We are delighted to announce that Britannia is to return to the circulating coinage, on the new definitive £2 – she hasn’t been struck on circulating coins since 2008!
The new depiction of Britannia will replace Bruce Rushin’s ‘History of Technological Achievement’ design that has been a constant feature on the £2 coin since its first issue in 1997.
The Romans were the first to use Britannia as a personification of the island of Britain. It’s an association that dates back to the reign of Emperor Hadrian, who visited Britain in AD 119. However, her history on Britain’s coinage is somewhat shorter, as it wasn’t until 1672 during the reign of Charles II that Britannia first featured on Britain’s coins. For over 300 years, Britannia remained a permanent feature of the coinage, gracing the coins of every British monarch from 1672 until 2008 – when Britannia was last struck on circulating coins.
It was on the definitive 50p coin, issued from decimalisation in 1971 until 2008, that Britannia made her last appearance. She was replaced by the 50p of the Matthew Dent definitive designs that depict an arrangement of the shield of the Royal Arms on coins from the 1p to the £1.
With Britannia’s removal from the 50p in 2008 came a suggestion that the iconic figure might return to circulating coins on the £2. John Porteous, then of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee on Coin Design, said Britannia could appear on the £2 coin in a future redesign. The Royal Mint Chief Executive in 2008, Andrew Stafford also said; “It is possible Britannia could be considered on a redesign of the £2 coin” – a theory that today, seven years later, has proven to be correct, with this, the first change to the definitive £2 coin since its issue in 1997.
Britannia’s long-awaited return to the coinage is truly historic, and the new design by Anthony Dufort features Britannia as we have never seen her before! It has a contemporary and modern feel, with a cropped portrait displaying only the head and shoulders of Britannia – a departure from the traditional seated pose and the familiar defiant stance on bullion coins. However, her heritage remains: both the trident and shield clearly feature in the design, and Britannia is seen wearing a Corinthian helmet.
The longevity of replacing the definitive £2 design means that this historic design will be a feature of UK coins for many years to come – the ‘History of Technological Achievement’ £2, for example, has had 18 years of service.