 1752, the year ended on 24 Mar. So, for dates between 1 Jan and 24 Mar two years are given, e.g., 12 Mar 1688/9, the former being the year at that time, the latter being the year adjusted to the present time.

On 10 May 1689, a French fleet approached the Irish coast carrying supplies that James desperately needed. James was faced with many problems in Ireland, and one of the most serious was the financial situation. The scheme of raising the value of circulating gold and silver had failed to relieve the necessities of the king. Protestants had sent large amounts of gold and silver coin to England for safekeeping, as they feared that James' policy of favouring Catholics would lead to trouble in Ireland, and now that civil war threatened coin was being hoarded. With little gold and silver available to the government, James lacked the money to pay his army, so he ordered the minting of copper and brass coinage with a proclamation of 18 Jun 1689, which saw the introduction of new 'gunmoney' sixpences. A further proclamation of 27 Jun announced the addition of halfcrowns and shillings. The small intrinsic value of this 'money of necessity' was a great temptation to commit forgery and, accordingly, the 27 Jun proclamation declared "that if any person or persons whatsoever will presume to counterfeit the said money, or any of the said pieces, that he or they so offending shall be proceeded against as persons guilty of high treason."

Using coins made from base metals as legal currency was a desperate measure. To encourage use of the new coin the commissioners of the mint were ordered to give 20/6 in brass in exchange for every 20/- of gold and silver offered to them. The coins were considered as tokens and, with the exception of the crown, bore the date in months to allow for an orderly redemption for silver once the Jacobite forces were victorious. James' cause was finally lost after the Battle of the Boyne on 1 Jul 1690 after which he again fled to France.


Gun Money

The name 'gun money' stems from the idea that they were minted from melted down cannons. However, many other brass objects, such as church bells, were also used. The coinage, with denominations from sixpence to a crown, was issued between Jun 1689 and Oct 1690, the crowns being struck latterly from May 1690. Gun money was initially struck in Capel St., Dublin, but a mint was later established at the Deanery in Limerick which continued to issue money after Dublin fell. In order to inspire confidence, coins with the exception of the crown bear the laureate bust of James on the obverse with the inscription IACOBVS II DEI GRATIA (James II by the grace of God). The reverse depicts a crown and sceptres dividing the initials 'IR' for the king, value and date above the crown, month below crown, surrounded by the inscription MAG BR FR ET HIB REX (Great Britain, France and Ireland). Titles based on wishful thinking. The crown coin bore a portrait of the king on horseback with the circumscription IAC II DEI GRATIA MAG BRI FRA ET HIB REX. The reverse design is cruciform crowned Shields of Arms of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland with a crown at centre and the inscription CHRISTO VICTORE TRIVMPHO (Christ the triumphant victor) divided by the cruciform.

In Aug 1689, a shortage of brass was reported and a warrant was issued for the coining of two guns from Dublin castle, followed by cannon from Limerick, Kinsale, Galway, Athlone and even Brest in France. Revenue collectors were ordered to buy up any copper and brass they could find and send it to Dublin. More serious than these difficulties in the manufacture of the coins was the increasing reluctance of the public to accept them. This first appeared in Aug, when it was reported that people were refusing to bring their goods to market. Brass money began to be despised and prices began to rise. The failure of the brass money was of much assistance to the Williamite reinforcements which had landed in Ulster in June, for many Irish farmers preferred rather to sell their provisions to the Williamites in exchange for silver than to their countrymen in exchange for brass.

There were two issues of gun money. The first 'large' issue consisted of halfcrowns, shillings and sixpences commencing from Jun 1689. In April and May 1690, as supplies of metal ran short, earlier issues were withdrawn and either re-struck to a higher denomination or melted down and re-coined at a lower weight. This second 'small' issue consisted of crowns, halfcrowns and shillings struck over large halfcrowns, shillings and sixpences respectively and lasted until Oct 1690. The value of the halfcrown (30d) is given by the Roman numerals 'XXX', the shilling by 'XII' and the sixpence by 'VI'. Gun money coins show a 0, 90, 180 or 270 degrees die axis indicating that the dies were on square shafts without keys and could be fitted into the press in any of four orientations. Each month signature comes in many varieties from block text to italic script, with or without periods and in various different abbreviations.

