Money, Scandal and a Sticky End: The Coins of Philip de Cambio

I recently finished cataloguing the Edwards Collection, which comprises a variety of classes of Henry III’s long cross silver coinage, and discovered some interesting tidbits included by collector M. J. Edwards that had been untouched prior to my project. Two class Vg coins from this collection were minted by a certain Philip de Cambio [Philip of the Exchange], about whom there is a particularly interesting and tragic tale.

Philip de Cambio was a London moneyer whose end rather than his life is recorded in the Calendar of Patent Rolls (1272-81). Apparently Edward I took issue with another debasing the English coinage, as Philip had minted an issue of coins using 8 1/2d worth of copper instead of the standard 6d for every pound of pennies produced. Philip’s dirty dealings won him a place on the executioner’s ‘stage’ where he was hanged, drawn and quartered, along with his assayer William Harlewyn, who had accepted Philip’s coins as legal tender. True to the workings of Medieval bureaucracy, however, the other assayer, Thomas de Brancestre, avoided being a part of the day’s entertainment by claiming clerical status!
I should also mention that Edward I later used even more copper in his silver coinage than Philip had put in those he produced. These apparently debased coins are no different in appearance from the others of their class, but nonetheless carry a history of bloodshed.

This coinage is currently housed at the Leeds Museum Discovery Centre. It has been digitised along with the rest of the Edwards Collection and will soon be searchable on emuseum.

Accession numbers: LEEDM.N.1986.0001.034 and 035

Author: Melody Flahr, Intern for Leeds Museums and Galleries 2010

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