Foreign imitations of the English noble

Ives, Herbert E. (Herbert Eugene), 1882-1953
Numismatic Notes and Monographs
American Numismatic Society
New York
Worldcat Works




Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.


Table of Contents




By Herbert E. Ives

The English Noble and Rose Noble or Ryal

THE noble, the chief gold coin of England for more than a hundred years and one of its monetary units for nearly three centuries, was not only original and unique in its type, but was so highly esteemed as to be widely circulated abroad, and to be the subject of numerous copies in other countries. In size and weight it follows the great gold coinage initiated in France in the thirteenth century, but the common types of that coinage—the chaise, the franc-à-pied, the franc-à-cheval, the mouton—were not copied. Instead, Edward III, when he started the modern gold coinage of England in 1351 (an earlier coinage of "florins" in 1344, of the type of the French chaise, was almost immediately discontinued), put out a new type, showing as its chief feature the figure of the king, with sword and shield, standing in a ship. It has been suggested that this type was chosen to commemorate the naval victory of Sluys. The name "noble" is supposed to derive from the high purity of the gold used.

It is not the intention here to give a detailed account of the English noble, which has been treated exhaus- tively by English numismatists. 1 As an introduction to the copies made in other countries it is sufficient to note the chief types, with the significant variations which occurred until the last coinage under James I in 1619. Nobles of identical design, differing only in the king’s name, were struck by Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, V and VI, and Edward IV, in the years between 1351 and 1461. The figure of the king in a ship was the constant obverse type; the reverse bore a gothic cross with lions and crowns in the quarters, with, as inscription, an abbreviation of the text "JESU S TRANSIENS PER MEDIUM ILLORUM IBAT" from St. Luke, IV, 30. In the center was the king’s initial, E, R, or H. The first obverse inscription of Edward III was "EDWARD DEI GRA REX ANGL Z FRAN DNS HYB." From 1361 to 1369 the title of King of France was dropped, following the treaty of Bretigny, and the inscription was "EDWARD DEI GRA REX ANGL DNS HYB Z AQT," the last letters standing for Aquitaine (No. 1). After 1369 the title of King of France was renewed, together with the lordship of both Ireland and Aquitaine. These nobles were struck at various mints, including, it is surmised, Ypres in Flanders; the only ones indicating their mintage by a difference in design were those of Calais, on which the ship often bore a flag or pennant, and sometimes the letter "C" in place of the king’s initial on the reverse (No. 2).

The coinage of Richard II differs only in the king’s name; the issues of the three Henrys (No. 3.) can be distinguished from each other only by variations of lettering and minters’ marks, except for a change of weight early in the reign of Henry IV, whose rare early nobles are distinguished as "heavy." His "light" nobles and those of the later kings are also characterized by the use of three lys in the French arms, in place of a larger number in the earlier nobles.

Edward IV coined nobles of the type just described for a brief period only (but two specimens are known, with the reverse die altered from Henry VI). He then introduced an altered design, the ryal, or rose noble (No. 4). This continued the king in the ship, but now on the side of the ship is a full-blown rose, and the flag, heretofore peculiar to Calais, becomes a rectangular standard with the king’s initial. The reverse is much altered. At the center, instead of the king’s initial is a rose superposed on a sun, Edward’s emblem adopted after the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. The inscriptions remain as before. These rose nobles were struck in large numbers during Edward’s firstreign (1461–70) and the several mints other than London carry their distinctive initial letter as mint mark in the water beneath the rose, E for York, B for Bristol, C for Coventry, N for Norwich.

Henry VI, during his brief restoration (1470–71), coined no nobles or rose nobles, although he did coin Edward’s other new gold coin, the angel. In Edward IV’s second reign no rose nobles were coined, nor were they coined by Edward V or Richard III. Henry VII struck ryals (No. 5), of a design different from either the nobles or the rose nobles. On these pieces he placed the figure of the king in a ship, with one standard bearing his initial "h"; another a dragon; the ship carries no rose on its side. The reverse type is a large rose filling the whole field, and in the center a shield with, curiously enough, the three fleurs-de-lys of France. Why he used the French arms on these coins is not known; at any rate these ryals were never coined after his first year and only three specimens are known to have survived.

Henry VIII and Edward VI issued no coins with "the king in a ship." The next to appear were ryals coined for one year (1553) by Mary (No. 6), which are the most beautiful coins of the series. They revert to the rose noble type of Edward IV, but substitute for the standing king the figure of the queen with sword and shield. The queen’s face is a flattering portrait. The ship is now shown as a blunt-ended vessel, instead of the crescent of the earlier nobles. The obverse inscription includes the date in Roman numerals. The reverse type is again the rose and sun of Edward IV, but the inscription is changed to "A DNO FACTV EST ISTVD Z EST MIRAB IN OCVL NRIS." These coins are extremely rare and were not followed by similar coins with Philip’s name added after their marriage (as was done with the silver coinage), nor was the opportunity taken to place both Philip and Mary on the ship —a striking coin indeed!

