The Unicorn of Scotland rears its head on Royal Mint Bullion coins

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October 12, 2017 – The Royal Mint is to unleash the legendary Unicorn of Scotland onto its gold one ounce, gold quarter ounce and silver two ounce bullion coins. The Unicorn will join the line-up in The Royal Mint’s ‘Queen’s Beasts’ bullion range, celebrating the ten mythical creatures of that have stood guard throughout hundreds of years of British royal heraldry. The beasts – which include griffins, lions, dragons and falcons – can be seen all round Britain in some surprisingly ordinary places in British daily lives and culture, from pub signs to passports and city badges to sport. 

Great Britain / GBP 100 / Gold .9999 / 1 oz / 32.69mm / Design: Jody Clark.

The designs are by Royal Mint coin designer Jody Clark – best known for his ‘fifth portrait’ of The Queen on UK coinage – and have been inspired by the Queen’s Beasts sculptures by James Woodford RA that watch over the Palm House at Kew Gardens. The sculptures were originally created for the coronation ceremony of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II held in Westminster Abbey in 1953, to symbolise the various strands of royal ancestry brought together in a young woman about to be crowned queen. The originals can today be found at the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec, while the Portland stone replicas, also carved by James Woodford, are at Kew.

The lion and the unicorn as they appear on both versions of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. Source: Sodacan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Designer Jody said: “Although the unicorn is not real, it shares the same appearance as a horse, so I could draw on reality a little. It has been represented many times in heraldry, so I revisited sculpture and heraldic designs for inspiration.

“I was interested to find that there are certain rules to bear in mind – for example the unicorn always has a cloven hoof. I wanted to add some movement to my design, and for the unicorn to be doing more than just supporting the shield. I showed the beast leaping over the shield a little, and there is movement in the chain, making the design more dynamic.”

The Queen’s Beasts coins are available to purchase direct from The Royal Mint.

To view the full range of the Queen’s Beasts Series, please click here.

Much background information on the unicorn in art history has been gathered by the New York Metropolitan Museum on the occasion of its 2013 exhibition ‘Search for the Unicorn’.

And to read the CoinsWeekly 12-part article on English history as mirrored on coins, click here.