This Sovereign was minted in the second half of Henry’s relatively lengthy reign. In 1526 the value of English gold coins was increased by 10% in order to stop the flow of gold into Europe, and therefore the Sovereign assumed a new value of 22 shillings.
Henry VIII (1526-44), Gold Sovereign, Second Coinage. m.m. lis on obverse, arrow on reverse, henricvs dei gracia rex anglie et franc dns hib, king enthroned holding orb and sceptre, portcullis at feet. Rev. ihesvs avtem transiens per medivm illorvm ibat, square shield over Tudor rose, 15.32g (Schneider 570; N. 1782; S. 2267). About extremely fine with excellent detail. A comparable example sold at auction by CNG in New York (January 2018) for $120,000 (approx. £75,000) including buyer’s premium.
By 1526 Henry was becoming increasingly concerned about the birth of an heir. His wife, Queen Katherine, had borne him six children, but only one of these, Mary, had survived infancy. His eldest son, Henry, born in 1511, had died after only seven weeks. Their last born child died within hours of its birth in November 1518.
By 1526, when Katherine had turned forty, it was evident that Henry would not have a son, and by 1527 Henry had become infatuated with the 25-year old Anne Boleyn, whose elder sister Mary had been Henry’s mistress for some years. At this stage Cardinal Wolsey, on behalf of the king approached Pope Clement VII, asking him to formally annul Henry’s marriage to Katherine.
The matter could not be resolved, Wolsey fell from power and the king’s adviser, Thomas Cromwell, recommended a clean break with Rome, leading to the establishment of the new Church of England, with Henry at its head. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, pronounced in May 1533 that Henry’s marriage to Katherine was void, and he was free to marry Anne.
King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Henry’s early delight over Anne Boleyn’s pregnancy late in 1532 soon faded when she gave birth to a girl (the future Elizabeth I) in 1533. The relationship soured, and Anne was executed on 19 May 1536. By now, the king had become besotted with Jane Seymour, one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, and she gave birth to a boy (the future Edward VI) in 1537. Jane died during childbirth, but she remained the favourite of Henry’s six wives and after his death he was laid beside her in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
This coin was minted in a period which was one of remarkable change in Europe. Martin Luther began a prolonged attack upon the Papacy and the Catholic Church, and gradually the Protestant religion evolved. In England, Henry VIII seized the opportunity to suppress all the small monasteries on the grounds that they were uneconomic, and on the strength of this he dissolved all the remaining monasteries in 1539. But despite the turbulence of the times, the reign of Henry VIII produced some of England’s finest Tudor gold coinage.