At the end of Mar 1690, James ordered the issue of new coins, pennies and halfpennies in pewter. On 21 Apr, a pewter crown was ordered to be struck and the brass halfcrowns and shillings were reduced in weight which was not a move to inspire confidence but was necessary by the continuing shortage of brass. On 15 Jun, a proclamation withdrew the large halfcrowns and shillings from circulation, while a second announced the issue of gun money crown pieces which were merely the old half-crowns struck with a new design. The old 'large' coins were not to be used in any payment within the city of Dublin after 30 Jun, nor in any part of the province of Leinster after 15 Jul, nor in any part of the kingdom after 31 Jul. The temptation to commit forgery became much greater when the large halfcrowns were converted into crowns by the simple process of re-striking them because the difficulty of milling the edge did not exist. The edge was milled with a triple row of leaves. Shillings and sixpences had a diagonally milled edge.

The obverse design of the crown is divided into two types based on the equestrian figure. In type 1, the king appears as if standing in the stirrups with the point of the sword is between the words REX and IAC; the spur has a long neck; the ends of the king's sash are large and float upwards; the rein of the bridle is ornamented with studs; the horse's tail is much curved; the ground under the horse is marked with wavy lines. In type 2, the king's body is larger and in a different armour; he is sitting in the saddle; the ends of the sash are smaller; the sword is slender and slanting forwards with the point under the E in REX; the spur has no neck; the horse's head is small, tail is bushy and has only one curve; the bridle rein is not ornamented with studs. Unlike other gun money denominations, the crown was not dated by month, just the year 1690.

Following their victory in the Battle of the Boyne, the Williamites entered Dublin a week later and the Dublin mint was closed. William devalued the gun money to a fraction of James II's declared 'promissory' values. Halfcrowns became worth 1d, the shilling's value dropped to ½d and the sixpence to ¼d. They were withdrawn from circulation on 15 Mar 1691/2. The pewter pennies and halfpennies were not devalued, but left to circulate at their face value because their intrinsic and face values were at par. Such a drastic devaluation was the only remedy to restore some semblance of financial stability to the Irish monetary system. The Dublin dies were subsequently confiscated and sent to the Tower Mint. They were used in the early 1800's by Boulton for commemorative pieces in gold, silver and copper made to order and boxed in a presentation case (apparently under the direction of Bishop Rawlinson and George III). The small number of coins issued during the four months from Jul to Oct 1690 were coined at Limerick by James's adherents, who held that city up to the 3 Oct 1691 when the treaty of surrender was signed.

Gun money was a completely new idea, i.e., a 'notional' currency based on 'a promise' to redeem the full value in silver. As such, they were a precursor to promissory banknotes because, despite deriding James's money, William himself approved the setting up of the Bank of England in 1696 to issue promissory banknotes and national loans in an effort to solve the national debt crisis.


Pewter Money

The need for small denomination currency was beginning to be very urgently felt towards the beginning of 1690. The gun metal coins could only be received at the value for which they were issued, and pence and halfpence were imperatively required. Orders were therefore given early in Mar for a coinage of those denominations. A pewter groat was struck in Mar 1689/90, but it is doubtful that such a denomination entered circulation and is therefore considered a pattern piece.

There were two obverse designs for both the penny and halfpenny. The first had a large king's head dated 1689/90 and 1690 and the second had a small king's head dated 1690. The large head of the penny is the same as on the large gun money shilling. All are rare, the large head issues more so. As with the gun money issues they have the laureate bust of James on the obverse with the inscription IACOBVS II DEI GRATIA. The inscription on the small head halfpenny is followed by a floral mark. The value '1D' is behind the head on the small head penny. The reverse depicts a harp, surmounted by a crown surrounded by the inscription MAG BR FR ET HIB REX as with the gun money. The date on the large issues is above the crown. On the small head penny, the date is divided by the lower part of the harp and, on the small head halfpenny, is divided by the crown. In the centre of each pewter coin is a plug of brass or copper.