Under Elizabeth, ryals or rose nobles once more appeared, being struck with several mint or moneyers’ marks, and according to the records, over a considerable period, although they are scarce. On these the rose noble type is followed (No. 7), but the queen appears with orb and scepter instead of sword and shield. On the majority of pieces the face, framed by ruff and crown, is a good portrait. The ship is now a true picture of the vessels sailed by Hawkins and Drake, with high stern and low bowsprit. On the reverse the inscription reverts to the former "JESVS AVTEM" etc. Certain of the Elizabeth ryals have peculiar obverse inscriptions in which occur the letters MPCAL, orMPRCAL. These inscriptions have been a long-standing puzzle. Ruding, in his "Annals of the Coinage of Great Britain" in 1760, quotes 2 "The learned and ingenious Dr. John Ward" as interpreting these inscriptions as "MAGNAE PRO VINCI AE CAPTAE ASPICIIS ILLIVS," believing them to refer to the taking possession of Virginia in 1584 by Raleigh. This interpretation is at the expense of reading the final L as an I, and has not been generally accepted. The latest works on English coins (e.g., Oman, 1936) state that these letters have never been satisfactorily explained. We shall return to this question after surveying the continental imitations of the noble, give the true interpretation of these inscriptions and the proper attributions of the pieces.

The last issue of ryals was in the fourth coinage of James I in 1619 (No. 8). In this issue the ryal, although still of approximately the size of the original noble, valued at six shillings and eight pence, was the half sovereign, or fifteen-shilling piece, illustrating the change of values of the noble metals in the course of three centuries. These James ryals are substantially rose nobles, with the king now shown carrying the shield of Great Britain, bearing the English, French, and Scottish arms. The face is an excellent and unmistakable portrait, the ship a good representation of the man-of-war of the period. The reverse inscription copies that of Mary "A DOMINO FACTVM EST" etc. These last nobles could not have been struck in very large numbers as they are very scarce, and with them the denomination disappears. It is to be regretted that a type so suitable to the "mistress of the seas" could not have continued through the times of Blake, Rodney, Nelson and more recent naval heroes, exhibiting the naval architecture and the costumes of their times.

Imitations of the Noble 3

The gold noble had a wide popularity in northeastern Europe, being "of as much note as the Florin and Ducat in the Southern parts." 3 Snelling records that for several centuries the tolls of the Sound were payable in nobles, and that obligations, payments, etc. were often stipulated to be paid in these pieces, instead of being in marks of silver as had been the custom before. It circulated in Russia, where it had a special name meaning "ship coin." Counterstamps of continental cities are found; a specimen in the British Museum has the counterstamp of Danzig. A noble of Henry VI, with the dated counterstamp of Haarlem, 1572, illustrates not only the wide circulation of these pieces, but the extended period during which they were in use. 4 There is little doubt that close copies, often of inferior weight and purity, were made in continental Europe, as illustrated by hoards of pieces of coarse workmanship or blundered legends, such as one of Henry nobles found near Cologne, 5 and evidently coined there.

We are however primarily concerned with imitations which differ from "counterfeits" in being more or less close imitations of the type, while being bona fide coinages of localities outside England. We thus start our survey with the country closest to England in the fourteenth century, which was the part of France occupied by England. France itself never copied the noble, just as England never copied the distinctive French types. In Aquitaine, however, where the French types were closely copied, there appears a noble of Edward, the Black Prince (No. 9). This piece is identical in type with the English noble of Edward III, with the sole difference that the obverse inscription reads "ED P GNS REGIS ANGLIE PRINCPS AQVITANIE." This coinage was evidently soon abandoned, for only a single example has been found. Nor was it revived after the conquest of France by Henry V, who initiated an Anglo-Gallic coinage distinctly different from both the English and the French coinages.

Proceeding now to the north, we find the Scots striking nobles under David II (1327–71). David, who was a prisoner in England for many years, being released in 1357, carried back with him many English ideas. He initiated the issue of silver groats in Scotland, and his nobles (No. 10) were apparently part of the same monetary project. They correspond in weight and style with the fourth issue of Edward III. The obverse differs from the English coin in the king’s shield, which bears the lion of Scotland, and the inscription, which reads "DAVID DEI GRA REX SCOTORVM." The reverse is identical with the English, except that the cruciform design is disposed diagonally with respect to the edge inscription, possibly to make it simulate the Scottish St. Andrew’s cross. Several dies of this piece are known, but it is exceedingly rare and was not issued by later kings.

Passing from the British Isles and the English possessions in France to the Low Countries, we find that imitations of all types of the noble and rose noble were made for two centuries. These range from close copies obviously intended to deceive, to bona fide coinages of large districts and important rulers, fully inscribed to indicate their source.

Our first piece is an imitation, similar to the English nobles of Edward III in all respects except the inscription. The king in the ship carries the shield of England, and it is only by study of the obverse legend that one detects that it is not an English noble. This piece (No. 11) was struck by Walerand, Count of St. Poland Ligny, 1371–1415, and is inscribed "WALLERD DEI GRA COM DE LUNE." This coin is the only known example of a copy differing solely in the inscription, although it is not unlikely that it is a surviving representative of a perhaps common type; it would not be surprising to discover similar coins of other minor rulers.

The most important coinage of nobles in the Low Countries is that of the Dukes of Burgundy as Counts of Flanders. There is a nearly complete series from Philip le Hardi, 1389–1404, to Philip the son of Mary of Burgundy and Maximilian, struck probably at Ghent or Bruges in 1488. These pieces, during the reigns of Philip le Hardi, Jean Sans Peur and Philip le Bon (Nos. 12, 13, 14), closely copy the noble type, but the shield carried by the "king" bears the arms of the reigning duke, and the king’s crown is replaced by a ducal coronet. The obverse inscription is "PHS DEI GRA DVX BVRG COMES Z DNS FLAND" for the two Philips, JOHS etc. for Jean Sans Peur. On the reverse the letter in the center is the initial of the ruler, P or I, or in some of the later ones a simple rosette. These pieces were of the same weight as the contemporary Henry nobles in England, but of less pure gold, and consequently their importation was legislated against in England.

