Britannia is back

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March 19, 2015 – The Royal Mint has revealed that the iconic figure of Britannia will return to rule over the United Kingdom’s circulating coins this year alongside the new coinage portrait of Her Majesty the Queen.

It will be the first time that newly minted UK circulating coins have featured the patriotic emblem of Great Britain since she was replaced by the ‘Royal shield of arms design’ on the 50p in 2008, having been an ever present on our coins since 1672.

New £2 coin.

The new depiction of Britannia will be struck on the UK’s definitive circulating £2 coins, replacing the current ‘technology’ design by Bruce Rushin which has featured on the coin since 1997, giving Britannia the honour of appearing on the UK’s highest denomination circulating coin.

The new Britannia £2 coins will begin to enter circulation at some stage during 2015, the same year that the definitive coinage portrait of The Queen will be replaced for the first time since 1998.

Enduring and popular, the image of Britannia in one form or another has appeared on the reverse, or ‘tails’ of coins since the reign of Charles II in 1672.

Christopher Ironside’s seated Britannia had adorned the reverse of the 50p, first issued in 1969 in the run up to decimalisation, until 2008 when more contemporary designs were selected for the reverses of all definitive UK circulating coins from 1p-£1.

Antony Dufort.

This new design has been created by Antony Dufort, an artist who has worked in a variety of disciplines, including portraiture, book illustration, film production and sculpture.

He said, “I am used to creating over life-sized models so working within the constraints of the 5mm thickness of the coin was a totally new experience. But I have collected coins and this helped in considering my design; for example, Britannia’s helmet and trident fill one side of the coin, while the inscription balances this on the other. Britannia has taken so many forms and been presented with such a variety of symbolic elements, I looked to Greek and Roman coins and statues to ensure authenticity while modelling her trident and Corinthian helmet. However, I feel I have balanced these classic elements with clean, elegant lines for a contemporary-feeling composition. My coin design fills me with a similar sense of pride as these coins will be used and hopefully enjoyed by the public.”

Adam Lawrence, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint, said: “It gives me great pleasure to confirm that Britannia will be returning to the newly minted circulating coins of our country after a six year absence. Whilst she has remained on coins already in circulation, and features on the flagship Britannia commemorative coin struck in her honour since 1987, she is reborn on the £2 coin for 2015. The instantly recognisable figure of Britannia has a long, enduring history which has evolved and changed in keeping with the nation which she represents. She has come to stand as a symbol of renewed optimism for our country, and has a rightful place on the currency of the United Kingdom. It is wonderful to welcome her back. ”

Please click here to get to the website of the Royal Mint.

We have already reported in CoinsWeekly about the new portrait of The Queen.

The first Britannia appeared on the reverse of the halfpenny in 1672. You may have a look at it here.