Britannia has a long history with Britain and its coinage. She is the embodiment of the nation she has represented for almost 2,000 years, ever since the Romans invaded the isles and claimed the province of Britannia.
She first appeared on the Roman coins of Emperor Hadrian circa AD 119 and was revived for the coinage of Charles II in 1672. For many years The Royal Mint has issued a ‘Britannia’ collection, produced every year in proof and Bullion form.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Britannia today (other than on the coin) is the BRIT Awards statuette. Britannia was selected by The BRIT Awards committee to recognise outstanding British and international music talent.
The BRIT Awards is arguably the biggest date in the British music industry’s calendar. Since 2011, the statuette which depicts Britannia has been redesigned by some of the best-known British designers, stylists and artists, including Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake, Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor and David Adjaye.
The Beatles won British Album of the Year for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the coveted Outstanding Contribution to British Music at the first ever BRIT Awards in 1977. The ceremony was part of Her Majesty The Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations, hosted by Michael Aspel from a conference room in Wembley. It was that year that Queen picked up Best British Single for the iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and Elvis Presley was nominated for Best International Pop Single.
Some arguably surprising choices have gone on to win the much sought-after Best British Single including “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners in 1983; “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley in 1988; and” Don’t Stop Movin” by S Club 7 in 2002.
The trophy featuring Britannia is so iconic that when a member of S Club 7 put his BRIT Award for best newcomer, won in 2000, on eBay it raised a staggering £66,000.
The BRIT Awards have featured some of the most notable events in British popular culture, such as the final public appearance of Freddie Mercury, the Jarvis Cocker protest against Michael Jackson, and the Union Jack dress worn by Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls.
This year, revered British architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, has designed the BRIT Awards trophy. A recently released photograph of the 2019 award shows the symbol of Britannia with different proportions to the traditional slender figure many associate with her. A complex glass casting process has been used to create the new look trophies.
While the BRIT Awards trophy has evolved in design over the decades, The Royal Mint took the decision to remove Britannia from circulating 50p coins in 2008 and replace her image with that of the Royal Shield. It was the first time since 1672 the female personification on Britain had not appeared on circulating currency. Despite this radical shift, The Royal Mint continues to release Britannia coins each year and has remained consistent in its vision, using the iconic images many know and love to create new coinage each year.
You can view the current Britannia range here.