Medieval English coinage -- the gold 'noble'

Copyright © 2002 by Hugo S. Cunningham
first posted: 20021014
last updated: 20021014

Source: Albert R. Frey, Dictionary of Numismatic Names, Barnes and Noble Inc., 1947; p. 160.

The "Noble," first issued in 1344 as a successor for the florin, was valued at 6 shillings 8 pence (6s 8d, i.e. one third of a pound). Simultaneously there were issued half nobles ("Maille Nobles," 3s 4d) and quarter nobles ("Ferling Nobles," 1s 8d).

The original design showed a king with raised sword and shield, standing on a great ship -- hence the nickname "Ship Noble." It may commemorate an English naval victory over France at Sluys on Midsummer's Day, 1340.

The name "Noble" supposedly refers to the unusual purity of the original gold, only 1/2 grain of alloy to 138 6/13 grains of gold.

Edward IV stamped a rose on each side to distinguished his new, higher-valued (10 s) "Rose Nobles." The white rose was a symbol of his family.

Under Henry VII (1485-?), a double-royal was struck, called a "sovereign" (a name that would endure for 20-shilling gold pieces).

Value of the "noble," by date

datelegal valuegold weight1914 $US equivalent (1 oz troy= $20.67)remark
--grainstroy ouncesgrams
Edward III
6s 8d138 6/13
13466s 8d128 4/7
13516s 8d1200.25-$5.17
Henry IV
6s 8d108
Edward IV
10s1200.25-$5.17 "Rose Noble," later corrupted to "Royal" or "Ryal"


A gold noble, of similar value to the English one, was issued during the reign of King David (1329- 1371 CE).
If I understand Frey correctly, a gold noble reappeared under King James VI in 1580. If so, however, it is not clear what its value was in depreciated Scottish currency.
A silver noble (105 grains, worth 6s 8d in depreciated Scottish currency) was issued 1572-1580 under King James VI. It is more commonly known as the "Half Merk" ("half mark").

More info on English coinage:

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