Cast your imagination back to the 19th century… Queen Victoria ruled 400 million people in an empire that covered almost a quarter of the world’s surface!
With a name and title famous across the globe, it may come as a surprise to you that Queen Victoria never actually stepped foot in many of the countries she ruled over.
India was held with such high regard in Victoria’s heart that it became known as the Jewel in the Empire’s crown. In 1876, India awarded her the title of ‘Empress of India’ in a gesture of appreciation.
Although having never stepped foot in the country and living 4,500 miles away, Victoria’s portrait was minted on to the currency of India (the rupee) from 1840, so people could recognise their empress!
The rupee is one of the oldest currencies in the world, so to feature a British monarch for the first time was an important moment in numismatic history.
The later portrait issued on rupees, similar to the Gothic Head effigy, can be considered one of the most beautiful coins of the empire.
A 22hr flight to Australia seems a long journey now but for Queen Victoria, a trip to this corner of the world would have taken her almost two months to get there!
So, there’s no surprises this was also a country that she never visited. However, the need for a British presence in the country was growing with the empire; as the empire grew, so did the need for coins. The Royal Mint opened branches in Australia and in 1855, a sovereign was minted outside of the UK for the first time – the Sydney sovereign.
It featured a portrait of Victoria that was based on the Young Head effigy, but with a sprig of banksia weaved through Victoria’s hair, giving the portrait a distinct Australian feel.
The Sydney sovereign became incredibly successful and a number of Royal Mint branches were opened throughout Australia as a result. To identify the Mint that sovereigns were produced in, mintmarks were added to the coins, with a small ‘P’ for Perth, and an ‘M’ for Melbourne.
The sovereign became legal tender in the majority of British colonies in the 1860s, and its importance in British trade, and worldwide circulation earned it the title “the King of Coins”. By the final years of the British Empire, the sovereign was minted in four continents across the globe.
India and Australia weren’t the only countries that saw Victoria’s portrait. Her image also reached as far as Hong Kong, Ceylon, East Africa and New Zealand. In 1870 the first Canadian dollar with Victoria’s portrait was issued, taking Victoria’s image to a new side of the world for people to see.
Despite never leaving Europe, Queen Victoria’s portrait and image stood strong on coins around the world. Whilst she never stepped foot in many of the countries that she ruled over, that didn’t stop people recognising her image around the world.
The coins that they used every day provided a link to the empire that they were a part of, despite the miles between them.
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For the first time in 20 years, a brand new portrait of the Queen will be featured on Australia’s currency update.
Since her coronation in 1953, five effigies of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II have appeared on the obverse of Australian coins – creating a numismatic timeline which shows her changing profile over the years.
Previous effigies were designed by Mary Gillick (1953), Arnold Machin (1966), and Raphael Maklouf (1985), however since 1998, Australian coins have used the current effigy by Ian Rank-Broadley, except during 2000, when Royal Australian Mint designer Vladimir Gottwald’s effigy was used on the 50c Royal Visit coin.
The inclusion of an effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse of Australia’s coinage is mandated by Regulation 4(c) of the Currency Regulations made under the Currency Act 1965.
This new effigy by Jody Clark marks the sixth update to the Queen’s portrait and is said to continue the story of her reign and lifetime, although you might notice something a little different about this updated design…
Whilst continuing to depict Her Majesty facing to the right and wearing the diamond diadem crown, unusually this new image will break from the traditional UK design by also including the Queen’s shoulders and the Victorian coronation necklace.
Mr Clark is responsible for the UK’s most recent portrait of Her Majesty, updated in 2015 and selected by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.
His designs have also featured on recent releases such as the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wedding £5 and the Queen’s Beasts £5 coins.
Chief Executive of the Royal Australian Mint, says: “The transition to a new effigy on all Australian coinage will begin in 2019 and continue into 2020. Coins carrying previous portraits of the Queen will remain in circulation.”
However there is some controversy surrounding this coinage update, as the Australian Republic Movement (ARM) continue their campaign to remove the Queen as head of state in Australia.
What are your thoughts on Australia’s new currency update and do you think the design is head and shoulders above the rest? Let us know in the comments below.
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