The groat had the obverse of the sixpence. The reverse depicted a harp crowned with the value 'IIII' divided by the harp and the date, 1689, above and divided by the crown.

Prior to the issue of gun metal crowns and small halfcrowns, pewter crowns and halfcrowns with a copper plug, having the same designs as the currency pieces, were issued for a short period. Both these coins are extremely rare. An unadopted pewter pattern crown, larger than the currency issue, was struck in Mar 1689/90. With the intrinsic value of pewter being about four times as much as the metal of the other coins, it is evident that a crown of white metal would cost twice as much as a large halfcrown of the other metal.

The obverse of the pattern crown depicts the king on horseback to left, laureated with sword raised in his right hand with the circumscription IACOBVS II DEI GRATIA. The reverse depicts a crown (a plug of copper) with 1689 above and surrounding inscription of MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX.

The edge of the pewter currency halfcrown has a wreath of leaves used on the gun metal pieces. The edge on the pewter currency crown has the words MELIORIS TESSERA FATI ANNO REGNI SEXTO translating to 'A pledge (token) of better fortune, sixth year of reign'.

Possible derivation of the colloquial word 'humbug'. The soft mixed metal of the Irish coins of James II was known among the Irish as 'uim bog', pronounced 'oom bug', i.e., worthless money. Hence the word 'humbug' came to be applied to anything that had a specious appearance, but which was in reality spurious. The very opposite of 'humbug' is the word sterling (true coinage).


Limerick Siege Coinage

In 1691, when the Williamite forces were besieging Limerick, even small change had become scarce. The demonetising of all gun money led to Limerick overstriking the old large and small shilling coins to halfpennies and farthings respectively. These coins became known as 'hibernias' because of a seated figure representing Hibernia on the reverse. This was the first time such a figure had appeared on Irish coins, probably a reflection of the nationalism of Limerick's defenders, a rival to Britannia of English coins.

The new base metal coinage came into existence in Apr 1691 till presumably the end of Aug when the second siege of Limerick began. Both coins have the same designs. The obverse depicts a laureate bust of James II facing left with a surrounding inscription of IACOBVS II DEI GRATIA. The reverse depicts a seated, draped figure of Hibernia, leaning on a harp and holding a cross in her right hand, facing the inscription HIBERNIA with 1691 behind. All coins are dated 1691.

The values of halfpenny and farthing have been attributed to the Limerick coins, but actually there is uncertainty as to their exact value. The size difference could be as small as 1mm leading to the possibility of just one denomination, whatever that was.


Gun Money Sixpences

Issued each month from Jun 1689 to Jun 90 (Mar 1690 are scarcer as the 'month' was only one week long). No sixpences were minted with the date Mar 1689.

Diameter 21-22mm.

Jun 1689 sixpence. Script 'June.'.

Jul 1689 sixpence. Script 'July' and italic script 'July'.

Aug 1689 sixpence. Script 'Aug'.

Sep 1689 sixpence. Script '7ber' and 'Sepr'. Sep is the only month where a numeral is used to represent a month in the sixpence series.

Oct 1689 sixpence. Script 'Oct:'.

Nov 1689 sixpence. Script 'Nov' and 'Nov.'.

Dec 1689 sixpence. Script 'Dec.'.

Jan 1689/90 sixpence. Script 'Jan:' and 'Jan' with ERA for FRA error.

Feb 1689/90 sixpence. Italic script 'Feb.' and script 'Feb:'.

Mar 1690 sixpence. Script 'Mar:'.

Apr 1690 sixpence. Script 'Apr'.

May 1690 sixpence. Italic script 'May.'.

Jun 1690 sixpence. Italic script 'June'.


Gun Money Shillings

Large shillings Issued each month from Jul 1689 to Apr 90 (Mar 1690 are scarcer as the 'month' was only one week long). Small shillings were issued from Apr to Jun 1690 with a final issue in Sep 1690.

Large diameter 25-27mm. Small diameter 21-22mm.

Jul 1689 shilling, large issue. Script 'July'.

Aug 1689 shilling, large issue. Script 'Augt.' and 'Aug.'.

Sep 1689 shilling, large issue. Script 'Sepr:' and italic script 'Sept.'.