Of Charles the Bold and his daughter Mary there are no nobles recorded, but Mary’s son Philip issued, jointly with his father Maximilian, nobles and half nobles which present an interesting variation of design. The king is shown (No. 15) standing well behind the mainmast of the ship so that his figure is now in the left half of the coin, instead of being the central feature it has heretofore been. On the half nobles (No. 16), of which there are several series with variations in the inscriptions, the reverse has the usual cruciform design, but on the nobles the cross is replaced by a shield with the Burgundian arms. Charles V issued no nobles, and those issued by his son Philip II are of the rose noble type, and fall under the next general division of the subject.

Imitations of the Rose Noble

The rose nobles, like their predecessors, the nobles, achieved a wide circulation. Specimens occur with counterstamps of Dutch provinces, 6 imperial Germany, 7 Riga (No. 17) and Danzig (No. 18). That close imitations were made is certain. There exist many specimens of broad flan, in low relief, of coarse workmanship, with the exact inscription of the Edward IV rose nobles, 5 which are commonly called "Flemish." It has been surmised that these were struck by Edward IV during his year of exile in Flanders, between his first and second reigns. Since, however, the coinage of rose nobles had already ceased before his flight and was not resumed in his second reign, this appears improbable. It has also been surmised that these were struck by the Earl of Leicester, who petitioned Elizabeth to be allowed to send gold from the Netherlands to England to be coined —at a profit—into nobles. There is no clear evidence for this supposition; it is not clear why, if he coined nobles, he should revert to the Edward IV type instead of copying the current Elizabeth ryals. It is more probable that the coins most plausibly described as Leicester nobles are the nobles of the United Provinces, which we shall describe later. We have ample documentary evidence that various mints in the Low Countries struck copies (we would call them "counterfeits") of many coins current in their time, and the item "Rosenobels op naam van Koning Edward van Engeland" occurs frequently in the mint records; it is therefore probable that these "Flemish" nobles belong in this category. Schulman 8 definitely ascribes these broad flan nobles to the mint at Gorcum.

Taking up now the imitations which were not mere slavish copies, but adaptations with distinctive inscriptions, we find that these are confined entirely to the Low Countries, so that we cannot, as in our treatment of the noble, follow it outward from England through the closely neighboring Anglo-Gallic countries and Scotland. We should, however, note a handsome near-copy, made in Scotland under James VI, the "thistle noble" coined in 1588. This (No. 19) displays a ship on the obverse with the Scotch shield instead of the king’s effigy, and with a thistle instead of a rose on the ship’s side. The reverse shows a geometric design of lions, crosses and scepters, reminiscent of, but different from the reverse design of noble and rose noble.

We proceed now to the imitations of the rose noble type in the Low Countries. We have already noted that Charles V coined no nobles. His son Philip II, as ruler of the Netherlands, re-introduced them in 1579, reproducing now the type of the rose noble of Edward IV, but with entirely different inscriptions. These rose nobles were struck for the provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijsel and Frisia. The Utrecht rose nobles (No. 20) show the effigy of the king in the ship, his shield bearing the arms of Utrecht, the flag a lion rampant. The obverse inscription is "PHS D G HISPANIAE REX DNS TRA." The reverse inscription is "CONCORDIA RES PARVAE CRESCVNT, 1579." The Gelderland rose nobles (No. 21) are closely similar, except that the king’s shield bears the double rampant lion of Gelderland. The obverse inscription is "PHS D G HISPZ REX DVX GEL C ZVT." The reverse is the same as the Utrecht pieces.

The Overijsel rose noble is again similar (No. 22), the king’s shield bearing rampant lions in two quarters, a horizontal bar in the other quarters; the flag a rampant lion. The reverse inscription is the same, the obverse, "PHS D G HISPANIAR REX AD TRANSISL."

The coinage of this series for Frisia is represented by a unique piece in the Dutch Royal collection (No. 23), illustrated by Schulman in his paper 9 on the coins of the Ommelanden, 1579–91. It is necessary to have some historical and geographical background to understand the significance of the inscription and other details of this coin. At the period covered by the above dates a portion of Frisia and Groningen, the northern- most provinces of Holland, formed the "Ommelanden," a district lying between the rivers Eems and Lauwer, and including a group of towns among which were Hunsingo and Fivelgo. On this coin we accordingly find the ship’s flag bearing not the rampant lion but the diagonal geometrical pattern which forms the arms of the Ommelanden. The king’s shield carries arms which are partly obliterated by wear, but among them those of Hunsingo and Fivelgo are recognizable. The inscription is "PHS D G HISP REX DNS FRI INT AMA Z LAVR" the last four words being abbreviations for INTER AMASUM ET LAUBACUM, a Latinized version of "between the Eems and the Lauwer." The reverse is identical in type and inscription with the Utrecht and Gelderland pieces.

