Charles II: Mechanisation and propaganda

Charles II: Mechanisation and propaganda

Screw press. Image: The Royal Mint Museum

Under Charles II the first machine made coins were minted in England.

Coins as propoganda

When King Charles II was invited back to the English throne in 1660 he was keen to erase people's memory of the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth era and its leader, Oliver Cromwell. Charles knew coins could be powerful propaganda and he wanted new coins stamped with his own portrait.

The machine age

By the 1660s new technology to make coins by machine was widespread in Europe. Under Charles II the Mint finally adopted screw presses, which could exert greater force on the dies than the traditional hammer. The arms of the press were turned by at least two strong men, while a third placed the coin blanks between the dies and removed the finished coins – a dangerous job if you didn’t time your movements perfectly. 

Photo: The Royal Mint MuseumThe new machine-struck coins were thicker and more regular than the old hammered coins. This allowed the edges of the coins to be decorated and engraved which protected them from clipping. Edge-marking machines were introduced from Paris. Mint employees swore an oath of secrecy not to reveal details of the invention to anyone.

‘Choose me, your Majesty’

Thomas Simon, who had been Chief Engraver to Oliver Cromwell during the Commonwealth, was eager to be appointed to engrave the King's new coins.

Simon sent the King one of these beautifully designed coins to prove his engraving skills. But despite Thomas' efforts, Charles gave the job to Dutchman John Roettiers whose family had been loyal to him during his exile.

Poor Thomas died of the plague just three years later.

The Mint in the 1690s

Continue the story of The Mint to the 1690s with William III and the great recoinage.

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