Oct 1689 shilling, large issue. Block text '8BER', block 'OCTr.' and script 'Oct:'.

Nov 1689 shilling, large issue. Script 'Novr.' and 'novr:' (Lombardic N).

Nov 1689 shilling, large issue. Script '9r' and '9r' with castle under bust (very rare)

Dec 1689 shilling, large issue. Script '10r' and 'Dec:'. Oct, Nov and Dec are the only months where a numeral is used to represent a month in the shilling series.

Jan 1689/90 shilling, large issue. Italic script 'Jan'.

Feb 1689/90 shilling, large issue. Script 'Feb'.

Mar 1689/90 shilling, large issue. Script 'Mar:'.

Mar 1690 shilling, large issue. Script 'Mar.' elaborate 'M' and script 'Mar:'.

Apr 1690 shilling, large issue. Script 'Apr.'.

Apr 1690 shilling, small issue. Script 'Apr.' with cinquefoil stops.

May 1690 shilling, small issue. Script 'May', block 'MAY' and script 'may' with die axis error.

Jun 1690 shilling, small issue. Script 'June.'.

Sep 1690 shilling, small issue. Script 'Sep:'.


Gun Money Halfcrowns

Large halfcrowns were issued each month from Jul 1689 to Apr 90 (Mar 1690 are scarcer as the 'month' was only one week long). Small halfcrowns were issued from Apr to Aug 1690 with a final issue in Oct 1690.

Large diameter 32-33mm. Small diameter 25-27mm.

Jul 1689 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'July.' and italic script 'July'.

Aug 1689 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Augt:' and 'Augt:' with die axis error (date at bottom).

Sep 1689 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Sepr:'.

Oct 1689 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Oct:' and block 'OCTr:'.

Oct is the only month where a numeral is used to represent a month in the halfcrown series.

Nov 1689 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Nov:'.

Dec 1689 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Dec:'.

Jan 1689/90 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Jan.'.

Feb 1689/90 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Feb:'.

Mar 1689/90 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Mar.'.

Mar 1690 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Mar:'.

Apr 1690 halfcrown, large issue. Script 'Apr:'.

Apr 1690 halfcrown, small issue. Script 'Apr:'.

May 1690 halfcrown, small issue. Script 'May.' and 'may' with reverse star stops.

Jun 1690 halfcrown, small issue. Script 'June' and 'Jnue.' error.

Jul 1690 halfcrown, small issue. Script 'July'.

Aug 1690 halfcrown, small issue. Script 'Aug:'.

Oct 1690 halfcrown, small issue. Script 'Oct:'.


Gun Money Crowns

Crowns were issued between Jun and Jul 1690 in Dublin and possibly until Aug or Sep in Limerick. Unlike other gun money denominations, it is not dated by month. Struck over large halfcrowns, diameter 32-33mm.

1690 type 1 crown.

1690 type 2 crown.

1690 crown, poor overstrike, king decapitated.


Pewter Pattern Crown

Struck Mar 1689/90 with copper plug.

1689 dated pattern crown, not adopted. Book plate image of piece held in the British Museum along with a British Museum copy of the coin with the initials 'MB' (Museum Britannicus) lightly engraved on both sides.


Pewter Crown

1690 pewter crown with copper plug.

1690 pewter crown with brass plug, graffiti on obverse.


Pewter Pattern Groat

Struck Mar 1689/90.

1689 dated groat, obverse as sixpence, not adopted.


Pewter Pennies

Struck Mar 1689/90 and Apr 1690 with brass or copper plug.

Diameter 25-27mm.

1690 penny, large head as shilling, brass plug.

1690 penny, small head, copper plug.

1690 penny, small head, brass plug.


Pewter Halfpennies

Struck Mar 1689/90 and Apr 1690 with brass or copper plug.

Diameter 21-22mm.

1690 silver proof halfpenny, large head.

1690 halfpenny, small head, brass plug.

1690 halfpenny, small head, copper plug.


Limerick Siege Coins

Halfpenny diameter 25-27mm. Farthing diameter 24-25mm.

1691 halfpenny, HIBERИIA retrograde 'N'.

1691 farthing.