After the first success of the revolt of the Netherlands the rose noble was continued without the name of Philip, but as a coinage of several provinces, and with altered inscriptions. These provincial rose nobles were issued by Zeeland and Frisia, according to Verkade, 10 who records or pictures specimens (Nos. 24 and 25) which are of excessive rarity, and by Gelderland, Utrecht and Campen, the last two issues being comparatively common, indicating a copious coinage. None of these bear dates, but they must belong to the years 1580–81. The Gelderland rose noble (No. 26) is of interest because the figure of the king in the ship, and other details of the type (with the exception of the inscription) are so closely those of the Philip coin (No. 21) described above as to indicate the same die cutter. The obverse inscription is now "MONETA NOVA AV DVC GELRIA COM Z." The reverse inscription, appropriate to the events of the time, is "DEVS TRANSFERT ET CONSTITVIT REGNA." The rose nobles of Utrecht (No. 27) and of Campen (No. 28) both carry the same reverse inscription as the Philip rose nobles which they superseded, "CONCORDIA RES PARVAE CRESCVNT." The obverse of the Utrecht piece shows the king’s shield with the arms of Utrecht, his flag a lion rampant. The inscription is "MONE NOVA ORDINV TRAIECTEN." On the Campen pieces the king’s shield bears the arms of the city of Campen, the flag the letter C (which is reversed on some specimens). The inscription is "MON NO AV CIV CAMPEN VALO TRANISVLAN"; or "the new gold coinage of the city of Campen, of the standard of Overijsel."

Late Imitations of the Noble

The rose noble was current in Holland until 1585 and was then refunded at ten guilders. Its coinage appears to have ceased about 1582, to be replaced, curiously enough, by a reversion to the type of the original noble, without the rose on the obverse, and with the cruciform design with lions and roses as on the original nobles of Edward III. These nobles were current at seven guilders.

This return to the original noble type appears to have originated in the city of Ghent, which issued a series of Flemish or Ghent nobles whose standard of value is referred to on certain of the similar nobles of other localities. The Ghent series may therefore be appropriately described first. It consists of three varieties, the first, issued in 1582 (No.29), shows the king in his ship, with a lion rampant on his shield. The ship flies a square standard on which appear three fleurs-de-lys, and below the standard on the stern of the ship appears a lion rampant. These fleurs-de-lys commemorate the installation of the Due d’Alençon, brother of the King of France, as ruler of the Netherlands, at the instigation of William the Silent, who believed the country needed a sovereign with the prestige and backing of a great European royal house. The inscription is "MO AVR EA RESTAVR METROPOL GAND FLAND." On the reverse the inscription is "NISI DNS CVSTOD CIVITAT FRVSTRA VIGILATVR 82."

During the year 1582 a state visit of William the Silent to Ghent was planned. For this occasion a new die was cut which differed from the first in substituting for the three fleurs-de-lys in the standard, a pair of clasped hands (No. 30). Unfortunately the Due d’Alenin proved unacceptable to the Dutch because of his intrigues and treachery and was expelled from the country. The meeting for which these coins were to be struck did not take place, and their coinage was ordered stopped. Only three specimens are known. A new de- vice had of course to be adopted, and the nobles of 1583 (No. 31) carry a lion rampant on the standard in place of the fleurs-de-lys or clasped hands.

Nobles very similar to these Ghent pieces were struck for Overijsel, Campen1, Gelderland, and Zeeland. The Overijsel noble (No. 32) is identical in type with the last Ghent nobles, including the rampant lion on shield and standard, varying only in the inscription. On the obverse this is "MONE NOV AVRE ORDIN TRANSISSVLANAE." The reverse inscription, although different from the Ghent nobles, expresses the same sentiment. The Campen noble, which also was struck of double weight (No. 33), bears on shield and standard a lion rampant accompanied by the city shield. The obverse inscription is "MON AVR CIVI CAMPEN VALO FLAN," thus indicating adherence to the Flemish or Ghent standard, in contrast to the rose nobles, which, as above noted, were of the standard of Overijsel. The reverse inscription is a variation of the "NISI DOMINVS" inscription of Ghent. The Gelderland noble (No. 34) has the lion rampant on shield and standard, hardly distinguishable from the Ghent pieces. The obverse inscription is "MO AVRE A DVC GELDRIAE COM ZVT FANL." The reverse inscription is again a variant of the Ghent inscription.

The last of this series of late nobles to be described is the issue of Zeeland (No. 35), which has more individuality than the other copies of the Ghent noble. The shield and standard on the obverse show the arms of Zeeland, a lion rampant rising from the sea. The obverse inscription is "ZELAN DOMINE SALVA NOS PERIMVS." The reverse inscription is "MONETA NOVA AVREA COMIT ZELAND 83." Verkade pictures a specimen with date 84.

Nobles of the United Provinces

The last coins struck in the Netherlands bearing the type of the "king in a ship" were nobles of the United Provinces of date 1586 to 1595. These (No. 36) are of a design differing significantly from both the noble and the rose noble. The "king" is now a figure in full armor, with a closed helmet. He carries a sword, but in place of the shield a sheaf of arrows. The standard at the stern of the ship bears a lion rampant. No rose appears on the ship’s side, but the rail of the ship bears a series of six shields exhibiting the arms of the six provinces. The reverse shows in the center a sheaf of arrows, and, radiating from this, a stellate design of wavering rays or flames. Pieces were struck in both Holland and Zeeland. The obverse inscription for the Holland issue was "CONCORDIA RES PARVAE CRESCVNT HOL"; for the Zeeland issue ZELA is substituted for HOL. The reverse inscription is "MO ORDIN PROVIN FOEDER BELGIAE," with the date, which is 1586 for the Holland piece pictured by Verkade, and 1595 for his Zeeland specimen.

These pieces, from their date, and from details of the type and inscription, which are similar to the Leicester dalers, may with some plausibility be considered to be the "Leicester nobles" which have never been positively identified. They are excessively rare; our figure is a reproduction of a woodcut given by Verkade. A search through illustrated sale catalogues of thirty years has shown only one representative of this coinage, 11 a half noble of 1587.

