The Short Cross Coinage of England

In 1154 Henry II, Henry Plantagenet, King of England, Duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, Count of Anjou (as is his inheritance) ascends the throne as one the most powerful kings in all of Europe . His dominions extend from the far north of England to the extreme south-west of France. His subjects acclaim him. A truly great King but oh, his coinage.

To begin with England uses the same old bad and mish-mash coins of Stephen, the Barons and the Anarchy. But then in 1158 Henry II ‘s official coinage is issued – and it is really terrible. The silver pennies are called Cross and Crosslets or Tealby (a big hoard of them was found there in 1807) and they are often illegible, carelessly and hurriedly struck on poor flans.  Perhaps, a few are well-struck in Northern mints (1) but hardly any .

Henry II Tealby Penny

Henry II. 1154-1189. AR Penny (19mm, 1.46 g, 8h). Cross and Crosslets (Tealby) type; class D. London mint; Æthelwine, moneyer. Struck circa 1167-1170. + ҺENRI : [ … ], crowned facing bust, holding scepter / + [ … ]ALPENE [ … ]:, cross pattée, with crosslet in angles. (2) Thank you old currency exchange article for image and text see O’Brien Coin Guide: Why did Henry II not issue coins for Ireland?

By 1180 the situation is so unsatisfactory for such a great King that Philip Aimer of Tours is commissioned and he designs a new Short Cross coinage.  Philip makes his mark at the mint but he’s soon drummed out on suspicion of fraud; as is customary. And 1180 marks the start of a Short Cross silver Penny that proves so popular with the people that it is continued, pretty much unchanged, for close on 70 years.

All Short Cross pennies are marked hENRICVS – Henricus – Henry in latin. This can be a bit confusing later on in the reigns of Richard the lionheart and John lackland but, for the people, Henricus was the proper, authoritative name of the King of England. In any case Henry II’s son Richard didn’t have the time to change mere coinage and his other son, John, needed the cloak of his father’s name. John’s son is also a Henry –  Henry III. Short Cross coinage continues in the reign of Henry III right down until 1247  when the short cross coins were so worn and degraded and clipped that a new coinage was needed: The Long Cross penny.

Henry II Short Cross Penny: Class 1

There’s a facing portrait of Henry II with a sceptre. There he is –  hENRICVS REX.

Henry II Short Cross Penny Class 1b oHenry II Short Cross Penny Class 1b r

And there’s a Short Cross on the reverse. The moneyer’s name is PIERES and he’s ON LVND – at the London mint.


Henry II. 1154-1189. AR Penny (19mm, 1.35 g, 6h). Short Cross type, class Ia1. Northampton mint; Willelm, moneyer. Struck 1180. ҺENRICVS RE X, crowned facing bust, holding scepter / + WILLELm · ON · NORΛ, voided cross, with four pellets in angles. Thank you old currency exchange article for image and text see O’Brien Coin Guide: Why did Henry II not issue coins for Ireland? 

This is a great improvement on the Tealby pennies – look at how sharp the letters and  how clear the bust of Henry is – but unfortunately Henry II’s Short Cross pennies start to deteriorate almost straightaway as the dies of Class 2 are issued and it gets worse by Class 4.

Henry II AR Penny. London mint, struck ca 1180-1189. Short Cross type; class 1b. +hENRICVS o REX around central circle enclosing a crowned, draped & mustachioed bust facing & holding scepter in right hand, bust extending to edge of flan / +PIERES o ON o LVND around central circle containing short voided cross, in each angle a pellet quatrefoil. North 963 (3) Thank you wildwinds for text and image 

Another Class 1 – a favourite of mine:

Henry II Short Cross Penny Class 1b1

PLANTAGENET. Henry II. 1154-1189. AR Penny (20mm, 1.44 g, 12h). Short cross type, class Ib1. London mint; Davi, moneyer. Struck 1180-circa 1182. Crowned facing bust, expressive sheep face, holding scepter / Voided short cross pommée with quatrefoils in quarters. SCBI 56 (Mass), 263-5; North 963; SCBC 1344. VF, toned, slightly wavy flan, scattered deposits.

(4) Thank you Classical Numismatic Group for auction text and image.



More next time!

(1) J.J. North, English Hammered Coinage, Volume 1 (1994)

Historical and numismatic corrections are very welcome! Thank you,  Julian Ticehurst




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