Earlier in the month, we revealed that Britannia would be making a triumphant return to British circulating coins, and today The Royal Mint have unveiled the new design which we will soon be seeing on the new £2 coin.
Having been something of an institution for British coins for over 300 years, it came as a shock to many that her image was dropped from the 50p in the first place.
The Romans were the first to personify Britain as a noble female warrior, but it was Charles II who introduced Britannia to our coinage in 1672. Her debut appearance was on the Farthing at a time when Britain was engaged in a naval battle with Holland and she came to be a defining symbol of British national spirit – particularly over the seas.
Britannia’s depiction was originally based on Charles’ mistress, Frances Teresa Stuart, who Samuel Pepys described as “the greatest beauty I ever saw”. She modelled and was subsequently immortalised as the figure which the nation grew to love.
But her image on our coins has evolved and changed many times since then.
Originally shown holding a spear on the 1672 Farthing, on the famous Cartwheel Penny she was adapted to purvey a more nautical look. Her spear was changed to a trident – famously associated with Neptune, the Roman God of the seas. Waves were added to the foreground, with a ship on the horizon, and the Union Flag added to her shield, in a strong display of patriotism.
This depiction of Britannia became a permanent feature on penny coins right up until decimalisation in 1971. Thereafter, she was introduced to the Fifty Pence piece, and remained until 2008 when she was famously replace with the Royal Shield of Arms, despite a Daily Mail campaign trying to save her.
Various alternatives of Britannia have existed over the years but it was not until Edward VII’s Florin that she appeared standing up. It was unusual for a coin to change so dramatically and it was considered a bold move to use a different version of the Britannia theme. The coin has since become a popular one amongst collectors, and it opened the door for a number of standing Britannia poses.
Britannia was even given the honour of being introduced as a coin in her own right. In 1987 a Gold Britannia coin was announced, and an entire precious metal series followed, with a silver version being added in 1997.
The astonishing fact is that Britannia has appeared on a circulating British coin in one way or another in an unbroken cycle between 1672 and 2008. Her reappearance to the definitive £2 coin is sure to delight collectors as she becomes a permanent feature of our pocket change once again.
Britannia’s return to the £2 coin means that the 2015 Technology £2 coin is now the very last of its kind. We have a small quantity of the Brilliant Uncirculated 2015 Technology £2 Coin available to buy in protective capsules. Click here for details.