Nobles, Bezants, Angels ... and Dandiprats

The term 'bezant' (Old French besant, from Latin bizantius aureus) was used in Western Europe, in the Middle Ages, to describe several gold coins of the east, all derived ultimately from the Roman solidus. The original bezants were the gold coins produced by the government of the Byzantine Empire, as early as the 5th century AD.

The noble was a gold coin introduced by Edward III around 1345, worth 6s 8d (80 pence).

In 1464, in an attempt to stop the coins drifting over to the continent, Edward IV raised the value of the noble to 8s 4d (100 pence) and a new coin was introduced: the rose noble or royal, worth ten shillings. But this proved unpopular and was discontinued after 1470.

The angel was introduced around the same time (1464 or 1465). It was based on the French angelot or ange, which had been issued since 1340. The name derived from its representation of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon. As it was worth 6s 8d (the same as the original noble), it was considered a new issue of the noble, and also known as the angel–noble. In contrast to the rose noble, it was a popular and important coin.

During the reign of Henry VIII, the value of the angel–noble was increased to 7s 6d and the George noble was introduced to take its previous value (6s 8d). It was so called because instead of the archangel Michael slaying the dragon it had St. George.

In 1663, Charles II replaced the existing coinage with entirely new designs struck by machine ("milled"). The standard gold coin then became the guinea.

A dandiprat was a sixteenth–century coin that was worth either about two pence or about three and a half pence (depending on your source), whose small size invited metaphorical usage – particularly for a young or insignificant person. There is a character called Dandiprat in Blurt, Master Constable – an Elizabethan comedy of uncertain authorship.

© Haydn Thompson 2018