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The Coinage of Henry VI

During King Henry's reign his coins were struck at the mints in London, Calais and York, with some local issues in York and Durham by the episcopal mints there.

Masters of the Royal Mint in the Tower:

1421-1432 Bartholomew Goldbeter

1435–1446 John Paddesley

1446–1459 Robert Manfield

1459-1461 Sir Richard Tunstall

Calais and York were under the direction of the London mint master, who appointed a deputy to run the local mints for him.

The Coins:

Gold – Noble; Half Noble; Quarter Noble

Angel (1470-71 Readeption); Half Angel

Silver – Groat (= 4 pennies); Half Groat; Penny; Halfpenny; Farthing.


The coins at this time bore no date. They were distinguished by various marks.

Those on King Henry's coinage:

mint marks 1 (2)mint marks 2 (2)

Annulet coinage 1422-1427

Rosette-Mascle coinage 1427-1430

Pinecone-Mascle coinage 1430-1434

Leaf-Mascle coinage 1434-1435

Leaf-Trefoil coinage 1435-1438

Trefoil coinage 1438-1443

Trefoil-Pellet coinage 1443-1445

Leaf-Pellet coinage 1445-1454

Cross-Pellet coinage 1454-1460

Lis-Pellet coinage 1454-1460

from J.J. North “English Hammered Coinage vol.2


GOLD -- Noble


Henry by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Lord of Ireland


But Jesus passing through their midst went His way

Angel (1470/71 restoration coinage)


By Thy cross save us, Jesus Christ Redeemer

SILVER -- Groat (equalled four pennies)



I have made God my helper


City of London and Town of Calais


Henry was the third king in the line of the House of Lancaster. He acceded to the throne at the age of nine months on the premature death of his father, the warrior king, Henry V. No voice was raised against his accession and one month later he was even proclaimed King of France as well. Throughout his reign the overwhelming majority of the nobility never questioned his right to reign nor wavered in their fealty to him. Many would die in defence of his throne.

During his minority and the rule of his council under a Lord Protector, the main issues centred on France between the war party and the peace party. The two main adversaries were his uncle, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, and his great-uncle, Henry Beaufort Bishop of Winchester, but neither of these ever questioned King Henry's right to reign or the legitimacy of the Lancastrian monarchy.

Discord developed with the rise to power of William de la Pole, the earl (later duke) of Suffolk, and the King's French marriage, which involved the cessation of Anjou and Maine. After Suffolk's murder in 1450 and the rebellion of the Kentish men led by Jack Cade, the Beaufort family became the strongest faction around the throne in the persons of the earls and dukes of Somerset. Opposed to them was Richard, Duke of York, also a descendant of King Edward III.

Richard of York was the son of Richard Earl of Cambridge, himself the second son of the fourth son of Edward III (Edmund of Langley). Cambridge had been executed for treason in 1415 at Southampton on the eve of Henry V's departure for France on the so-called Agincourt campaign. Consequently all his lands and titles had been forfeited. His son Richard was knighted at fourteen along with the four year old boy King Henry VI in 1426, and Henry himself restored the titles and lands of the York and Mortimer inheritance to Richard in 1432. The young duke of York served loyally in France at first and even conducted Margaret of Anjou safely on her journey across the English held territories in France. At home he was entrusted with the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, but not the powerful political position in government he felt was his due as a prince of the blood royal. He resented both Suffolk and the Beaufort Somersets. York soon became the leading opposition to what may be described as the Court faction, and the fact that the Kentish rebels led by Jack Cade in 1450 favoured Richrd of York, led to suspicion of treasonable contacts with the rebels. York decided that he could only achieve the position he desired and the destruction of the Beauforts by force of arms. During a career of fermenting unrest, seeking pardon, protesting loyalty and renewing oaths of allegiance (which he repeatedly broke), York committed several acts of high treason in attacking the King's camp under the royal standard displayed, even inadvertently wounding the King in the neck. His attempts to control the King by two periods of Protectorate failed. His repeated attempts to destroy Somerset equally failed. He had committed dangerous treason and this drove him finally into open rebellion, aided by his own relations (the Bourchiers) and the Nevilles (arch-enemies of the Percies in Northumberland). Unable to control Henry and the Crown, he claimed it for himself – to the astonishment and distress of the vast majority of the nobility. (He had removed many lords who opposed his ambitions, by killing them in battles like the 1st St. Albans in 1455.)

York claimed his title to the throne through the female line; indeed through two females. His mother, Anne Mortimer, made him the heir to the Mortimers (the last earl dying in 1425). The Mortimer “claim” (which they never pressed) also came through the female line: Philippa, the daughter of Edward III's second son, Lionel of Clarence. The Mortimer earls of March were loyal to the Lancastrian succession. In fact, it had been Mortimer himself who had betrayed Richard of Cambridge's treason to Henry V in 1415 and who had sat on the commission that had then sentenced him to death.

