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
The Royal Mint in 1953 was a very different place to the one we know today.
Based at Tower Hill in London, it was close to the heart of government and royalty and carried on the thousand year long tradition of minting in the nation’s capital. Today, based in a high tech plant at Llantrisant in South Wales, The Royal Mint continues to uphold the standards for which it has become world-renowned.
For 2013, we bring together two coins that capture both the story of The Royal Mint and the 60 year story of the Queen’s Coronation.