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.
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
We have been doing this for over 1000 years and have made coins for every King and Queen of England in that time (as well as for Oliver Cromwell).
While we are busy making the change in your pocket, change in society is happening all around us. Our infographic presents a look at some of the changes that have happened during the 60 years that Queen Elizabeth II has been the face of British coins!
Buying Royal Mint commemorative coins
We reserve our finest craftsmanship for collector and commemorative coins. Struck with unerring precision they represent the best of British design and artistry.
In part 3 of our series of posts, the Coronation events take place and the event passes off beautifully. Royal attention turns to the people who made it happen, and official letters of thanks arrive at the Mint.
For their role in the Coronation celebrations, many staff at The Royal Mint receive honours and letters of congratulations and thanks from the Royal family.
For those who don’t receive acknowledgement in the form of an official award, the Specimen sets and Crown pieces are available at a special staff rate so they can at least own a wonderful commemorative. Continue reading →
Hidden in a dusty corner of our Museum archives sat several files of unassuming looking ‘Internal Office Notes’.
Dated from 1926, many of these yellowing old papers had not been read for years. With the historic events of 1953 in mind, we delved into the files. To our delight, this ‘time capsule’ of stories from inside The Royal Mint shed light on the events of 1953. The notes paint a picture of a Royal Mint excited by the prospect of the coming Jubilee celebrations!