The overwhelming majority of the nobility of England were no supporters of Richard Duke of York, nor did they wish nor intend to remove Henry VI from the throne, regarding him as their true, lawful and anointed sovereign.
Prof. J.R. Lander wrote: Between the first battle of St. Albans in May 1455 and the battle of Towton in March 1461, 37 peers (and possibly 5 more), who were the heads successively of 32 noble families, fought for him [King Henry], and in the end only 3 of these deserted him for the Yorkist side; 15 died for him, 12 on the battlefield and 3 were afterwards executed by their victorious foes.

It is now sufficiently obvious that the greater part of the peerage – at least 49 out of about 60 families – chose to fight for Henry VI or for Richard of York, though it should be said that until October 1460, when York suddenly and unexpectedly put his claim to the throne before an astonished parliament, the nobles (including York's own closest supporters) had not yet come to regard these quarrels as a dynastic issue.

This high involvement of the peerage during the reign of the last Lancastrian forms a marked contrast to their political indifference to Henry VI's successors and dynastic rivals. The nobility showed a definite reluctance to risk their lives and fortunes for Edward, Richard III and Henry VII.

Lords known to have fought for King Henry VI:

1st St. Albans 1455

Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset (killed)
Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon
Henry Percy II, Earl of Northumberland (killed)
Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire
Lord Berners
Thomas Lord Clifford (killed)
Lord Dudley
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Lord Sudeley
Lord Roos
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Royal adherents arriving a day late:
John de Vere, Earl of Oxford
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Ralph Lord Cromwell

Blore Heath 1459

James Lord Audley (killed)
Lord Dudley
Thomas Lord Stanley 'sat on the fence' six miles away.

Northampton 1460

Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham (killed)
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury (killed)
John Viscount Beaumont (killed)
Lord Egremont (killed)
The person of the King seized as a captive from his tent.

Wakefield 1460

Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (father slain 1455 at St. Albans)
Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon
Henry Percy III, Earl of Northumberland (father slain 1455 at St. Albans)
John Lord Clifford (father slain 1455 at St. Albans)
Lord Harrington (killed)
Lord Neville Roos of Helmsley
possibly Lords Greystock and Latimer as well.

Mortimer's Cross 1461

Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire

2nd St. Albans 1461

Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset
Henry Percy III, Earl of Northumberland
Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon
John Lord Neville
Lord Roos
possibly also Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter; John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury; Lord Fitzhugh; Lord Grey of Codnor; Lord Greystock; Lord Welles; Lord Willoughby

Towton 1461

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset
Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon (beheaded after the battle)
Henry Percy III, Earl of Northumberland (killed)
James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire (beheaded after the battle)
William Viscount Beaumont (father slain 1460 at Northampton)
John Lord Clifford (killed)
Lord Dacre of Gillesland
Lord Rougemont-Grey (executed after the battle)
John Lord Neville (killed)
Lord Roos
Anthony Ryvers, Lord Scales (later Edward IV's brother-in-law)
Leo Lord Welles (killed)
Richard Lord Willoughby

Between 1459 and 1461 three peers went over to the Yorkists: John Lord Audley; Lord Berners and William Neville, Lord Fauconberg.
(Taken from J.R. Lander's Appendix in “Politics and Power in England, 1450-1509.)


King Henry grew up in an era and a family that prized education highly. His father Henry V had been taught music, literature, Latin, French and English, as well as the martial arts appropriate to a knight and prince of the realm. His uncle Humphrey Duke of Gloucester was renowned for his learning and indeed his library forms part of the Bodleain Library in Oxford today. Humphrey had a reputation as a patron of the arts and of literature. He was a patron of the poet John Lydgate and of the historian/hagiographer John Capgrave; both of whom enjoyed also the interest of King Henry. Duke Humphrey corresponded with leading humanists in Europe, and he commissioned translations of Greek and Latin classics.

It was the age of the schoolmen, with the foundation of schools and of university colleges. William Wykeham, the bishop of Winchester, established Winchester School in 1382. It was to be a prepartory school to the New College, Oxford, and was to be a model for King Henry's own foundations of Eton and King's College, Cambridge. Education was no longer the exclusive preserve of clerics and laymen like noblemen and merchants were inbibing learning appropriate to their station and professions. Grammar schools were appearing in towns all over England.

