Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1926 – 2022) – a Life in Coins

The crown jewels, the palaces, the ceremonial role…  Many things represent the role of the monarchy.  But nothing has made Queen Elizabeth II more familiar to her subjects than coins.

There are 29 billion individual coins in circulation in the UK.  In shops, in banks, and in our pockets…  each carrying an image of Her Majesty that will forever be etched in our memories and will live on for years to come in our coinage.

Simply no other element of daily life has done more to link us with our beloved Queen and now we look back on her reign through those very coins.

70 Years – 5 iconic portraits

The Young Queen | 1953 – 67: Mary Gillick
The first coins of Queen Elizabeth’s reign bore Mary Gillick’s portrait of the young Queen, engraved especially for the new coins. The uncrowned portrait of the Queen is still used on the Maundy Money distributed each year by Her Majesty.

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The “Decimal Queen” | 1968 – 84: Arnold Machin RA
With the upcoming decimalisation, it was decided to refresh the Queen’s portrait with Arnold Machin’s new sculpture of the Queen. Commissioned in 1964, it first appeared in 1968 on the new 5p and 10p coins. A version of the design with tiara was also introduced on stamps in 1967 and remains to this day.

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The Grandmother | 1985 – 97: Raphael Maklouf
In creating his new effigy of Her Majesty, which coincided with the Queen’s early years as a grandmother, Raphael Maklouf aimed “to create a symbol, regal and ageless”. His “couped” portrait depicts Queen Elizabeth II wearing the royal diadem favoured by her on the way to and from the State Opening of Parliament.

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Millennium Queen | 1998 – 2014: Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS
The approaching Millennium saw a fourth effigy on our coinage, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. Created to fill the full circle of the coin, its larger size was a deliberate response to the smaller 5p and 10p coins in circulation. A noticeably more mature portrayal of Her Majesty, Rank-Broadley aimed to show the Queen with “poise and bearing”.

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The Longest Reigning Monarch | 2015 – 2022: Jody Clark
The final portrait of Her Majesty was introduced in 2015, the year that the Queen passed Victoria as our longest reigning monarch. It is, of course, that design that will continue to remind us of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for years to come as her old currency continues to circulate long after her death.

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From Coronation to Platinum Jubilee
However, it is perhaps not any of the five main portraits of Her Majesty that represent the Queen’s reign the best, but two special obverse designs. The first goes back to the very first coin released for Queen Elizabeth II – her Coronation Crown. The second, from this year’s Platinum Jubilee.

HM Queen on Horseback reverses - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1926 - 2022) - a Life in Coins

Both picture the Queen in regalia on horseback – bringing together the majesty of office with her greatest love – horses. Surely there can be no better way to remember Her Majesty than through these two great designs.


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