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EM17224

Elizabeth I Milled Pattern Shilling XF45, the first milled coin minted in England

Regular price £19,500
Regular price Sale price £19,500

Elizabeth I (1558-1603), silver Pattern Milled Shilling, milled coinage by Elloye Mestrelle, undated earliest pre-production issue (1560-61), struck on a 32mm diameter flan, crowned bust left in elaborate dress and ruff, bust type A entirely within legend, initial mark mullet both sides, outer toothed circle and legend surrounding both sides, * ELIZABETH. D. G. ANG. FRAN. ET. HIB. REGINA, rev. long cross fourchée over quartered shield of arms, POSVI DEVM. AD IVTORE M. MEVM, weight 6.08g (Borden and Brown 13, O1/R1 this coin on plate 1; N.2042). Toned, some hairlines in field, has been slabbed and graded by NGC as XF45, the only encapsulated example we are aware of this extremely rare pattern issue.

NGC Certification 5880691-008.

The abbreviated Latin legends translate as on the obverse "Elizabeth by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland"; and on the reverse "I have made God my helper."

This coin is an example of the earliest milled coin produced by Elloye Mestrelle on his milled machinery. The mint mark of mullet (five-pointed star) was reserved only for use on the pre-production patterns, the currency milled pieces using the six-pointed mint mark of star. Though no original indentures or documentation survives for the production during the milled coinage by Mestrelle, writers Borden and Brown worked out in 1983 the sequence of dies used for the milled coinage, and this Shilling represents the beginning being an example of the first milled coin ever produced in this country, the earliest issue struck in either December 1560 or January 1561.

Elloye Mestrelle likely arrived from Paris with his family in 1559, and along with his sibling Philip was already a skilled engraver. It is thought that he came to England to sell his skills to the Mint, as the Queen was concentrating her energy into the recoinage, having ascended the throne the year before. He may well have lost employment engraving in France, as the first mention of him is in a pardon by Queen Elizabeth of 24th March 1561 where he is forgiven for any treasons, felonies or offences before his arrival at the Mint dating before 1st March 1559. He seems to have secured a contract during 1560 at the Mint and was known to be acquiring materials for his machinery in June of that year.

Plans for a recoinage had been proclaimed on 27th September 1560 with the calling down of all base coin in circulation below face value, with new issue of hammered silver coin at 11 oz standard starting from 1st October 1560. The following two months saw a further restoration of coin to the fine silver standard and the establishment of a second mint within the walls of the Tower of London.

An indenture of 8th November 1560 appointed Thomas Stanley as Under Treasurer of the "Nether" Mint between the west walls of the Tower of London, and he was charged with striking the full range of both silver and gold coins with his hammered coinage carrying the cross crosslet mint mark.

A later indenture dated 9th December 1560 appointed Thomas Fletewood as Under Treasurer of the "Upper Houses" Mint on the east side of the Tower of London to make only hammered silver coins, namely the Shilling, Groat, Half-Groat and Penny with all to carry the martlet mint mark with principal production not fully underway until January 1561.

It was within this atmosphere that Elloye Mestrelle set up his machinery in the Upper Houses section of the Mint establishment under Thomas Fletewood, as the set-up costs appear in the accounts of this mint. The first fruits of Mestrelle's experimental machine-made labour appear in December 1560 with this Shilling as offered here with the mullet mint mark. Mestrelle was responsible for production for all his own dies and worked with William Blunt on producing the coins from the dies. There was also a contemporary pattern produced for Thomas Fletewood by the hammered workers in the Upper Houses Mint with mint mark martlet in a similar style to this milled piece offered here, but that was not milled (Borden and Brown 12).

The milled coinage was quite an innovation in that it did not have any inner circle, and it is interesting to note a contemporary comment in a letter written by Bishop of London Edmund Grindal dated 6th June 1562 in which he encloses a sample of one of the milled gold pieces (thought to be a Half-Pound bust C B&B 2) commenting the coins are struck "in a manner resembling print" which is a delightful way to describe a machine made coin being seen for the first time when compared to the hand-made hammered.

To make such milled coins metal ingots were first cast and then a cutter was employed to cut individual blanks, which turned out to be 10% overweight. Therefore, the individual blank flans had to be adjusted by hand cranking through roller presses to flatten them out. The eventual coins were struck by a screw press method and the first denominations were the undated silver Shilling, Groat and Half-Groat, and a limited number of gold Half-Pounds and Crowns perhaps produced to celebrate the Queen's visit to the Mint in July 1561. The silver at least features in a Pyx trial of October 1561, but not the gold. These silver denominations were then dropped in favour of new silver Sixpences, Threepences, Three-Halfpence and Three-Farthings, as of a new Proclamation issued 15th November 1561, all featuring the rose behind the bust, and Elloye was awarded £25 from the Queen.

Elloye worked within the Mint for the next eight years, but fortunes changed on 1st September 1568 when his brother Philip was arrested for counterfeiting Burgundian Crowns and Elloye was implicated in the crime. Philip was subsequently hanged after his conviction of 12th January, and Elloye though once again pardoned on 2nd May 1569 returned to the Mint in 1570; but not in as much favour as previously as he now had only limited access to letter punches for engraving. The Under-Treasurer Stanley suddenly died in December 1571 and the change in master-ship to John Lonison meant changes were afoot. It was decided the experimental machinery would be put to the test against the hammermen in 1572, and its production rate of a mere 22 blank Sixpence sized flans an hour could not compete with the hammermen's 280 in the same timeframe and theirs were more accurately hewn. Therefore, Lonison denied Elloye further access to the Minting area in the Tower though he remained in lodgings with his family, and not much more is known for the succeeding years and months. That is until in October 1577 when Elloye is arrested in London and later appears at the Norfolk Assizes charged with counterfeiting and is convicted. His possessions and family are evicted from the Tower, and alas it seems he met the same fate as his brother Philip in Spring 1578.

The Shilling as a physical silver coin had only been in existence for some sixty plus years, being first produced just before the turn of the Century by Elizabeth's Grandfather King Henry VII and none were minted again until the end of the reign of her Father in his last coinages of 1544-47 period, with continued issues through the reigns of Edward VI and Philip with Mary.

For further reading see the article in the British Numismatic Journal 1983, volume 53, "The Milled Coinage of Elizabeth I" by D. G. Borden and I. D. Brown.

Provenance:

Purchased from A. H. Baldwin and Sons Ltd. London, 1981.

Ex Christopher H. Comber Collection, Part I, Baldwin of St James Auction 50, 15th October 2020, lot 93.

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