Gold Twenty-Shilling Piece of Elizabeth I,

Gallery 37,
Heberden Coin Room,
first floor



Queen Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603)

Regarded as a golden era, Elizabeth’s reign was characterised by a new spirit of national unity and identity that was specially important during the troubled period of the Reformation. In order to retain internal peace and increased prosperity, Elizabeth was always careful to secure parliamentary approval of her policies. As a result of her cautious nature, Elizabeth was popular amongst her subjects. Since coins were widely distributed and had the power to convey messages of state policy Elizabeth had to be particularly careful in the design and style of her coinage.

Coin Collecting

Some of the interest of this coin lies not in its monetary value but in its place as an 18th-century collectors’ item. It was bequeathed to Christ Church college by Philip Barton, Canon of Christ Church, in 1765. Although very beautiful, with a particularly fine portrait of the young queen, the circulation of this rare coin in the 16th century was relatively low. Its traditional medieval inscription, ‘Jesus passing through the midst of them went his way’, may have been controversial following the Reformation. Later coins bearing a more topical inscription, ‘May the shield of faith protect her’, were much more successful.