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Sunday, 6 November 2011


Coinage of King Stephen (1135-54 AD)



Stephen, grandson of William the Conqueror and nephew of Henry I, was
crowned king in 1135. Stephen reigned as king for nineteen years
until his death in 1154. In the early years of his reign as king,
Stephen introduced new coinage throughout England and opened new mints
to produce the coins. While considered a kind and decent man, Stephen
was not generally thought of as an effective ruler. The years Stephen
spent as king were years filled with turbulence and criminal activity.
As a result, the production and quality of coinage declined with the
passage of time.



Stephen's coins were minted at Bedford, Bramber, Bristol, Bury St
Edmunds, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Carlisle, Castle Rising,
Chester, Chichester, Cipen (possibly Ipswich), Colchester, Corbridge,
Derby, Dorchester, Dover, Durham, Eden, Exeter, Gloucester, Hastings,
Hedon near Hull, Hereford, Huntingdon, Ipswich, Launceston, Leicester,
Lewes, Lincoln, London, Newcastle, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham,
Oxford, Pembroke, Peterborough, Pevensey, Rye, Salisbury, Sandwich,
Shaftesbury, Shrewsbury, Southampton, Southwark, Stafford, Steyning,
Sudbury, Swansea, Tamworth, Taunton, Thetford, Tutbury, Wareham,
Warwick, Watchet, Wilton, Winchester, Worcester, and York.

The Stephen penny of Cambridge featured the king's head with a
crescent behind and a sun in front of the head. In the 1140's, the
English government lost control of the coinage due to a country
divided between areas that remained loyal to Stephen and areas in
Wales and western England that were controlled by Stephen's
opposition. Stephen's opponents issued coins produced from dyes that
were deliberately defaced as a rejection of Stephen's authority in his
kingdom. Other coinage issued by opposing parties replaced Stephen's
name with enigmatic language that was possibly a reference to Empress
Matilda, daughter of Henry I and Stephen's cousin.

Coinage from the reign of Stephen included coins showing a cross
directly over the king's portrait. King Stephen was thought by many
to be weak of character and unable to maintain control of his country.
During Stephen's reign, Matilda asserted her claim to the throne as
the daughter of Henry I. Recognized briefly as Lady of the English,
coins were issued in Matilda's name after Stephen was captured during
the battle of Lincoln in 1141. In addition, many coins were issued
for Matilda's supporters as a means of paying for the civil war that
followed after Stephen's release from captivity. Coins have recently
been discovered from that time period that have added to the list of
coinage issuers during times of civil war.

The Matilda penny of Oxford copied the Stephen penny of Cambridge
exactly with the exception of Stephen's name being replaced with
Matilda's. Matilda had numerous supporters in Wales and Cardiff. The
Matilda penny of Cardiff was struck in Norman in the town of Breteuil.

Matilda's coins were minted at Bristol, Cardiff, Gloucester, Oxford, and Wareham, and possibly also at Calne and Canterbury.

During the reign of King Stephen, a coin was produced giving
Matilda's son Henry of Anjou the title of future king. Robert, earl
of Gloucester, was a supporter of Matilda and the illegitimate son of
Henry I. Earl Robert had considerable power in Bristol and Wilshire,
and issued coinage showing a lion resembling his seal.

Another supporter of Matilda and Henry of Anjou was Patrick, earl of
Salisbury. Earl Patrick struck 4 coins, three of which are now part
of the Conte collection. Eustace FitzJohn, accused of plotting with
Matilda, deserted and joined the Scots. Eustace fought against
Stephen in the Battle of the Standard. In 1138 Eustace struck a coin
showing an image of himself holding a sword. During this same time,
the Scots occupied the northern part of England. The Scots minted the
avid I of Scotland which was directly copied from the coinage of
Stephen.

In 1153, after the death of Stephen's son Eustace of Boulogne, the
civil war ended and Matilda's son Henry of Anjou was officially
recognized as the heir to the throne. Stephen was allowed to remain
king until his death in 1154. Stephen's last type was issued during
the first four years of Henry II's reign as king. This coin was
struck in Gloucester and still displayed the name of King Stephen


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