November 13, 2014 – The Royal Mint has confirmed that it will be ‘all change’ for UK coinage next year when the definitive portrait of Her Majesty The Queen is to be updated for the first time since 1998.
The current coinage portrait of The Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, which has been a constant presence on circulating and commemorative coins for 16 years, will be replaced by a new portrait.
It is only the fifth definitive coin portrait to have been created during The Queen’s 62 year reign, making it a rare and significant change.
The new portrait will be chosen by a closed competition commissioned by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC) where a number of specialist designers are invited to submit designs under anonymous cover, before a winner is selected by the RMAC.
The exciting news means that 2015 will be something of a vintage year for UK coins, and that the first 2015 dated coins to be released, such as the new 2015 Sovereign, will be the last ever coins to feature the current effigy that has become so familiar.
Dating back to the 15th Century, The Sovereign was for many years the primary circulating gold coin not just in the UK but in many countries around the world, and was named The Sovereign because of the handsome portrait of the Monarch engraved on its obverse.
This 2015 Sovereign will be a particularly special issue, as the early editions will feature the current portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley, while those struck in 2015 will be amongst the very first to feature the new effigy.
Adam Lawrence, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint, said, “This change of effigy will make 2015 a vintage year for UK coins, and while it will be hugely exciting for us all to see the new design appear on the coins we use every day, we also believe it is right that The Sovereign, our most famous coin which gets its name from the fact that it carries an image of the monarch on its obverse, be among the first to carry both the current portrait on these new releases, and the new effigy when it is revealed.”
The Queen’s Portraits in chronological order
The Gillick Portrait on a 1953 Sovereign.
The Gillick Portrait, 1953
In 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II, and the first coins of Her Majesty’s reign were struck. The first definitive portrait of The Queen was created by Mary Gillick, a British sculptor born in Nottingham, England in 1881. Gillick captured the promise of the young Queen, wishing to reflect Her Majesty’s youthfulness rather than a perfect likeness of physical age. Her portrait echoed the classical, with The Queen wearing a wreath of laurel, rather than the crown we are so used to seeing today. The portrait was attractive and idealised, far from photographic, and very different in style to the more realistic portraits that would follow.
The Machin Portrait on a 1974 Sovereign.
The Machin Portrait, 1974
Preparations for decimalisation began secretly in 1962, with the coinage needing a whole new suite of designs, including a more current portrait of The Queen, who had now reigned for 15 years. Sculptor Arnold Machin, born in Stoke-on-Trent, England in 1911, was selected from initial designs and would go on to model his portrait of The Queen in two sittings to perfect his effigy.
Maklouf Portrait on a 1985 Sovereign.
The Maklouf Portrait, 1985
Raphael Maklouf was born in Jerusalem in 1937 and came to Britain after the Second World War. His was the third definitive portrait of The Queen, it first appeared in 1985. It was a formal depiction and was ‘couped’ (or cut-off) above the shoulders for the first time in The Queen’s reign. Maklouf was proud to report that, “Her Majesty exclaimed that I took less time to complete the portrait in front of her eyes than it sometimes took photographers to get the right lighting and take the photographs.”
The Rank-Broadley Portrait on a 1998 Sovereign.
The Rank-Broadley Portrait, 1998
The fourth definitive coinage portrait was adopted in 1998 and has adorned British coins until the introduction of the fifth portrait that is launched in 2015. It was created by British sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, who was born in Surrey, England. His design was strong and took many months to complete, but Ian Rank-Broadley felt, “It was essential to the integrity of the project for the portrait to be a recognisable one, and not over-idealised.”
The Sovereign 2015
The Sovereign is perhaps The Royal Mint’s flagship coin. Originally introduced in 1489 by King Henry VII, it was the largest coin that had yet been seen in England, and was named The Sovereign because the obverse boasted an enthroned portrait of the king in full coronation regalia. It was created to propagate a message of political stability and prestige, and was issued by each of the Tudor monarchs until this pattern was ended early in the reign of James I.
Reintroduced in 1817 as part of a great coinage reformation, it has been issued by every monarch since, in the majority of cases featuring Benedetto Pistrucci’s iconic image of Saint George and the dragon on its reverse, as indeed it still does today. As per the original intention, it has featured the coinage portrait of Her Majesty The Queen throughout Her Majesty’s reign.
Unusually, although still in side-profile, The Queen is seen almost from the back, perhaps prompting John Betjeman’s judgment of the portrait as a little “racy”. Machin was clear on his aim; “To produce a design with charm and dignity and yet without sentimentality.”
Learn more about the 2015 Sovereign on the Royal Mint website …
… and also on the history of the sovereign.