World Coins

This Day in History: April 21

Henry VIII is remembered for his many wives and for exercising new powers as the king of England. He ascended to the throne on April 21, 1509, after the death of his father.

Coin images courtesy of Spink.

When Henry VII died on April 21, 1509, it ushered in a new era, historically and numismatically, as his son Henry VIII ascended to the throne of England.

Henry VIII is remembered for his appetites, carnal and otherwise, and for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. His disagreements with the pope led to his separation of the Church of England from papal authority, with himself, as king, as the Supreme Head of the Church of England

He is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering in the theory of the divine right of kings to England. Besides asserting the sovereign’s supremacy over the Church of England, thus initiating the English Reformation, he greatly expanded royal power.

Upon the death of his father, Henry VIII continued issuing large silver coins showing his dad for 16 years, though the legends were changed. 

Soon, however, he left his own mark on the numismatics of England. 

Henry VIII is maligned for his debasement of coinage, as the treasury strained to support royal military endeavors. To spread the wealth, the amount of precious metal (silver) was reduced so that it could be stretched out for more coins.

Another reduction in the standard in 1546 led to a most unflattering nickname for Henry VIII: “Old Coppernose.”

The name refers to the extremely debased silver coins, which wore through quickly to reveal the copper base metal within, unpleasantly evident on the nose of the king's portrait.

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