Here we have a beautifully detailed silver threepence of the virgin queen, Elizabeth I, minted in the year 1581.


Elizabeth I, or ‘Good Queen Bess’ as she was known, reigned from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603, and was the last of the Tudor monarchs. Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, ruled the country with shrewdness and courage, establishing England as a major European power in politics, commerce, and the arts, and her reign is often thought of as a ‘Golden Age’.


Elizabethan England was a time of extravagance and luxury, expressed through writers such as Shakespeare, and explorers like Drake and Raleigh who sought to expand England's territory overseas. This sense of well-being was embodied by Queen Elizabeth who liked to wear sumptuous costumes and jewellery, and be entertained in style at her court.


But life in Tudor England did not always reflect such splendour. The sixteenth century was also a time when the poor became poorer, books and opinions were censored, and plots to overthrow the Queen were rife. Elizabeth's ministers had to employ spies and even use torture to gain information about threats to her life. Consequently, the coins of Elizabeth I often have her portrait rubbed away — a kind of silent protest of the times.


The portrait (or bust) on the obverse this coin is particularly well preserved which can be quite rare for this monarch, and a Tudor Rose can clearly be seen behind her head. On the reverse is a square topped shield over a long-cross fourchee dividing the legend.


Now available in the Timeless Galleries.





  • Acquired by Timeless on the UK antiquities market, 2019. 


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