1historical An annual tax of one penny from each householder having land of a certain value, paid in England until the Reformation to the papal see at Rome; = hearth-penny . In later use usually in plural.
The institution of Peter's pence has been attributed to Ine, king of Wessex (688–726), and to Offa, king of Mercia (757–96). However, it is more likely to have originated in the payments made to Rome by King Alfred the Great in the 880s. It is mentioned as due by ancient law in a letter of Cnut in 1027, and was discontinued by statute in 1534.
2Roman Catholic Church
In plural: (since 1860) a voluntary contribution to the papal treasury.
Middle English. In some forms from the genitive of the name of St Peter + penny, in reference to the claim of the See of Rome to the patrimony of St Peter.