Today is a hugely significant day in the 307-year history of the constitution of the United Kingdom, as we all now know the result of the Scottish referendum. The vote has come back in favour of No and the Kingdom remains United.
We thought it was worth looking back over those years into the mists of time to explore a key figure in the creation of that Union – the life and reign of Queen Anne, the last Stuart Queen and the first monarch of Great Britain. Events during Queen Anne’s reign have a significance that still resonates today and the Act of Union in 1707 could be considered the most significant, and a legacy that now lives on.
To find out more about her life, reign, death and legacy, read our Queen Anne Blog Series: Part 1 The Early Years of Queen Anne – Part 2 The Rising Years of Queen Anne – Part 3 The Reigning Years of Queen Anne – Part 4 The Final Years of Queen Anne.
On the reverse, a design by Mark Richards FRBS to commemorate Queen Anne. On the obverse, the effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS. As such, The 300th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Anne £5 coin features portraits of both the first queen of Great Britain and the reigning queen of the United Kingdom.
Most of us will be aware of the hugely significant nature of the length of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 inspired celebrations in streets across the UK and towns and cities all over the world, and with good reason; it was only the second time in our history that a British monarch had achieved a reign of 60 years.
The only previous such anniversary was enjoyed by The Queen’s great-great-Grandmother,Queen Victoria, who also went on to record the longest reign by any monarch in British history; 63 years, seven months and two days. Looking forwards, there is every chance that Queen Elizabeth II will surpass this record and, in September 2015, become Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
As we begin to look towards this historic date, we have uncovered some intriguing facts and figures about the royal effigies – from Victoria to Elizabeth – that have appeared on one of our most-loved and hardest-working coins, the penny.
If you’ve seen a PNC or a PMC on The Royal Mint or Royal Mail websites from time to time I’m sure you will have admired them. However, if you’re anything like me, you may not know much about these attractive and interesting products. So, I’ve spoken to my colleagues here and our partners at Royal Mail to gather some background for you to put that right. I hope filling in some of the gaps about what a PNC or a PMC is will add to your enjoyment and appreciation of them.
Starting in 2014, the Portrait of Britain Collection is intended to be an annual series of coin sets that portray popular and recognisable landmarks, buildings and natural phenomena from all over the United Kingdom. The idea is that each set is linked by a common theme, and that over time those themed sets will combine to build what the collection promises; a complete ‘Portrait of Britain’.
The Portrait of Britain Collection
For this first Portrait of Britain set, the common theme is the recognisable landmarks and buildings of London. We’ve pulled together just three facts about each one for you, to set the scene. There are, of course, many more we will talk about in future articles, so stay with us!
As a similarly ancient British institution (although not quite as old as us!) we can’t help but feel an affinity with Trinity House or, to give them their full title, the Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond. The House itself is situated on Tower Hill, not too far from our previous home at the Tower of London – indeed, there’s a wonderful view of the Tower from Trinity House.
As the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, it’s responsible for lighthouses, lightvessels, buoys, other navigational aids and communication systems in the seas that surround our shores, as well as providing deep sea pilotage in Northern European waters.
In this instalment of our Queen Anne blog series we move into the years of Queen Anne’s reign in which many political upheavals and cultural changes came about. On-going War with Spain, resolution of long-standing tension with Scotland and the development of a two-party political system are all notable issues Anne dealt with during this period. Anne’s confidence in dealing with and influencing such matters increased, evidenced by her vetoing an Act of Parliament in 1708, the last time this has ever happened. It may be said that this was the period in which Anne truly ‘reigned’ in the full sense of the word.
I’ve felt surrounded by Georges and Dragons lately! So my friends in our Museum have helped me pull together these Top 10 Facts about them, that I think you really need to know…
Our flagship coin, the Sovereign, is known and recognised throughout the world. It’s our most famous coin and shows St George, the patron saint of England for more than 650 years. We are thrilled that in 2013 this is a real tribute to the new Royal baby Prince George!
The legend of St George and the Dragon symbolises the triumph of good over evil. It’s been familiar for many centuries, for instance in colourful wall paintings in medieval churches and on the badges of pilgrims.
The St George and the Dragon design by Benedetto Pistrucci was first used on gold Sovereigns in 1817. His neo-classical depiction is a masterpiece and has appeared on the coinage of every British monarch since George III, with the single exception of William IV (1830-1837).
The Royal Birth £5 Crown is the first time in over 100 years that Pistrucci’s St George and the Dragon has appeared on a silver crown. It was last seen on a silver coin for the Coronation year of Edward VII in 1902.
St George and the Dragon first appeared on the English coinage in the reign of King Henry VIII. These ‘George nobles’ are very rare and much desired by collectors.
Six Kings have been named George, the first four reigning in succession from 1714 to 1830. George V was The Queen’s grandfather and George VI was her father, who died in 1952. Only Henry and Edward have featured more frequently as Kings’ names, both appearing eight times.
George V was the founder of the Windsor Dynasty in 1917. He used a version of St George and the Dragon for his Silver Jubilee crown in 1935.
With the personal approval of George VI (The Queen’s father) a version of Pistrucci’s design was used for the centre of the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian award for gallantry. At the same time another version of St George and the Dragon was used for the reverse of the George Medal, based on the bookplate used in the Royal Library at Windsor.
St George and the Dragon also appeared in 1663 in the design on the reverse of the famous petition crown of Charles II (now on loan from our own collection to the exhibition at the Tower of London).
St George and the Dragon is also familiar as the badge of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s oldest order of chivalry dating back over 650 years to the reign of Edward III. The link with the Royal Family is emphasised by the location of St George’s Chapel within the walls of Windsor Castle.
I hope you now feel much more enlightened about St George, his Dragon and how they relate to sovereigns and Sovereign coins!
To see the 2013 range of gold Sovereigns featuring the original Pistrucci design, take a look at The Royal Mint’s website