The first coins with the value of 12d (12 pence) were minted during the reign of Henry VII and were known as testoons. The testoon was one of the first English coins to bear a real portrait of the monarch on its obverse, and it is for this reason that it obtained its name from an Italian coin known as the testone, or headpiece, which had been introduced in Milan in 1474. The Testoon was only issued during the reign of Henry VII and Henry VIII.
Between 1544 and 1551 the coinage was debased in an attempt to generate more money to fund foreign wars. Henry VIII was known as ‘old copper nose’ as the copper element of the coin would show as the silver rubbed away. This debasement meant that coins produced in 1551 had one-fifth of the silver content of those minted in 1544, and consequently the value of new testoons fell from 12d to 6d (Sixpence). This debasement was recognised as a mistake, and during Elizabeth’s reign newly minted coins, including the testoon (now known as the shilling), had a much higher silver content and regained their pre-debasement value.
Shillings were minted during the reign of every English monarch following Edward VI, as well as during the Commonwealth, with a vast number of variations and alterations appearing over the years. The last hammered shilling was issued during the reign of Charles II in 1662, in 1663 this gave way to the machinery of Peter Blondeau.