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The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin

Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest pastimes, with events being captured and passed on for centuries though art, music and dance long before we were writing them down. And one of the oldest and most reliable ways a country can tell its stories is through its coins.

This should come as no surprise. If you think about it, currency is the constant that has always been around in one form or another. It’s continually evolving and adapting to the next chapter in the story.

But there’s one coin in particular that holds more meaning than most – as it blends fact with fiction to produce the world’s most beautiful coin, Una and the Lion.  

Controversial, yet beyond improvement

In 1839 William Wyon was commissioned to design a new coin to commemorate the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

But it made headlines. It was controversial.

Una and the Lion origianl Obverse Reverse - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin
Image courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.

In a bold move it depicted Queen Victoria as the fictional character Lady Una, from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. Never before had someone, let alone a ruler, been featured on a coin as a fictional character.

The design shows Lady Una walking alongside her guardian and symbol of England, the lion. It is symbolic of the young monarch leading her vast empire.

Whilst a daring move, the coin was an instant success. Critics hailed it as “beyond improvement”, and to this day it’s regarded as one of the most beautiful coins to have ever been struck.

Part of its beauty was the high relief, providing exquisite intricate detail to the fictional design. But in many ways this was also its downfall, as it meant the coin could not be struck with any consistency. As a result the commemorative was only struck for one year, producing just 400 coins. This makes it extremely rare!    

The inspiration: a princess and her protector

Published in 1590, The Faerie Queene, is one of the longest and most distinguished poems in the English language. It was written during the height of the Renaissance when England had just broken away from the Catholic Church and formed its own Protestant Church. Set against the backdrop of this turbulent religious landscape, The Faerie Queene draws on history and myth to deliver numerous tales of romance, adventure, battles, morality and religion.

Una and the Lion Painting - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin
Una and the Lion, 1860, William Bell Scott

The first book of the epic poem follows the trials and tribulations of Lady Una – the young and beautiful daughter of a king and queen who have been imprisoned by a ferocious dragon. In a bid to save her parents she embarks on a quest, but on her journey she encounters a fierce lion who plans to eat her.

In a twist of events the lion is so captivated by Una’s beauty and innocence that he abandons his plans to eat her, and instead he becomes her protector and companion.

Together, the iconic pair have become a symbol of beauty, strength and endurance.

The most beautiful coin just became even more exquisite

The Royal Mint has just released a brand new UK Una and the Lion 2oz Silver Proof coin, featuring this iconic and highly sought-after design motif.

Una the Lion product images 1 - The blend of fact and fiction that resulted in the world’s most beautiful coin

Finding an original Una and the Lion coin is virtually impossible, so this may be one of the only ways to secure this design motif for your own collection.

But with an edition limit of just 3,000 worldwide, there aren’t many available for collectors.

As an official Royal Mint distributor, we have secured a limited number for Westminster collectors.

Click here to find out more and add this iconic coin to your collection >>  

Why you have just days to secure the new 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign

The new 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign was released yesterday, but you may only have days to own one. Let me tell you why…

We’re in the golden age of the Proof Sovereign. As you may know, the Proof Sovereign has become the UK’s flagship annual release that’s highly sought-after worldwide.

sovereign table2 - Why you have just days to secure the new 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign

As you can see, recent UK Gold Proof Sovereigns have an undisputed track record of completely selling out. Many with a matter of weeks.

Special one-year-only mint mark

DY 2020 Gold Sovereign Product Page images 6 - Why you have just days to secure the new 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign

In 2020 we mark the 200th anniversary of King George III’s death – the first monarch to appear on the modern Sovereign. To commemorate this, the Proof Sovereign features a special one-year-only royal cypher mint mark.

George III’s reign is one of the most important in the history of UK gold coins. That’s because it was in his reign that the iconic Sovereign was re-introduced, making him the first monarch to feature on the modern day sovereign, and one of the most famous gold coins in British numismatic history.

One-year-only mint marks are only applied to coins for the most significant events and anniversaries and this is certainly an important one. In fact, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a combined Royal and numismatic anniversary as significant as this in our lifetimes.

22 Carat Gold Pedigree

DY 2020 Gold Sovereign Product Page images 3 - Why you have just days to secure the new 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign

The 2020 Sovereign is minted from 22 Carat Gold and it is this historical pedigree that makes the coin so admired and sought-after around the world.

It is also one of the finest examples of British craftsmanship. The exceptional ‘proof’ finish is the result of the coin being struck up to 4 times using specially polished dies.

The time and effort required to produce the frosted relief and mirrored background of the coin is why a proof finish is considered the pinnacle of the mint-masters art – and the most sought-after by collectors.

