Matthew of Paris: King Henry IIIs 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
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998