Close Imitations of the Noble, with Small Variations in the Inscriptions

A phenomenon of the coinage of the Low Countries in the sixteenth century was the coinage in various mints of close copies of popular and widely current foreign pieces, with changes, often minute, in the inscriptions. Thus we find the mint at Culemborg 12 listed as making:

Rose nobles Double and half rose nobles Double Spanish dukats Hungarian ducats Rigksdaalders, etc.

These pieces, on ordinary inspection, look like their originals, but on examining the inscriptions inserted letters are found such as A L or A V, abbreviations for AD LEGEM or AD VALOREM, and other letters which are abbreviations of the town or province by which they were issued. Thus we find double ducats pictured by Verkade with the well-known vis-a-vis portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella, with inscriptions:





Among such close imitations are found several of the English noble, which are of special interest because from them we get the key to the attribution of the Elizabeth nobles, mentioned earlier as being heretofore unsolved.

Three examples of these imitations of the rose noble, taken from an article by Schulman 9 on Dutch mints of the sixteenth century, suffice to illustrate these pieces. They are all so close in appearance to the Edward IV rose nobles as to be indistinguishable from them on any but the closest examination. The first (No. 37), of Arkel, bears the inscription "EDWARD D G REG ANG M DNI AR AV E DNS IB" (Edward dei gratia, rex angliae, moneta domini Arkelensis ad valorem Edwardi domini Iberniae). 12a It is obvious that on a superficial glance this coin would appear to be of EDWARD—DNS IB, yet it actually says it is of Arkel, of the value of Edward’s coins. 13

The second example (No. 38), of the mint of Culemborg, reads "MO ORD FRISI AD LEGEM EDWARD REG ANG," with the inscription so placed as to appear to begin with EDWARD.

The third example (No. 39), of the same mint with a similar inscription, shows another minor variation— the letter in the ship’s flag is an F (Frisia) instead of the E shown by the other pieces.

The Coinage of Nobles by Marie de Brimeu, Princess of Chimay, Countess of Megen,1572–76

Chimay, a town of Hainault, where Froissart the chronicler is buried, is of interest numismatically for the coins issued by a sixteenth-century ruler, Marie de Brimeu. 14 These coins were struck at the mint of Gorcum, which was notorious for its imitations of current coinages of the principal countries of the time. Among these are imitations of English nobles and rose nobles, of which two have been previously recognized as of Marie de Brimeu.

The first of these is an imitation of the noble of Henry VI, a crude piece (No. 40) which, similar in appearance to the original, bears the obverse inscription "HENRIC DI GRA REX ANGVL MAR B DNS HY," the inserted letters standing for Marie de Brimeu. The fact that thus over a century after the death of Henry VI it was considered profitable to imitate his coinage is striking evidence of the popularity of the original noble.

The second of these (No. 41) is an imitation of the rose noble of Edward IV, differing only in type from the original by the arms on the king’s shield being possibly those of Brimeu and Croy (although so similar to the English arms as to be easily mistaken for them), and by the letter in the king’s standard, which is a reversed B instead of an E. The obverse inscription reads, starting at the bottom of the coin, "MARA B PRI D CHI CO D MAE AD LE EDWARD G REG ANG," thus giving in abbreviated form all the Princess’ titles and stating the coin is ad legem, or according to the standard, of Edward.

We now come to the third example (No. 42), which has not been previously assigned to the Princess of Chimay, but from what has gone before, is obviously one of this series. This is furnished by those ryals of Elizabeth with the inserted letters MPRCAL, or MA DG PC AL. These are at once seen to be the same inserted letters as on the previous examples, which are recognized as the initials of Marie, Princess of Chimay; and so this outstanding problem of British numismatics is solved. This attribution is further substantiated by the list (1591) of coins minted at Gorcum, quoted by Schulman, 8 in which appears "Dubbele en enkele Rozenobels op naam van Koningen Elisabeth en op naam van de prinses Van Chimay."

With this attribution before us the question arises why was it not made long ago. As a matter of fact it was correctly made, nearly two hundred years ago, by Snelling, in his "View of the Gold Coins and Coinage of England," 1763, but he failed to give sufficient information to make a case clear enough for later students to grasp. His attribution is in a footnote (p. 20, note 2), in which he says, "These ryals were counterfeited at Gorcum in Holland, as appears from a placart of the Earl of Leicester: ‘Rosatus Nobilis in Gorcum factus est nomine principes a Summeii cujus altera latus rosatu Nobili Anglico convenit altera hunc inscriptionem habet ELISABETH D. G. ANG F. D. G. P. C. A. L. REGINA.’"

What Snelling failed to say, if he knew it, was that "Summeii" was Chimay, which gives the C in the inscription, or that the name of the Princess was Marie, which gives the M or MA of some forms of the inscription. Without this information his statement was a mere assertion, correct, but unsupported by the necessary data for proof.


This survey of the English noble and its imitations does not pretend to be a complete corpus. For this it would be necessary to consult certain collections, such as those of the museums in Holland, which are at present inaccessible. Enough is here presented however to give an idea of the place of the noble in the coinage of its time, the extent of its circulation, its popularity, and the manner in which it, like other coinages of wide reception, was made the subject of imitations of varying degrees of fidelity.


*1. Noble of Edward III, treaty period, 1361–69.

EDWARD: DEI: GRA: REX: ANGL: DNS: HYB: Z: AQT. King crowned, standing in ship, holding sword and shield.

Rev. IHS: AVTEM: TRANSIENS: PER: MEDIV: ILLORVM: IBAT: Floriated cross with lys at end of each limb, and E within an ornamented compartment in the center. In each angle of cross a lion passant, guardant, with crown above.

Author's Collection

*2. Noble of Richard II, 1377–99, struck at Calais.

