Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history, is seen on countless coins and banknotes around the world. Even so, how much do you really know about Her Majesty? Let’s take a few minutes to learn more about the Queen and the significance of her portrait being featured on numerous currencies.
The Queen has ruled longer than any other British monarch, surpassing the 63-year reign of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has become an internationally beloved and respected figure. Devoted to a life of duty and service, Her Majesty has hosted visiting Heads of State, led the nation in memorials and celebratory events, and is linked as either President or Royal Patron to over 600 individual charitable organizations.
Due to the sheer length of her reign, the Queen has been fortunate enough to travel widely, making historic overseas visits. She has remained a vital figurehead for the UK during decades of social and political changes, with the full support of other members of the Royal Family. Additionally, she raised four children and has welcomed grandchildren and great-grandchildren into the family.
Continuing her legacy, Queen Elizabeth II has appeared on banknotes from six continents and on the obverse of circulation coins from 30 countries. Canada was the first country to feature Her Majesty on a banknote, released in 1935. Once the Queen was coronated in 1952, her face became a common staple on banknotes around the world. Britain issued its first banknote with the Queen’s effigy in 1960, which was the first time a monarch was featured on a Bank of England one pound note.
Other countries that produced currency with the Queen’s image include Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Bermuda, and many others. Even some countries that did not produce official currency featuring the Queen still issued commemorative coins in her honor.
When it comes to coins—both circulation and bullion-grade—there have been five portraits of Queen Elizabeth II featured on the obverse.
- First appearing in 1953, the Mary Gillick portrait, shows Her Majesty wearing a wreath. It was found on coinage in the UK and many commonwealth countries.
- British decimal coins—the 5 pound and 10 pound—entered circulation in 1968, featuring a new portrait of the Queen by Arnold Machin. The wreath was replaced with the tiara that was gifted to the Queen by her grandmother, Queen Mary.
- From 1985 to 1997, circulation coins in the UK featured a portrait of the Queen by sculptor Raphael Maklouf. In it, you can see the Queen’s royal diadem, which she wears to and from the State Opening of Parliament.
- Introduced in 1998, the design by Ian Rank-Broadley was renowned for its realistic portrayal of the Queen. Rank-Broadley stated that there was “no need to disguise the matureness of the Queen’s years.”
- Making its debut in 2015, a new portrait by Jody Clark is the current design used on numerous coins. Clark is the first Royal Mint engraver to design a royal coinage portrait in over 100 years.
Though she reigns over Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth II is well loved in every corner of the world. If you’d like to commemorate her historic reign, we suggest the 2017 1 oz Silver Britannia, featuring her Majesty on the obverse.
How many different portraits of the Queen do you have in your coin collection?