Currency Reform in England (139 words)

Historical Context Note


One of the main financial problems besetting by Elizabeth I on her accession to the English throne in 1558 was the weakness of the currency. Previous monarchs (including her father, Henry VIII) had made easy money for their costly military ventures by minting new coins that were made of a small amount of gold or silver, mixed with other 'base' metals. People tended to hoard the older coins with higher gold or silver content, leaving the debased coinage in circulation. This was damaging to England's reputation abroad and to its trading negotiations. Advised by William Cecil and the financial expert Thomas Gresham, Elizabeth ordered the debased coinage to be collected in to the treasury, where it was melted down and new 'Elizabethan' …