What was the Money and Currency like in 1558 to 1603, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I? What was it worth? What were the wages like? The money and currency of the period was all in coins – there was no paper money. During the Renaissance period coins were minted in either gold or silver. The English pound originated from a measure of weight which was used to represent a sum of money. 240 pennies equalled a pound or 20 shillings equalled one pound. The penny was the basic monetary unit of the period. The names of the English units of currency and how they were abbreviated in written format date back to the Roman period.
- A penny was expressed as the letter ‘d’ – an abbreviation for denarius, a silver Roman coin
- A shilling was expressed as the letter ‘s’ – an abbreviation for sestertius, a silver Roman coin
- A pound was ( and still is ) a letter ‘L’ crossed with a bar, expressed as a £ which derives from an abbreviation for Libra, the Latin word for pounds
A combination of pounds, shillings and pence would be expressed as £5..2s..6d.
Elizabethan Period Money and Currency – History of Coinage – Fineness
The weight of silver of gold contained in a coin determined what the value of the coin would be. Coins were always alloyed with another metal. The amount of silver or gold contained in the alloy is known as the fineness.
Elizabethan Period Money and Currency – The History of the English Penny
The first documented reference to the penny is dated 790 AD when the first English penny was minted in silver. The design of the penny frequently changed depicting the images of various rulers. The first Anglo-Saxon pennies depicted a cross on the reverse of the coin as a symbol of Christianity. These crosses were used as guidelines to cut the penny into halves and quarters hence the term ‘cut coinage’. The halfpenny (worth half the value of a penny) and farthing (worth a quarter, or a fourth, of the value of a penny) instead of being roughly cut were were then minted. The word farthing was derived from ‘fourthing’. The penny changed from silver to copper in 1797 then changed to bronze in 1860 and copper plated steel in 1992.
Elizabethan Period Money and Currency – From 1558 – 1603
The following table details the different coins, or units of currency, and their values.
|Units of Currency & Value of Money|
|The Penny was the basic monetary unit|
|Farthing = 1/4 penny
Half penny = 1/2 penny
Threefarthing = 3/4 penny
Penny = 1 penny = 1d
Half groat = 2 pennies = 2d
Groat = 4 pennies = 4d
Sixpence = 6 pennies = 6d
Shilling = 12 pennies = 1s
Half crown = 30 pennnies = 2s 6d
Quarter angel = 30 pennies = 2s 6d
Crown = 60 pennies = 5s
Half angel = 60 pennies = 5s
Angel = 120 pennies = 10s
Half pound = 120 pennies = 10s
Ryal = 180pence = 15s
Pound = 240 pence = 20s = £1
Fine Sovereign = 360 pence = 30s = £1 10s
Elizabethan Money and Currency – Wages
Just as today the amount of wages was purely dependent on the job, or occupation. The Elizabethan lower classes would have only only traded in pennies – a pound would have been out of their reach in terms of spendable money and currency. Some examples of the wages which were earned during the Elizabethan period are as follows:
- A nobleman – £1500 to £3000 per annum
- A merchant – £100 per annum
- A parson – £20 per annum
- A carpenter – £13 per annum
- A laborer – £1500 to £3000 per annum
- A nobleman – £5 per annum
Elizabethan Money and Currency Equivalent to modern day money
The pound in the Elizabethan period would be roughly equivalent to about 400 US dollars at present.