On the 6th of February 1952, the world was introduced to what would be the longest reigning British Monarch.
Born in 1926 during the reign of her grandfather King George V, Elizabeth was never expected to become Queen as she was third in line of succession to the throne behind her uncle Edward VIII and her father King George VI. Edward was expected to marry and have children who would precede Elizabeth in the line of succession. When her grandfather died in 1936, Edward succeeded the throne meaning that Elizabeth was now second in line however shortly after his ascension, Edward abdicated when he chose to propose marriage to divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Subsequently, Elizabeth’s father became King and as Elizabeth had no brothers, she was now heir presumptive, presumed to take the throne. If her parents later had a son, he would have become heir apparent and become the ruling monarch due to the male preference primogeniture at the time.
Upon the death of her father King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne at the tender age of twenty five and has ruled supreme for seventy years with 2022 being the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. Over those seven decades, there have been five coin portraits of the Queen, each portraying her at different stages in life.
The first coins bearing her portrait were produced in 1953 which is regarded as the First Definitive UK Coin Portrait which was used on coins until 1970. The engraving by sculptor Mary Gillick captures the youthfulness of the twenty six year old Queen. In keeping with tradition, Elizabeth faces right, the opposite of the previous monarch and features the Queen wearing a laureate crown. Mary avoided using a couped portrait where the bust is cut off by the neck which was the norm for coins issued earlier in the century and opted instead to include the shoulders and décolletage.
The second portrait by artist Arnold Machin is a more elegant portrait showing the Queen wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara which was used on coins until 1984. This portrait portrays the Queen again with shoulders and décolletage with drapes around her shoulders.
The third portrait by sculptor Raphael Maklouf this time shows a traditional couped bust. This portrays the Queen wearing the King George IV State Diadem which would be worn on the way to and from the State Opening of Parliament. For the first time, Elizabeth is depicted wearing earrings and a necklace. This chic portrait was used until 1998 when a more mature effigy of the Queen would come into circulation.
The fourth portrait by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley depicts the Queen in her later years and depicts a greater degree of realism. This depicts the Queen once again wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara. The bust has been further couped to a more traditional standard and increased to fill more of the surface of the coin. This was used until 2015.
The fifth portrait by Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark depicts the eighty eight year old Queen once again wearing the King George IV State Diadem and Diamond Jubilee pearl earrings. Her chin is slightly lifted and the neck is shaped into an elegant sweeping curve. This continues to be the current portrait of the Queen in circulation today.
As well as appearing on the coinage of the United Kingdom, the Queen features on all currency of the Commonwealth. Various coinage depicting the Queen is included in the Coins and Banknotes auction from sovereigns to banknotes from Scotland, England and the rest of the Commonwealth.
The Queen’s seventy year reign highlights how coin busts have evolved over the years to become more realistic and provides us with a great history of the Young Queen to fondly reflect on.
Entries are currently invited for the next auction taking place on 7 April. For a complimentary, no-obligation valuation, contact a specialist on 0141 810 2880 or email@example.com.