Keep the British £? Je ne le crois pas. It’s French don’t you know! Read on and the penny may drop.


denier Tournois

The silver coin of the Early Middle Ages pictured on the left is known as the “Tornesel  of Tours”  (also referred to as the “denier Tournois”, “Tournesion “, “Tornsol” or “Tornese”). It  was minted, or struck, at Tours from 1266 during the reign of king Louis IX (1226–1270).

Later, the Charles IV tornesol (1346–1378) was designed following the model of “denier de Tours“. These “Tours groschen”, or thick tornesols, were identical with the earlier coin in terms of iconography, but they were made of substantially thicker, heavier blanks.  Collectively they are grouped as “thick coins”.

Elsewhere in Europe, especially in French-controlled parts of Italy, there were derived currencies which used the “of Tours” modifier as the name.

The name “denier” itself was derived from the Roman coin, the denarius. The coin was introduced in 1266 together with a brand new accounting system. This accounting system, which should a few ring bells with older UK readers, had twelve deniers equalling one sou and twenty sous equalling one livre. This system and the denier itself served as the model for many of Europe’s currencies, including the British Pound, Italian lira, Spanish dinero and Portuguese dinherio. The system ended in France with the arrival of the Revolution and the introduction of the Metric System ~ see previous blog.

In the UK the symbol for both the old denier and, until decimalisation, the penny was “d”. 12d = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = £1 (the ‘£’ indicating a livre).

The image of the denier Tournois reproduced above has Christian symbols and also what appears to be a representation of a crown ~ showing the close relationship between the temporal state and Roman Catholicism. It also appears to have been clipped, i.e. had small pieces of silver removed, or ‘clipped’, from around its edge.

Sources used:

http://sedesdraconis.com/index.php/Currency_Names
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornesel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_denier

About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Fresh Ground Group Ltd.
This entry was posted in 13th Century, 14th Century, Coinage, French Revolution, Medieval history, Metric System, Tours and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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