Rare Henry VII and Mary I coins discovered in North Wales

​​If you thought there weren’t any Tudor artefacts left to discover, think again. Our friend Ronan, a detectorist based in North Wales, recently unearthed several spectacular coins associated with Henry VII, the first Tudor king, and his granddaughter, Mary I, whilst surveying fields close to his home in Wales. Ronan has generously granted Tudor Extra permission to share photographs of his remarkable discoveries. 

The Henry VII (1485-1509) silver penny features the enthroned King holding an orb and sceptre, encircled on the obverse by an intricate Latin legend reading ‘hEnRIC DI GRA REX ANG’, translated into ‘Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England’. The reverse showcases the phrase ‘CIVI TAS EBO RAC’, signifying the City of York, where the coin was originally produced.

Well-preserved 15.5mm Henry VII penny discovered in Wales

The reverse also features Henry VII’s quartered coat-of-arms over a cross fourchée (a common feature on silver pennies minted in Medieval England, the cross has arms that extend to the edge of the coin, and each arm of the cross is further divided into two narrower branches that resemble a fork, hence the name ‘fourchée,’ which means ‘forked’ in French).

Although some elements of the design have eroded over time, the original mint was both bold and strikingly unambiguous. What remains offers us a tantalizing glimpse at the once intricate design work, presenting a King at the helm of a new and promising dynasty. 

The coin is believed to have been struck at the York mint and issued by Archbishop Thomas Rotherham, whose association with the coin is confirmed by a pair of keys below the fourchée. Rotherham enjoyed a checkered ecclesiastical career under Edward IV, Richard III, and later Henry VII (critical of Richard III, he sided with Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville in her attempts to divest him of his position as Lord Protector, and was imprisoned at the Tower for his efforts.) 

At the height of his influence, Rotherham was appointed Archbishop of York, an office which he held until his death, at the venerable age of 76.  He also served as Lord Chancellor, but was dismissed by Henry VII in 1485. It is likely that the penny was struck sometime between Henry’s coronation in 1485 and Rotherham’s death in 1500. 

Although very fine, the condition of this particular coin, compared to surviving copies – which are often chipped, weakened, or completely smoothed over by the elements – makes it a thrilling and unique early Tudor discovery.

Details of the Henry VII Penny, courtesy of Detecting North Wales.

Rare Mary I Groat

The Mary I Silver groat discovered by Ronan in North Wales dates to 1553-54, and features a crowned bust of Mary Tudor during her brief solo-reign as Queen. The obverse of the coin is decorated with a beaded, abbreviated Latin inscription that reads ‘MARIA D G ANG FRA Z HIB REGI’ – translated into ‘Mary, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland’. 

Reverse of the Mary I Groat, 1553-54

The reverse showcases a cross fourchée over a quartered shield bearing Mary’s coat-of-arms, surrounded by the Queen’s favoured motto, ‘Veritas temporis filia’ (‘Truth, the daughter of time’).

This design was produced before Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain, and remained in circulation throughout their joint reign. The presence of the pomegranate mint mark is consistent with Mary’s coinage as Queen and carries a dual significance, representing both her mother, Katherine of Aragon, who used the pomegranate as her royal symbol during her time as queen consort of England, and Mary’s royal Spanish lineage.

Obverse and Reverse of Mary I Silver Groat unearthed–in mint condition–in North Wales

Coins from Queen Mary I’s rule prior to her marriage to Philip II in 1554 exceptionally rare, regardless of their condition.

Only a small number of silver coins issued between 1553-54 have survived, with the majority being half-groats and pennies, making the discovery of such a well-preserved (and valuable) coin exceptionally remarkable.

Ronan is a 22 year old detectorist with a life-long passion for history. Some of his incredible discoveries include coins, buckles, trade items, spindle whorls, and more. For those interested in his discoveries, please do follow him at @detectingnorthwales.

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