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Medieval Sourcebook:
Matthew of Paris: King Henry III’s Reformation of the Coinage, 1248

The practice of clipping and counterfeiting coins was prevalent in the reign of Henry III (A.D. I216-1272). Great hostility was aroused especially against foreign money-changers who accompanied the papal tax collectors and the merchants who attended the fairs. Matthew of Paris was well aware of the inconveniences arising from the process of improving the coinage.

About this time, the English coin was so intolerably debased by money-clippers and forgers, that neither natives nor foreigners could look upon it with other than angry eyes and disturbed feelings.

For it was clipped round almost to the inner part of the ring, and the border which bore the letters was either entirely destroyed or enormously defaced. Proclamation was therefore made by herald in the king's name in all cities, boroughs, and markets, that no penny should be taken which was not of legitimate weight and circumference, nor be received in any way, either in buying, selling, or exchange, and that all transgressors of this order would be punished...A careful inquisition, therefore, was made, and there were found to be guilty of this crime certain Jews and notorious Caursins, and also some Flemish wool-merchants. The French king also ordered all persons guilty of this crime who were found in his kingdom to be suspended on gibbets and exposed to the winds.... In the course of this year the people were so troubled by divers precepts of the king concerning the receiving of money, proclaimed by the voice of a herald throughout the cities of England, that they would rather a measure of corn had cost more than twenty shillings; for exchange was carried on but in few cities; and when they got there, they received a certain weight of new money for a certain weight of old, and were obliged to pay thirteen pence on every pound for the smith's work, or moneying, which was commonly called whitening. The form of this money differed from the old, insomuch that a double cross traversed the border where the letters were marked; but in other respects, namely as to weight, chief impression, and the lettered characters, it remained as before....


From: Matthew of Paris, English History, trans. J. A. Giles, (London: H. G. Bohn, 1852), Vol. II, pp. 262-264, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 142-143.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 1998
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