Regular readers of The Royal Mint blog would have seen our announcement, earlier this year, of a new bullion coin release: The Lion of England, the first in a series of coins that represent The Queen’s Beasts. Well, we are delighted to say that this dramatic design has now been given the full Royal Mint Proof treatment, and is now available in our highest quality finish in a range of precious metals.
So what exactly are The Queen’s Beasts?
The Queen’s Beasts are a series of statues, sculpted by James Woodford RA at the request of the British Ministry of Works, which stood guard outside Westminster Abbey at the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. Six foot tall and cast in plaster, they each represent a particular heraldic story from The Queen’s ancestral history.
The various beasts were used as a heraldic badge, perhaps on a shield or a coat of arms, by the generations who preceded Queen Elizabeth II. They are:
- The Lion of England
- The Griffin of Edward III
- The Falcon of the Plantagenets
- The Black Bull of Clarence
- The Yale of Beaufort
- The White Lion of Mortimer
- The White Greyhound of Richmond
- The Red Dragon of Wales
- The Unicorn of Scotland
- The White Horse of Hanover
After the Coronation ceremony, the statues were moved to Hampton Court Palace to stand guard in the Great Hall. But they weren’t alone. The Beasts of King Henry VIII, originally commissioned to celebrate his marriage to Jane Seymour, lined the bridge over the Palace’s moat, where they remain to this day. They provided a source of inspiration for James Woodford’s Queen’s Beasts, which stood proudly at Hampton Court for four years before being moved to Windsor Castle.
Today, The Queen’s Beasts can be found at the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec. If that journey feels out of reach, then they can also be enjoyed a little closer to home; James Woodford RA also sculpted a series of replicas out of Portland Stone, which stand proudly in Kew Gardens in London. And now, they are brought to life in a series of Proof coins by Royal Mint coin designer, Jody Clark, starting with the Lion of England.
The Lion of England
The Lion of England is probably one of the more familiar beasts in the series; firstly, while many of the other beasts are fantastical or mythical creatures, the lion is a real animal that is easy for us to imagine. It has represented England for centuries, and since the twelfth century lions have appeared on the coat of arms of every British monarch. It also appears in the Royal Arms, alongside the Scottish Unicorn, supporting the quartered shield, and so features on many things that we all use or see everyday, from coins to British passports!
The design and its designer
Coin fans will recognise a familiar ‘JC’ that appears on the Lion of England coin design. Those initials represent Royal Mint Coin Designer, Jody Clark – designer of the 2014 Britannia and Her Majesty The Queen’s Fifth Portrait – who is beginning to become a collectors’ favourite with his exciting, contemporary interpretations of classical themes. If his design for the Lion of England is any guide, these characteristics will be evident in this series of mythical, ancient and dynamic creatures. Of his design, Jody has said:
“I took inspiration from the coronation Queen’s Beasts, both the versions in Canada and the stone replicas here in the United Kingdom. I researched imagery of lions in the wild to make sure that mine had a true likeness to the creature’s character but I was careful that it wasn’t too realistic. In this context the lion is a ‘beast’ and I wanted it to feel fantastical.”
You can find out more about the inspiration for Jody’s design in this ‘Behind the design‘ blog.
What do you think of Jody’s design? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram using #coinhunt and #beastsoncoins.
Jody will be designing all the beasts in The Queen’s Beasts series, so a real treat for collectors of what promises to be a very popular series. We’re all intrigued to see how this talented artist tackles the real, the fantastic, the mythical and the magical as the series unfolds.
You can register your interest to be among the first to know when the next beast is released, here.
So where might we have seen these beasts before?
While they may seem unusual and of another world, many of these heraldic beasts have been hiding in plain sight for years! For example, two of the beasts, the Lion of England and the Unicorn of Scotland, feature on coins whose design is based around the Royal Arms, while the red dragon of Wales has appeared on £1 coins representing that proud nation.
And it’s not just coins. The Lion of England and the Unicorn of Scotland also appear on every official document of the crown, and on every British UK passport.
Are you part of the Great British Coin Hunt? Check your change and share your Queen’s Beasts finds with us on Twitter and Instagram using #coinhunt and #beastsoncoins.
The Lion of England is available now in a range of Proof coins
From a delicate gold proof quarter-ounce coin to the imposing five ounce gold and silver proof coins, Jody’s rampant Lion design is reproduced in the finest detail on this commemorative range, which also includes one ounce proof coins in both gold and silver. Click here to browse The Queen’s Beasts Proof coin range.