RICARD: D: G: REX: ANGL: Z: FRANC: D: HIB: Z: AQ: Similar to No. 1, except flag at stern of ship.

Rev. Similar to No. 1, except for R in center.

. Author's Collection

*3. Noble of Henry VI, 1422–61.

HENRIC: DI: GRA: REX: ANGL: Z: FRANC DNS: HYB: Similar to No. 1, except number of fleurs-de-lys in French arms of shield only three.

Rev. Similar to No. 1, except H in center.

Author's Collection

*4. Rose Noble or Ryal of Edward IV, 1461–83.

EDWARD: DI: GRA: REX: ANGL: Z: FRANC: DNS: IB: King crowned, standing, facing in ship, holding sword and shield; full blown rose on side of ship; at stern, flag with letter E.

Re v. IHS: AVT: TRANSIENS: PER: MEDIVM: ILLORVM: IBAT: Within arched tressure and trefoil in each spandrel, floriated cross with rose in center and lion surmounted by crown in each angle.

Author s Collection

*5. Ryal of Henry VII , 1485–1509.

HENRIC: DI: GRA: REX: ANGL: Z: FRANC: DNS: IBAR: King standing facing in ship and holding sword and shield; flag with h at prow and another with dragon at stern.

Rev. IHS: AVTEM: TRANSIENS: PER: MEDIV: ILLORV: IBAT: Small shield with arms ofFrance on double rose.

British Museum (Grueber 373)

*6. Ryal of Mary , 1553–58.

MARIA: I: D: G: ANG: FRA: Z: HIB: REGINA: M.D.LIII: Queen crowned, standing facing, holding sword and shield; full blown rose on side of ship; at stern, flag with letter M.

Rev. A: DNO: FACT V’EST: ISTVD: Z: EST: MIRABI’: IN: OCVL. NR IS. Similar to No. 4.

Author s Collection

*7. Ry a l of Elizabeth , 1558–1603.

ELIZAB: D: G: ANG: FR: ET: HIB: REGINA : The queen nearly facing, standing in ship and holding scepter and orb; ship with high quarter-deck, rose on its side; at prow, flag with E.

Rev. Type and inscription as No. 4.

Author s Collection

*8. Ryal of James I, 1603–25.

IACOBVS: D: G: MAG: BRIT: FRAN: ET: HIB: REX: King standing in two-masted ship, crowned and holding sword and shield; flag with I at prow, rose on side.

Rev. As No. 6.

Mint-mark on obv. and rev.: a castle.

Author's Collection

9. Noble of Edward the Black Prince, 1330–76.

EDWARD: PO: GNS: REG: ANGL: DNS: AQUITANIE: King crowned, standing in ship, holding sword and shield.

Rev. IHC: AVTEM: TRANSIENS: PER: MEDIV: ILLORVM: IBAT: Floriated cross with lys at end of each limb, and E within an ornamented compartment in the center. In each angle of cross a lion passant, guardant, with crown above.

Motte Collection, No.283 (H. Rolland, 1922)

*10. Noble of David 11 of Scotland, 1329–71.


The King crowned, standing facing in a ship, holding sword and shield with arms of Scotland.

Rev. IHS: AVTEM: TRANSIENS: P: MEDIVM: ILLORVM: IBAT: Identical with No. 1, except rosette in center, and floriated cross is placed diagonally with respect to beginning of legend (St. Andrew’s cross).

British Museum (Grueber 24)

11. Noble of Walerand, Count of St. Pol and Ligny,1371–1415.


PO: CO: Identical type to that of Edward III (No. 1). Rev. As No. 1, except rosette in center.

Beistegui Coll. (Babelon), Pl. XXXVI, No. 661

*12. Noble of Philip le Hardi , Duke of Burgundy, 1384–1404.

PHS: DEI: GRA: DVX: BURG: COMES: Z: DNS: FLAND: Standing figure of duke in ship, wearing coronet, and carrying sword and shield with arms of Duchy of Burgundy.

Rev. As No. 1, except P in center of cross.

Author's Collection

*13. Noble of Jean Sans Peur , Duke of Burgundy, 1404–37.


DNS: FLAND: As No. 12, except arms on shield have added escutcheon.

Rev. As No. 12, except I in center of cross.

Bourgey Sale (Babit Coll.), March 28, 1927, No. 1383

*14. Noble of Philip le Bon, Duke of Burgundy , 1437–60.

PHS: DEI: GRA: DVX: BURG: COMES: Z: DNS: FLAND: As No. 12, except arms on shield have added escutcheon.

Rev. As Nos. 12 and 13, except rosette in center of cross.

Author's Collection

*15. Noble of Maximilian and Philip of Burgundy, 1482–94.

M: D: G: RO: REX: ET: PHS: ARCHIDVCES: AV: B: CO: HO: King in three-masted ship, standing behind mainmast and sail, carrying sword and orb.

Rev. MO: AVREA: RO: REGIS: ET: PHI: ARCHID: AV. BO: CO: HOR: Shield in middle of floriated cross with crowns and eagles in compartments.

Schulman Sale, Jan. 1931, No. 1733

*16. Half Noble of Maximilian and Philip of Burgundy , 1488.


BR: CO: HO: King standing facing in three-masted ship, behind mainmast, carrying sword, orb, and shield with Burgundian arms.

Rev. REFORMACIO: GVERRE: PAX: EST: A’ 1488. Floriated cross, crowns in compartments rosette in center.

Author's Collection

*17. Rose Noble of Edward IV, 1461–83, with Counterstamp of Riga.