And with an edition limit of JUST 7,995 worldwide – a lower edition limit than the 2018 Sovereign that also featured a special mint mark and COMPLETELY SOLD OUT in a matter of weeks – this year’s Proof Sovereign has all the elements to be the most collectable gold coin of the year.

If you’re interested…

DY 2020 Gold Sovereign Product Page images 4 - Why you have just days to secure the new 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign

You can secure the 2020 Gold Proof Sovereign now, but you’ll have to act quickly. You can secure yours today for a down payment of JUST £59.50 followed by nine further interest-free instalments – the most affordable way to own the new coin.

Click here to secure yours for just £59.50 >>

Before Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword there was Dieppe

Now home to around 30,500,the picturesque port of Dieppe on the Normandy coast of France was once the site of what’s perhaps the most conflicting military operation of WWII.

Some hail it as an essential lesson, to help future troops and pave the way for victory on D-Day. Whilst others see it as the most ill-fated and disastrous military effort of The War.

A test of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe”

The year is 1942, and on the morning of 19th August, alongside 1,000 British troops and 50 American Rangers, 5,000 Canadian troops began their assault on the small French port town of Dieppe. This was Canada’s first army offensive in Europe, and the results left many thinking it could well be their last.

Ultimately, the raid was strategically designed to test the Allies’ ability to launch amphibious assaults against Adolf Hitler’s “Fortress Europe”. This would inform future plans to bring about an end to the conflict.

Map of Dieppe Raid Blog Image 1 1024x643 - Before Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword there was Dieppe
The Canadian assaulted Dieppe at four designated sections
(Image courtesy of The Canadian Encyclopaedia: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dieppe-raid )

The co-ordinated air, land and sea assault was codenamed Operation Jubilee. Allied forces landed on the shores of Dieppe with the intention of occupying the town for a brief period of time in which they would gain intelligence and entice the Luftwaffe – German Air Force – in to open battle to wear them down.

But from the beginning, nothing went as planned. Less than six hours in the commanders called a retreat.

High costs

The troops arriving via the sea unexpectedly encountered a German fleet, and the ensuing battle at sea robbed the Allies of their element of surprise. This was what they were hoping would give them the upper hand. Out of the four beaches targeted, none of the attacks were classed as successful, resulting in severe loss of life and assets. With the element of surprise lost, the Allies and their armoured support were late to arrive at their designated attack points meaning many were slaughtered with little preparation to defend themselves.

Dieppe Raid equipment on beach Blog image 2 - Before Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword there was Dieppe
Tanks and vehicles abandoned on the beach after the raid
(Image courtesy of ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/world-war-ii-dieppe-raid-2361490)

The Calgary Tanks that did make it ashore were poorly equipped for the terrain and struggled to move across the pebbled beaches. Those that did make it across the beach were unable to destroy the enemy’s concrete barriers blocking their path, their guns were not strong enough. Eventually these tanks provided covering fire for the force’s evacuation.

German casualties were light. In comparison the Allies suffered, especially the Canadians: over 900 were killed, 2,400 wounded and a further 1,900 taken prisoner. Fewer than half the Canadians who departed for Dieppe returned.

Soldiers of Dieppe Raid Blog Image 3 - Before Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword there was Dieppe
Fewer than half the Canadians who departed for Dieppe returned
(Image courtesy of France24: https://www.france24.com/en/20170819-france-canada-world-war-two-doomed-dieppe-raid)

Lessons learned

Allied commanders knew the raid was risky. But none imagined it would be such a terrible failure, with so much loss of life. It was believed the element of surprise would be their greatest weapon, allowing landing troops to overcome German defenders and occupy the town. But little thought was given to the importance of air superiority and the need for overwhelming firepower. 

Despite its failure, the raid was a pivotal moment in WWII and provided invaluable lessons for the Allies. It made clear the difficulties of assaulting a well-defended port and the need for better intelligence on conditions and communication amongst the troops – they could not rely solely on the element of surprise.

Two years later, the D-Day landings would be backed up by massive naval artillery support, dominance over the skies, and heavy firepowerthree essential factors missing at Dieppe. Finally, following D-Day success, on 1st September 1944, Dieppe was liberated.


If you’re interested…

The Royal Canadian Mint issued a 1oz Silver Proof coin to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid. It’s been specially designed as a powerful tribute to the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives.

Unsurprisingly this coin is completely sold out at the mint. But we have a limited number available for UK collectors.

Click here to secure one for your collection >>

Canada 2018 Dieppe Raid 1oz Silver Proof Coin Reverse Lifestyle1 - Before Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword there was Dieppe