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NOTES ON THE ANNALS OF THE COINAGE OF
EVERYTHING Connected with the reign of the unfortunate Mary of Scotland possesses a melancholy interest. History is very often lenient when a tragic fate closes an unfortunate career. Time has softened the dark shadows which rest on too many events of her life; and while we remember her beauty, her temptations, and her misfortunes, we forget her errors and her faults.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the coins of this reign possess for collectors a value altogether above what, under ordinary circumstances, we might expect. Causes, which shall be immediately adverted to, combined to render the native mint less active during the present reign than it had been before; and, consequently, though there is a great variety of type, the coins themselves are in most cases far from common, and in many excessively rare. It must also be remembered that those struck during the French alliance have a place in that series, and are eagerly sought after on the other side of the Channel.
It unfortunately happens that of many of the coinages no authentic documentary evidence can be found; but as,
with a few exceptions, the dates are given on the coins, it is always easy to trace the consecutive history of the money.
In the present paper a considerable amount of hitherto unpublished material, derived from a recent search through the MS. Acts of the Privy Council, the accounts of the Lord Treasurer and other records, is given for the first time.
1543. The first date which occurs on any coin of this reign is 1543, found on the very rare gold half-lion, with the legend, "Ecce Ancilla Domini." Of this coinage no record can be discovered. It is probable that the écu, from its similarity to the same type of James V., was minted at an early period in the reign, and most likely immediately after her accession. Bishop Nicolson mentions that Mr. Sutherland the founder of the fine col
lection of Scottish coins lately in the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh, but now belonging to the Scottish Antiquarian Society-had seen a pattern écu of Mary's similar in size and weight to that of James V.2 But this piece, if it ever was in Mr. Sutherland's collection, is not now known to exist.
1544. At this time it appears, from an indenture preserved in Rymer's Fœdera,3 that one English pound was equal to four Scottish pounds; for in a contract entered into between Henry VIII. and the Earl of Lennox, in 1541, it is expressly declared that 6,800 merks Scottish shall be held to be equal to 1,700 merks sterling money of England.
One of the causes alluded to above for the comparative scarcity of the native coinage during this reign will be 1 Scottish Hist. Library, p. 301. 2 Lindsay, Pl. xii. fig. 36.
xv. p. 29.
found in the quantity of French and other foreign money which was authorised to be current in the
1545. As early as 1545 we find, from the registers of the Privy Council,4 that foreign money was to be a legal tender at the following rates, viz. :-The "testoon of the King of France is to be taken for 5s. 6d., the "sous" for sixpence, the "carolus" for fivepence, with the parts in proportion. A short time after the double ducat of Spain is to have course for forty-eight shillings. And it is curious to observe that, while every encouragement was given to facilitate and authorise the coinage of France, an exactly opposite course was observed in the case of England. For in the same year and month it is minuted in the Privy Council Register that the "New Inglis grote of Ingland, callit the grote with the braid face is universale for xviijd. Howbeit the samyn grotis ar nocht siluir and ar fals for the mare part," wherefore, they are forbidden to have any course in the country.
1547. The Privy Council met at Glasgow on the 1st of May of this year and, among other matters which are recorded, it is stated that "my Lord gouernour and lordis of secrete counsale understand perfitlie that the fyne cunzeit siluer sik as the xiijd. grote is commonelie had furth of the realme and neuir brocht agane within the samyne, and uther cunze na fyne siluer, bot for the maist parte copper hes passage amangis our souerane ladyis liegis, sik as the grote callit the bagcheik, and to the effect that the fyne cunzeit siluer may remane in this realme," it is ordered that the "bagchiek," which at the time of the order was current for sixteen pence, shall in all time coming have course for twelvepence only.
MSS. in the Register House at Edinburgh.
Immediately after this 5 a coinage of twelve stone weight of silver was ordered to be struck into pennies and half-pennies-" of the syes and wecht of the penny past of auld in this realme." As the amount of alloy is not stated, it is not easy to say exactly what coins are here meant. The billon pennies with the portrait have no date, and are similar in size and weight to those of the James's; and possibly this may be the time when they were minted.
1548. From an entry in the Treasurer's account," it appears that twelve hundred pounds were received in 1548" a Willelmo Hamilton de Sanchore milite pro proficim cone sibi assedate "—and similar receipts from William, Commendator of Culross, are found in 1549 and 1550.
1550. In July, 1550,8 the Lord Governor and Lords of Secret Council, understanding that "the clippit sowsis and clippit carolus ar cryit down in France," and that "divers merchandis of this realme that hes boicht all the clippit sowsis and carolus that thai mycht get be the pund and stannis wechtis, and brocht the samin in this realme tending to caus the samin haue passage amangis our souerane ladye's legis, and tharethrow to gett the gold and siluer of this realme and to have the samin furth to uther realmis and cuntreis, to the grit apperand hurt of our souerane laydis legis and common wele "— and they accordingly declare that it shall be illegal for any one to give or receive the aforesaid under the pain of death and confiscation of goods.
3rd May, 1547. MSS. Reg. Sec. Con., Register Ho., Edin. Lindsay, Pl. xvii. figs. 37, 38.
These warnings against light foreign money are repeated more than once in the minutes of the Privy Council.
The effect of these proclamations was to make people refuse to take any sous or caroli at all, and in consequence a further order was made, making it highly penal for any one to refuse sous or caroli, or other such money, that will "nocht pas throw the ryng maid and demsit thairfor."9
1551. In December, 1551, it appears, from a minute of the Privy Council,10 that the King of France, having paid the wages of his soldiers in Scotland in sous, half-sous, caroli, and liards, the same are refused by the common people, and not taken in payment of the accounts due by the French soldiers, on which account it is ordained by the Lord Governor and Lords of Secret Council that the sous pass for sixpence, the half-sous threepence, the carolus fivepence, and the liard three halfpence, provided always that twelve of the sous weigh a just ounce.
1553. On the 11th of January, 1553, the Lord Bishop of Ross was hastily sent to France,11 and a minute of the Privy Council provides for the coining of certain vessels of silver for his expenses, and orders the Lord Treasurer to deliver up the printing-irons of the "babeis" to the master coiner, who is required to mint the said bullion into "babeis," notwithstanding any other order to the contrary.
This notice is curious as showing that the dies were kept in the custody of the Treasurer, and not of the General of the Mint, and also because it casts a doubt on the present appropriation of the "bawbees " of Mary.
At Edin. on 7th Aug. 10 MSS. Reg. Ho.
MSS. Reg. Ho.