EDWARD: DI: GRA: REX: ANGL: Z: FRANC: DNS: IB: Similar to No. 4, except for counterstamp of crossed keys in right field above ship.

Rev. As No. 4.

Author's Collection

*18. Rose Noble of Edward IP, 1461–83, with Counterstamp of Danzig.

EDWARD: DI: GRA: REX: ANGL: Z: FRANC: DNS: IB: Similar to No. 4, except for counterstamp of crown over double cross in waves below ship.

Rev. As No. 4.

Author's Collection

*19. Scottish Thistle Noble of James VI, 1567–1603.

IACOBUS: 6: DEI: GRATIA: REX: SCOTORUM: Single-masted ship carrying crowned Scot- tish shield in waist; standards fore and aft, the left inscribed I, the right 6; thistle on side of ship.

Rev. FLORENT: SCEPT: PIIS: REGNA: HIS: IOVA: DAT: NVMERAT: Q: Within an ornamented quarterfoil two scepters in saltire, with crown at each end; thistle in center; outside the quarterfoil, thistle-head in each spandrel, and inside in each arch, crowned lion.

Author's Collection

20. Rose Noble of Philip II for Utrecht, 1575.

PHS: D: G: HISPANIAE: REX: DNS: TRA: King in ship, bearing sword and shield with arms of Utrecht; rose with sun rays superposed on side of ship; square standard at stern of ship bearing rampant lion.

Rev. CONCORDIA: RES: PARVAE: CRESCVNT: 1579: Similar to Edward IV rose noble, No. 4, except that lions under crown are rampant instead of passant.

Schulman Sale, May 22, 1911, No. 78

*21. Rose Noble of Philip II for Gelderland, 1579.

PHS: D: G: HISPZ: REX: DVX: GEL: C: ZVT. King standing facing in ship bearing sword and shield with arms of Gelderland: square standard at stern of ship with broad border around lion rampant; rose on side of ship.

Rev. Similar to No. 20.

Muller Sale, December 12, 1904, Pl. IX, No. 3959

22. Rose Noble of Philip II for Overijsel.

PHS: D: G: HISPANIAR: REX: AD: TRANSISL: King standing facing in ship bearing sword and shield with arms of Overijsel; on flag rampant lion.

Rev. Same as Nos. 19 and 20.

Verhade, PL 133, Fig. 1; Snelling, PL 7, No. 8

23. Rose Noble of Philip II for the Ommelanden.

PHS: D: G: HISP: REX: DNS: FRI: INT: AM A: Z: LAVR. King standing facing carrying shield bearing arms of Hunsingo and Fivelgo. Flag with arms of Ommelanden.

Rev. Same as Nos. 19-21.

Schulman, "De Munten der Ommelanden," Fig. 1

24. Rose Noble of Zeeland.

MON: NOV: AVR: COMITAT: ZELAN: King standing facing in ship bearing sword and shield with arms of Zeeland. Flag at stern with arms of Zeeland.

Rev. SI: DEVS: NOBISCVM: QVIS: CONTRA: NOS: As Edward IV rose noble, No. 4.

Verhade, Pl. 77, Fig. 1

25. Rose Noble of Frisia.

MO: NOVA: AVRE: ORDINVM: FRISI: Helmeted figure of king in ship, bearing sword and shield with arms of Frisia.


Verkade, Pl. 117, Fig. 3.

*26. Rose Noble of Gelderland.


COM: Z: Same type and style as No. 20.

Rev. DEVS: TRANSFERT: ET: CONSTITVIT: REGNA: Similar to Nos. 21 and 22.

Author's Collection

*27. Rose Noble of Utrecht.

MONE: NOVA: ORDINV: TRAIECTEN: Similar to No. 21, except rose on ship has checkered center instead of superposed sun’s rays.

Rev. CONCORDIA: RES: PARVAE: CRESCVNT: Rose and sun, lions and crowns closely similar to Edward IV rose noble, No. 4.

Author's Collection

*28. Rose Noble of Campen.

MON: NO: AV: CIVI: CAMPEN: VALO: TRAN: ISVLAN: Similar to No. 27, except king’s shield bears arms of Campen; ship’s standard inscribed C.

Rev. Type and inscription similar to Utrecht rose noble, No. 27.

Author's Collection

*29. Noble of Ghent, 1582, first type.


GAND: FLAND: Letters N T in field to left and right of king’s head. King standing facing in center of ship, bearing sword and shield with rampant lion to 1.; square standard at stern of ship, bearing three fleursde-lys; below, lion rampant.

Rev. NISI: DNS: CVSTOD: CIVITAT: FRVSTRA: VIGILATVR: 82: Floriated cross with lions and crown, similar to Edward III noble, No. 1, but with rosette at center.

Author's Collection

*30. Noble of Ghent, 1582, second type.

As No.29, except ship’s standard carries two clasped hands.

Author's Collection

*31. Noble of Ghent, 1583, third type.

As Nos.29 and 30, except ship’s standard now carries rampant lion, which has been moved up from space between standard and ship’s stern.

Reverse inscription now ends with date 83.

Author's Collection

*32. Noble of Overijsel, 1583.


Rev. NISI: TV: DOMINE: NOS: SERVAVERIS: FRVSTRA: 83: Same as Nos.29, 30, 31.

Author's Collection

*33. Double Noble of Campen.

MON: AVR: CIVI: CAMPEN: VALO: FLAN: King standing facing in ship, bearing sword and shield. Shield bears rampant lion with shield on which is triple-towered gate. Ship’s standard bears same device as king’s shield.


