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James VI (1567-1625), two penny plack, 1583-90.

Offering an example of coinage before the King's accession to the English throne, this billon coin shows the Edinburgh mint-signature on its reverse. The two mismatched impressions of the design on both sides are a result of double striking, where the coin has been hammered twice.

The design consists of a crowned shield with lion rampant on the obverse, while the reverse shows a thistle at its centre.

The inscription reads the following Latin words on the obverse: IACOB 6 D.G. R. SCO. This translates as 'James VI by the Grace of God King of Scotland'. On the reverse the inscription reads: OPPID. EDINB, which means 'Edinburgh city'.

It should be noted that at this time billon and copper coins were issued in reduced quantities. Scottish documents of 1585 refer to the striking of coins at Dundee and Perth because of the pestilence in Edinburgh, but no coins are known with other than an Edinburgh mint-signature. James Vi was the first Protestant King of Scotland. As Elizabeth's nearest heir, James succeeded to the throne of England after her death in 1603.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has witnessed many of the defining events in Scotland’s history. Sieges were fought over the mighty stronghold. Royalty lived and died within its walls. Just the sight of the Castle Rock has terrified and inspired countless generations.

Fierce Iron Age warriors defended a hill fort here, and the nation’s oldest poetry tells of a war band feasting here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle.

The castle’s royal connections go back 1,000 years, and the city’s oldest building stands on the site. David I built St Margaret’s Chapel around 1130, as a tribute to his devout mother.

Edinburgh has been besieged more than any other castle in Europe, and the Scots and English struggled over its control during the Wars of Independence. In 1314, Thomas Randolph, a relative of Robert the Bruce, led a daring night raid to reclaim it from the English.

Over the last 200 years, Edinburgh Castle has become a national icon. Today it is Scotland’s leading tourist attraction and a chief element of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Home of royalty

Scottish monarchs commissioned grand buildings here – both as secure lodgings and to show off their wealth, power and good taste. The castle’s royal role continues today.

Monarchs who sheltered here include:

  • Queen Margaret (later St Margaret), who died here in 1093
  • Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566

Edinburgh was among Scotland’s chief royal residences during the 1400s and 1500s.

Bonnie Prince Charlie – Mary’s great-great-great grandson – captured Edinburgh but failed to take the castle during the 1745–46 Jacobite Rising.

The Stone of Destiny has been kept at the castle since it was returned to Scotland in 1996. Edward I, the English monarch, had removed Scotland’s ancient inauguration stone from Scone in 1296.

Army headquarters

Edinburgh Castle became more important as a military base from the late 1500s onwards.

After the ‘Lang Siege’ of 1571–3, the castle’s military strength was repaired, maintained and improved. Additions included:

  • the distinctive Half Moon Battery
  • a huge garrison
  • a secure jail for prisoners of war

The military presence remains unbroken – Edinburgh Castle is still an active base today. It also houses three military museums, the Scottish National War Memorial and the Prisons of War exhibition.

Find out more about Edinburgh Castle


Date Made
21 x 19 x 1mm
Property Information
Edinburgh Castle
Object Number
Access Status