William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as King of Hanover from 26 June 1836 until 8 September 1837. William was the third son of King George III and the brother of King George IV. He had a career in the Navy including a stint as Lord High Admiral before be became King, following the death of two of his older siblings. He was 64 at this point, making him the oldest person to assume the throne until he was surpassed by Charles III in 2022.
Two very important pieces of legislation were passed during William's short reign. First, the 'Great Reform Act' of 1832 which extended the vote to many more men and corrected abuses of the electoral system. The following year, parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which freed more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Carribean and South Africa.
Though William IV had ten children with the actress Dorothea Jordan he had no legitimate issue with his wife, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. This meant that when William died, the British throne passed to his niece, Princess Alexandrina Victoria, the daughter of William's younger brother, the Duke of Kent. Another brother of William, Ernest Augustus, became King of Hanover, ending the personal union between Britain and Hanover, begun in 1714.
William Wyon's Coin Portrait Of William IV
The portrait of King William IV that features on his coinage is the work of two noted artists of the the period.
When he became King, William requested his coin effigy be derived from a bust created by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey RA, the most famous British portrait sculptor of the early 19th century. The King sat for Chantrey after he acceded to the throne and the artist created a model. This was engraved for coinage by William Wyon who had recently been appointed Chief Engraver to the Royal Mint. The Chantrey/Wyon portrait shows William IV without a crown and facing right. Wyon's initials can be seen on the truncation of the King's neck on many UK coins issued between 1830 and 1837.
William IV Sovereigns display two variations on this portrait, denoted by minor differences to the hair, nose and lettering.
- First Bust: Seen on some Sovereigns issued in 1831 and 1832 has a more pointed nose and a curl of hair covering part of the ear, better spacing in legend
- Second Bust: More common, seen on Sovereigns dated 1831-1837 and easily identified by checking whether the King's rounded nose points directly towards the second 'I' in 'BRITANNIAR'
On William IV's coins, his name is presented in the Latin form on the obverse as 'GULIELMUS IIII'.
What Coins Were Minted By William IV?
The production of Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns continued during the reign of King William IV. These 22-carat gold coins had been introduced in 1817, late in the reign of William's father, George III. Gold Double Sovereigns were issued only in William's coronation year (1831). Full Sovereigns were issued annually, except in 1834. The size of Half Sovereigns was briefly reduced during William's rule, a change designed to prevent these gold coins from being confused with Sixpences. This proved unpopular and the Royal Mint reverted to the original specification from 1835 onwards.
Silver Crowns were not struck for circulation during William IV's reign but a limited number of proof coins and patterns were issued. These rare Crowns bare a similar motif to William IV Halfcrowns which feature a crowned shield on the reverse, draped with an ermine mantle. This design is the work of French engraver Jean Baptiste Merlen who worked for the Royal Mint from 1820 until his retirement in 1844.
Merlen also designed reverses for other silver coins issued in William IV's reign, including the Shilling, Sixpence and Threepence. The classic crowned wreath design features the denomination in the middle and can still be seen on British Maundy money.
William IV Groats are notable as the only UK silver coin to feature the figure of Britannia: the female personification of the British Isles. These tiny silver Fourpence coins were reintroduced in 1836 following a campaign by the radical MP Joseph Hume, leading to them being known as 'Joeys'. A similar Britannia design - the work of William Wyon - also features on copper Pennies, Halfpennies and Farthings issued under King William IV.
Are William IV Coins Valuable?
Two centuries after they were issued, William IV coins are sought-after by collectors of British money.
William's reign lasted just seven years so there were many fewer coins issued during his reign, especially when compared to his successor, Queen Victoria. Some coins issued by William IV are particularly rare including gold Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns as well as silver Crowns which were only issued as proofs and patterns. Collectors also appreciate the design of coins minted in this period, the work of great British engravers like William Wyon and Jean Baptiste Merlen.
To determine the value of your King William IV coins you will need an expert to examine your collection. The Britannia Coin Company provides tailored valuations for rare coins including early nineteenth century currency. Visit our 'Sell Your Coins' page to submit your claim or get in touch directly: we're keen to buy your William IV coins today.