THE KING WILLIAM IV 1835 SILVER RUPEE
The very first coin of its kind, and the only issue of this monarch’s reign!
The importance of India in the British Empire can hardly be overstated, and until the year 1853 British interests in India were wholly under the control of just one company – the mighty East India Company – which had been granted a monopoly by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600.
Initially ‘The Company’ (as it became known) was interested primarily in trade, but as the 17th century gave way to the 18th, its focus changed to the acquisition of territory. Eventually it controlled the majority of India either directly or indirectly via local puppet rulers.
By 1803, at the height of its power, the British East India company had a private army of about 260,000 – twice the size of the British Army at the time – with sales revenues the equivalent of £1.3bn in today’s currency.
A REMARKABLE COINAGE IS ISSUED
Once it controlled much of India, The Company decided to standardise the currency in order to make trade easier: for centuries India’s coinage varied from kingdom to kingdom, many with different weight standards and metal purities. The East India Company decided on the silver rupee as their standard unit of money, and began minting coins in traditional Indian designs.
Then, in 1835, with the passing of legislation in Britain, they produced a silver rupee featuring the portrait of the reigning monarch, King William IV. This was not only the first coin of India to bear a British monarch’s portrait, but led to the almost unheard-of situation where the currency of a privately owned company bore the portrait of a British monarch!
All of this means the King William IV 1835 silver rupee was not only the first of its kind, it was also the only issue of this monarch’s short reign.