I remember reading a Robin Hood story as a child where the Sheriff of Nottingham rode though Sherwood forest, as I remember foolishly going alone, and Robin Hood robbed him of 300 pounds. And I thought about the unfortunate horse that had to carry the Sherrif and his gear and also 300 pounds of coins.
Wouldn't the Sheriff probably weigh at least 150 more pounds?
How much weight could a medieval riding horse carry?
A palfrey is a type of horse that was highly valued as a riding horse in the Middle Ages. It was a lighter-weight horse, usually a smooth gaited one that could amble, suitable for riding over long distances. Palfreys were not a specific breed as horse breeds are understood today. Wikipedia:Palfrey
So the riding horses in the middle ages, as opposed to cart horses, plow horses, or war horses, would have been small, and many medieval pictures of people riding depict horses which seem very small to me. Those pictures depict very paltry palfreys.
I guess that palfreys probably usually weighed less than 1,000 pounds.
In the USA the general rule is that horses can carry up to 20 percent of their own weight. So if the sheriff and his 300 pounds of coins weighed 450 pounds, his horse would have to weigh at least 2,250 pounds. Which would make it a very big horse.
I believe that a pound was a unit of value, enough goods or coins to equal one pound of a precious metal.
A pound is any of various units of currency in some nations. The term originated in the Frankish Empire as a result of Charlemagne's currency reform ("pound" from Latin pondus, a unit of weight) and was subsequently taken to Great Britain as the value of a pound (weight) of silver.Wikipedia:Pound
Robin Hood stories are typically set in the reign of Richard I (1189-1199), a trend started by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanoe (1819) but some original medieval Robin Hood stories mention King Edward, thus placing them in about 1272-1377.
Gold is more valuable than sliver, so gold coins worth 300 pounds of silver would weigh a lot less than 300 pounds of silver coins. Where there were any gold coins minted in England during the middle ages?
The guinea (/ˈɡɪniː/ ; commonly abbreviated gn., or gns. in plural)2 was a coin, minted in Great Britain between 1663 and 1814, that contained approximately one-quarter of an ounce of gold.3 The name came from the Guinea region in West Africa, from where much of the gold used to make the coins was sourced.4 It was the first English machine-struck gold coin, originally worth one pound sterling,3 equal to twenty shillings, but rises in the price of gold relative to silver caused the value of the guinea to increase, at times to as high as thirty shillings. From 1717 to 1816, its value was officially fixed at twenty-one shillings.Wikipedia:Noble
The angel was an English gold coin introduced by Edward IV in 1465. It was patterned after the French angelot or ange, which had been issued since 1340. The name derived from its representation of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon. As it was considered a new issue of the noble, it was also called the angel-noble. Wiki:Pound
The noble was the first English gold coin produced in quantity, introduced during the second coinage (1344–46) of King Edward III. It was preceded by the gold penny and the florin, minted during the reign of King Henry III and the beginning of the reign of King Edward III; these saw little circulation. The derivatives of the noble, the half noble and quarter noble, on the other hand, were produced in quantity and were very popular.
The double florin or double leopard was an attempt in 1344 by English king Edward III to produce a gold coinage suitable for use in Europe as well as in England (see also florin or leopard and half florin or helm). It was 108 grains (6.99829 grams) of nominal pure ('fine') gold and had a value of six shillings (i.e. 72 pence).1 4
Until the reign of King Henry III of England (1216–1272), any need in England for coins worth more than one penny, at the time a silver coin, was met by the use of Byzantine or Arabic gold and silver coins which circulated among merchants and traders. However, as commerce increased, so did the need for higher value coins. In 1257, Henry instructed his goldsmith, William of Gloucester, to produce a coinage of pure gold.
The gold penny was introduced, with a value of twenty pence. The coin's obverse showed the king enthroned, in his royal attire, with a scepter in his right hand and a globus cruciger in his left, with the legend HENRICUS REX III (King Henry III). The reverse contained a long cross extending to the edge, with a flower in each quarter, and the moneyer's name in the legend, thus WILLEM ON LVND (William of London). Some examples read LVNDEN or LVNDE instead of LVND.2
The gold penny was not popular. Thomas Carte, in his A general history of England, says that the citizens of London made a representation against them on 24 November 1257, and that "the King was so willing to oblige them, that he published a proclamation, declaring that nobody was obliged to take it [the gold penny], and whoever did, might bring it to his exchange, and receive there the value at which it had been made current, one halfpenny only being deducted from each, most probably for the expense of coinages".3
Compared to its bullion weight, the coin was undervalued. By 1265, the gold in the coin was worth twenty-four pence rather than twenty, and it is believed that most of the coins were melted down for profit by individuals. Gold coins would not be minted again in England until the reign of King Edward III about seventy years later.
So for most of the period when Robin Hood stories might take place there wren't any English gold coins circulating in England. And of course foreign gold coins circulated, but they were mostly used by merchants and bankers.
I doubt that Nottingham was a big center of international trade or finance in the middle ages, and I wonder whether there would even be gold coins worth a total of 300 pounds in all of Nottinghamshire during a typical time in the middle ages.
And could the sheriff collect 300 pounds of silver coins in taxes in a single year in all of Nottinghamshire? 300 Pounds was a very large amount of money in the middle ages.
So are my suspicions correct that during most of the middle ages 300 pounds worth of money carried through Sherwood forest would be in the form of silver coins weighing a total of 300 pounds and there would be no way to lighten the load on the poor horse?
Did the modern writer of the Robin Hood story I read as a child, probably familiar with modern money values and with paper money, write about an amount of money as wildly exaggerated as the "thousand talents" wager in Ben-Hur (1959)?