At the age of six and a half years King Henry was given his own separate household and on 1st June 1428 Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, was officially appointed to be the young King's governor and tutor by the minority council. The earl had been a friend and companion to Henry V in France, and he was respected for both his martial skills and his learning. The council instructed him:

.the said Earl shall do his endeavour and diligence to teach the King and make him be taught nurture, literature, languages and other manners of cunning (wisdom) as his age shall suffer him to comprehend such as it fitteth so great a prince to be learned of..... He was assisted by the King's confessor, royal clerks and chaplains. Even the King's physician, John Somerset, was a former master of the grammar school of Bury St. Edmunds. Henry would have been taught English, French and Latin, some form of history and rudimentary geography, perhaps even some basic mathematics like arithmetic and geometry. He would have been given religious instruction and Bible studies, as well as having instruction in government and basic English law. One may be sure that the warrior earl of Warwick would have seen to his training in the martial arts of knighthood, like horsemanship and swordplay. An inventory from the Tower of London listed: “…viii swords….some greater and some smaller, for to learn the King to play in his tender age. Item a little harness that the Earl of Warwick made for the King before he went over the sea (across the Channel to his French coronation), garnished with gold…. Item ii little coats of armour which…were made for him when he was but vii years of age.” Henry, however, showed little interest in, or aptitude for, such warlike pastimes. He did become a proficient horseman though, and at least in his youth he enjoyed hunting.

Like his uncle, Humphrey of Gloucester, King Henry had a considerable library. In 1435 he donated 77 books to the King's Hall in Cambridge, and in 1440 he made a similar donation to the newly founded All Souls' College at Oxford (of which he was co-founder with his godfather Archbishop Chichele of Canterbury). His warrant to the Keeper of the Privy Seal reads: …that of our abundant grace we have granted unto the warden and scholars of our College of All Souls within our University of Oxford the books and volumes the names of which [have] been written and described in a schedule here enclosed for to have them of our gift and to remain perpetually to the use and profit and increase of learning of the warden and scholars in the said College for the time being.

Attached was a list of twenty-seven books on civil and canon law, theology and philosophy. The King himself delighted in reading. John Blacman records his complain on being disturbed in his chamber by a great nobleman: “They do so interrupt me that by day or night I can hardly snatch a moment to be refreshed by reading of any holy teaching without disturbance.

King Henry seems to have decided on making his own educational foundations fairly early, and by1439 he had decided on the parish of Eton, in sight of his castle of Windsor, as the site for his royal grammar school. He petitioned the pope for permission to found a school there, incorporating the Eton parish church. This was readily granted by Pope Eugenius IV in January 1440. King Henry took a personal interest in the drawing up of the regulations governing the school. He personally laid the foundation stone on 5th July 1441 and officially opened the school on 21st December 1443.

That same year he set the college at 10 fellows, 10 chaplains, 10 clerks, 16 choristors, 70 poor scholars and 13 almsmen. He took a personal interest in the building plans, as is testified by his initials “H.R.” in his own hand. He also took an interest as well as in the actual construction work, often riding over from Windsor to inspect the progress. Indeed, his interference and changes must have been a source of considerable annoyance to his master builders, just as they were also causes of repeated delays, but it shows that Henry was really wholeheartedly involved. Eton and King's were not just fashionable, prestige projects – the done thing!

Following the model of Wykeham, King Henry had planned to create a university college for his Eton students. On 12th February 1441 he issued letters patent for the foundation of “The College Royal of Our Lady and St. Nicholas” (Nicholas being the saint of his birthday). His choice of Cambridge over Oxford may have been influenced by John Langton, the chancellor of Cambridge, but was more probably the King's fear of heresy, since Oxford had been a hotbed of Wycliffe Lollardry in the not so distant past. Henry came personally to Cambridge to lay the first stone of his new college on Passion Sunday, 2nd April. According to the statutes issued by the King in 1443 (apart from chaplains, clerks and choristers) the college was to consist of a provost and seventy poor and needy scholars who were to “have received the first tonsure” and to be “adorned with good manners and birth, sufficiently grounded in grammar, honest in conversation, able and apt for study, desiring to proceed further in study, not already graduates, and not bound to any other college, except our royal college of Eton…” Of these, two were to study civil law, four canon law, two medicine, and the rest were to “hear and learn especially and diligently arts or philosophy and theology.

Both Eton and King's College were endowed with lands and revenues to secure their existence and were given various papal benefits at the King's behest. Unfortunately, these provisions did not survive the Yorkist usurpation in 1461 and the King's murder in the Tower ten years later. The colleges suffered badly at the hands of Edward IV.

The King's own education, his dealings with ambassadors and ministers of state, his sustained personal interest in education all speak for an intelligent and cultured sovereign, and should more than disprove the astounding description of the King by some modern writers as a “simpleton”. King Henry was often otherworldly. He was trusting, forgiving and perhaps even naive on occasions, but by no stretch of the imagination could he be considered a “simpleton”!