Author's Collection

*34. Noble of Gelderland.

MO: AUREA: DVC: GELDRIAE: COM: Z VT FANL: Closely similar to No. 30, except double border to ship’s standard, and omission of letters N T in field.

Rev. NISI: QVIA: DNS: ERAT: IN: NOBIS: FORTE: DEGLVTISS: As No. 1, except rosette in center of cross.

Author's Collection

*35. Noble of Zeeland, 1583.

ZELAN: DOMINE: SALVA: NOS: PERIMVS: King standing facing in ship, with sword and shield; square standard at stern of ship. King’s shield and standard bear rampant lion emerging from waves.


Schulman Sale, June 8, 1937, Pl. XII, No. 384

*36. Noble of United Provinces, 1586.

CONCORDIA: RES: PARVAE: CRESCVNT: HOL: Helmeted figure with sword standing facing in ship. Ship carries arms of six provinces along rail; square standard at stern with rampant lion.

Rev. MO: ORDIN: PROVIN: FOEDER: BELGIAE: 1586: Sun’s rays or flames radiating from center disc, on which sheaf of arrows.

Verhade, PL 39, Fig. 1

37. Rose Noble of Arkel.

BD: WARD: D: G: RBG: ANG: M: DNI: AR: A.V.B.: DNS: IB: 12a King standing facing in ship, similar in appearance to Edward IV rose nobles (No. 4). The king’s shield displays in two quarters three fleursde-lys similar to the French arms borne by Edward; in the other two quarters a double row of lozenges, these constituting the arms of Arkel.

Rev. Exact copy of Edward IV rose noble (No. 4).

Schulman, De Munten der Ommelanden, p. 26. Dutch Royal Cabinet

38. Rose Noble of Frisia.

MO: ORD: FRISI: AD: LEGEM: EDWARD: REG: ANG: Type identical with Edward IV rose nobles, with English arms on shield.

Rev. Exact copy of Edward IV rose noble.

Schulman, De Munten der Ommelanden, p. 36.

Dutch Royal Cabinet

39. Rose Noble of Frisia.

MO: ORD: FRISIAE: AD: LEGEM: EDWARD: FRAN: Type identical with Edward IV rose noble, except that ship’s flag carries the letter F.

Rev. Exact copy of Edward IV rose noble.

Schulman, De Munten der Ommelanden, p. 36. Dutch Royal Cabinet

40. Noble of Marie of Brimeu, Princess of Chimay, 1572–76, in imitation of Henry VI of England.

HENRIC: DI: GRA: REX: ANGVL: MAR: B: DNS: HY: King standing facing in ship with sword and shield bearing arms of England.

Rev. Inscription blundered and meaningless. Floriated cross with lions and crown in compartments. H in center.

Schulman Sale, October 4, 1911, Pl. V, No. 868

41. Rose Noble of Marie of Brimeu, 1572–76, in imitation of Edward IV of England.

EDWARD: G: REG: ANG: MAR: A: B: PRI: D: CHI: COD: MAE: ADLE: King standing facing in ship, bearing sword and shield consisting of fleurs-delys in two quarters, horizontal bars in others (arms of Brimeu and Croy); rose on side of ship: ship’s standard carries inverted B.

Rev. As No. 4.

Cuypers, Rtv. Num. Beige, 1851, p.184

*42. Rose Noble of Marie of Brimeu, 1572–76, in imitation of Elizabeth of England.

ELIZABET: ANGL: MA: D: G: P: C: A: L: REGINAE: Similar to ryal of Elizabeth, No. 7, except that letter on ship’s standard can be read as B.

Rev. As No. 7.

Drabble Sale, July 1939, Pl. VI, No.150


End Notes

For references see the bibliography quoted in Brooke’s "English Coins."
Vol. II, 3.rd ed., 1840, p. 356, footnote to description of Plate X, 4.
An early discussion of this subject, "A View of Nobles Struck Abroad, in Imitation of English," is included in Snelling, "On the Coins of Great Britain, France and Ireland," Part V, 1769, p. 53 and Plate 7.
Schulman Sale Catalogue, May 22, 1911, Plate II, Fig. 78.
Numismatic Chronicle , 3.rd Series, Vol. XIII, p. 26.
Schulman Sale Catalogue, January, 1931, No. 1924.
Mentioned by Hazlitt, "Coinage of the European Continent," Supplement, p. 108.
"De Muntstempels der Munt te Gorinchem," Jaarboek voor Munt-en Penningkunde , Vol. IV, 1917, pp. 41-73.
"De Munten der Ommelanden, 1579–1591," Jaarboek uoor Munt-en Penningkunde , Vol. II, 1915, pp. 129-181.
P. Verkade, "Muntboek," Scheedam, 1848. The illustrations, which are woodcuts, are often reproductions of old "placarts."
F. Muller Catalogue, Dec. 1904, Plate V, No. 1037.
Quoted by Schulman, "De Munten der Ommelanden," cf. note 8, above.
This piece, illustrated by Schulman, "De Munten der Ommelanden," has in its obverse inscription three occurrences of the use of a B for E.
Schulman, Jaarboek voor Munt-en Penningkunde , Vol. XVII, 1930, p. 81, describes one of these Arkel imitations with the counterstamp of Riga, showing that they circulated along with the original English pieces.
Cuypers, "Notice Sur Les Monnaies des Comtes de Megen," Reu. de la Numismatique Beige , 2nd series, Vol. I, p. 162. See also Van der Chiis, "Die Munten der Nederlanden," Vol. VIII, PI. III, Nos. 22 and 23.