She, poor soul, is tied by the leg. She has a blister on one of her heels, as large as a three shilling piece

Persuasion, Chapter 18

I confess that when I first read Persuasion as a callow youth of 13 (all those years ago), I thought this was a piece of humour on the Admiral’s part,comparing his wife’s blister to something like a non-existent piece of coinage, rather like the infamous 9 bob note (which referred to a disastrously fraudulent attempt to print a 10 shilling note, a piece of information which once again gives some indication of my great age)

But no. These coins actually existed. So it was no joke on the Admiral’s part.

This is a picture of the coinage in use during Jane Austen’s life time:

The three shilling piece is shown  at the bottom right of the picture. And do remember you can enlarge this and all the other illustrations here simply by clicking on them.

But this is a clearer picture of a 1814 three shilling piece, that  I was lucky enough to find on my travels over Easter

The story of the 3 shilling piece is very interesting. In the latter years of George III’s reign, as a result of the shortages caused by the continuing Napoleonic Wars, the price of silver was high . Therefore  using silver for making coins became increasingly prohibitive in relation to the face value of the coins themselves, and as a result there was an acute shortage of silver coins available for circulation.

This as you can imagine caused problems for both tradesmen  and ordinary people. The Bank of England took steps to remedy this situation by issuing two tokens, not made of silver, which had values of three shillings and eighteen pence, between the years 1811 and 1816.

In 1816 a Great Recoinage took place, and after 1820 the tokens were no longer considered to be legal tender.

So,  just how large was the three shilling coin, and what sort of suffering was Mrs Croft undergoing?

On examining this picture you can see that the coin is in fact quite large: 1 and a 1/4 inches in diameter. And unless the Admiral was prone to exaggeration I therefore feel a great deal of sympathy for Sophie Croft, who would have been in a great deal of discomfort with a blister that size on her heel. Poor lady….no wonder she was tied by the leg in Gay Street ;-)