Elizabeth I (1558-1603), ‘Fine’ gold Sovereign of thirty shillings, first issue [31st Decemeber 1558 – 19th April 1572] initial mark lis (1st of January 1559- 31st July 1560). Queen enthroned holding orb and sceptre, portcullis without chains at feet, elaborate lis tipped tressure broken by back of throne, pellets in lozenge hatching within throne back, pillars flanking either side, legend surrounds from one o’ clock ELIZABETH D G ANG FRA Z HIB REGINA, two pellets after REGINA. Rev, quartered shield of arms set on a Tudor rose, reads ADNO FACTV EST ISTV Z EST MIRA IN OCVL NRIS, pellet or double pellet stops, 15.11g (S.2511; N.1978; Schneider 729, same rev. die; Brown & Comber A1).
A superb and imposing example of this extremely rare first issue Sovereign, reading Z for ET in legend inscriptions. A superb portrait in relief with superlative details in the facial expression of the Queen. Small thin pressure flan flaw in the midsection near the orb in the strike, showing up on such high quality gold, due to no collars being used in the strike. Legends bold and concise both sides, elaborate and simultaneously understated in the general design, tressure of arcs framing the pillars and throne, with the cross hatching of the throne back being balanced out with the boldness of the regal portcullis, to the southern tip of the coin. Reverse, equally fetching with the quartered coat of arms surrounding on a large wavy Tudor rose, a small edge split between F and R of Fra. Bold good very fine, parts nearer to extremely fine. Portrait superb, extremely rare.
Ex. A. Magnaguti, P & P Santamaria (Rome), 5 October 1959, lot 187
Spink Numismatic Circular, December, 1972, no. 11566
Spink Auction (168) ‘Property of a Lady’, 15 April 2004, lot 152
Elizabeth I born on 7th September 1533 at Greenwich Palace, daughter to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, crowned on the 15th January 1559 aged twenty-five, died 24th March 1603 at Richmond palace aged sixty-nine. Throughout her forty-four year reign, several historians argue England began to emerge as a world power, domestically she enriched the arts as the last Tudor Monarch, even featuring in Edmund Spencer’s poem ‘The Fairie Queen’ in two roles; as the chaste and beautiful Belphoebe and as Gloriana, Queen and majestic empress. In her reign we witness the abdication of Mary Queen of Scots, the Northern rebellion of 1569, a year later she finds herself excommunicated by the Catholic Church (Pope Pius V issued the Regnans in Exelcis, this probably or may have had its origins in the 1559 Act of uniformity, the Queen favouring the Church of England and imposing fines for non attendance). A year later in 1571 we have the Ridolfi plot an assassination attempt, six years later Sir Francis Drake is setting out to circumnavigate the globe on the first English voyager, a War with Spain begins in 1585 and by 1597 the Spanish Armada is defeated.
Numismatically her reign is no less exciting, separated into seven issues, we witness a plethora of different denominations, mintmarks and types. A threefarthing piece comes into circulation, countermarked Edward VI base shillings are struck carrying a Portcullis (for a fourpence-halfpenny) or a greyhound (twopence farthing). Portcullis money or East India Company trade coinage is struck in 8,4,2 and 1 Testern denominations for the Company of Merchants of London, struck equivalent in weights to the Spanish reales series. Eloye Mestrelle introduces milled coinage in the decade between 1561-71 with mintmark Star or lis, running through from Gold Halfpounds and crowns to Shillings and sixpence.
The first issue Sovereigns of Elizabeth I all carry the mintmark Lis and have a legend reading of Z as opposed to ET. In the 1989 British Numismatic journal 59, I. D. Brown and C. H. Comber outline the varieties and types within an article entitled ‘Notes on the Gold Coinage of Elizabeth I.’ Outlining three obverse dies. B&C A1 and A3 with two pellets after Regina: B&C A2 with one pellet after Regina. Reverse dies B&C A1 reads MIRA, B&C 2 reads MIRABI NRIS and lastly B&C A3 as MIRABI NRI (pp 100). Other academics have suggested there are as few as seven in existence of the first issue Sovereign. The dies for these pieces were considerably large and proved troublesome to engrave, no collars were used when striking the pieces, hence some appear with cracks during the minting process, ragged flans also synonymous with the type. This high quality Gold thirty shilling piece ultimately meant England could compete with the European large denominations while simultaneously acting as an economic status symbol, when used in large transactions. A true response to the debasement England’s coinage suffered during her father’s reign, one of the last rarities in house of Tudor Hammered Gold.