Silver penny of Matilda

Early Medieval, about AD 1140-45
Minted in England

From a period of anarchy?

When Henry I of England died in 1135, he left no surviving legitimate sons. He wished his daughter Matilda (also known as Maud) (1102-67), to succeed him on the throne. While Henry was still alive, most of the nobles promisesd to accept Matilda as queen, but after his death his nephew Stephen seized the throne. Matilda raised an army, and a civil war between Stephen and Matilda followed. This was only finally resolved in 1153, when it was agreed that Stephen would be king until he died, but would be succeeded by Matilda's son Henry, who became Henry II (1154-89).

Stephen and Matilda both issued coins in their own names, but so did a number of leading nobles. This has sometimes been seen as a sign of the complete breakdown of royal authority, during the 'anarchy' of Stephen's reign. However, it was quite normal in this period for rulers in continental Europe to grant their followers the right to issue coins in return for their loyalty. Stephen had been brought up in France, and Matilda had been married to the emperor of Germany, so it seems more likely that both leaders were applying a familiar means of gaining support, rather than abandoning royal power to the nobility.

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More information


G.C. Boon, Coins of the Anarchy 1135-54 (Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, 1988)

R.P. Mack, 'Stephen and the Anarchy 1135-54', British Numismatic Journal-8, 35 (1966), pp. 38-112


Diameter: 19.000 mm
Weight: 1.050 g

Museum number

CM 1896-6-9-126



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