The Tower of London has been a symbol of royal power for nearly 1,000 years.
Built during the Norman conquest in 1066, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and fortress of the Tower of London has been used as a prison, jewel house, mint and even a menagerie.
It’s been home to kings and queens, thieves and traitors and lions and bears. But it’s the Ravens that have been a constant presence in the tower and legend has it that if they ever leave, the kingdom will fall…
In tribute to these guardians of the Tower, The Royal Mint has issued a brand new UK £5 coin as part of the four coin series celebrating the history of the Tower of London, one of Britain’s most iconic attractions, which will eventually include coins depicting the following:
- The Yeoman Warders
- The Ceremony of the Keys
- The Crown Jewels
2019 The Legend of the Raven £5
Featuring a Raven with a bird’s-eye view of the Tower in the background, this coin captures the illustrious history of the iconic British landmark and its most famous residents.
The Tower’s ‘raven mythology’ is thought to be a Victorian flight of fantasy and has been a source of many legends, including the fate of Greenwich observatory.
It’s said that King Charles II disliked the raven’s droppings falling onto the telescope at the Tower’s observatory,and so ordered that the ravens must go. However, superstition stated that if the ravens left, the Tower would fall and Charles would lose his kingdom. Ever the pragmatist, the King decided that the observatory must go to Greenwich and the ravens must stay in the Tower.
Since Tudor times, the Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London. Nicknamed as ‘Beefeaters’, they originally formed the Yeoman of the Guard, which was the monarch’s personal team of bodyguards.
The Yeoman Warders were responsible for looking after the prisoners in the Tower and protecting the crown jewels, however nowadays they also conduct guided tours of the Tower and are an important icon for Britain, resplendent in their red uniforms and a favoured tourist attraction.
They need to be between 40 and 55 years old on appointment and hold at least 22 years’ military service, during which time they must have reached the rank of warrant officer and to have been awarded the long service and good conduct medal.
The Ceremony of the Keys
For over 700 years, as the clock strikes ten, the words ‘Halt! Who comes there?’ echo in the Tower of London. The ancient Ceremony of the Keys is a formal locking and unlocking of the Tower gates, which started in the mid 1300s on order of King Edward III after he entered the Tower unannounced one night and was able to walk straight in, unchallenged!
Tradition states that at exactly seven minutes to ten at night, the Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower must leave the Byward Tower, wearing a red Watch Coat and Tudor Bonnet and carrying a lantern. He takes with him a very special set of keys – the Queen’s Keys.
A military escort meets him at the Bloody Tower and at 10pm he moves two paces forward, raises his Tudor bonnet and says: ‘God preserve Queen Elizabeth’. This is answered by ‘Amen’ from the guards and ‘The Last Post’ played on a bugle.
The keys are then taken back to the Queen’s House and handed to the Queen’s representative at the Tower, The Resident Governor.
Several expansions were made to the Tower throughout the reign of Kings Richard I, Henry III and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries, however in general the original layout remains consistent. It suffered structural damage during the Blitz, but this was repaired after the Second World War and the Tower was opened to the public, to marvel at the Tower’s most esteemed treasures – the Crown Jewels!
Not only a powerful symbol of the British Monarchy, the jewels have deep religious and cultural significance in British history and are used by HRH Queen Elizabeth for important ceremonies and royal duties.
However, the 12th century anointing spoon and three early 17th century swords are the only four original jewels left after the English Civil War in 1649, when the Crown Jewels were destroyed and the monarchy abolished. The jewels were remade for Charles II’s coronation in 1661 following Oliver Cromwell’s death.
From the late 15th century and during its peak period as a prison in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Tower housed some of Britain’s most notorious criminals, including Guy Fawkes, Anne Boleyn and even Elizabeth I before she became queen.
For those in a position of wealth, serving time at the Tower could be relatively comfortable, with some captive kings allowed to go out on hunting or shopping trips and even allowed to bring in their servants. However, for those less fortunate, the phrase “sent to the Tower” would conjure up gruesome images of torture and execution, such was its fearsome reputation.
Despite this reputation, only 7 people were executed at the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century, where 12 men were then executed for espionage.
From 1272 until 1810, the Tower of London was home to The Royal Mint. Coins of the realm were produced in a dedicated area in the outer ward known as ‘Mint Street’. This dangerous task involved working with sorching furnaces, deadly chemicals and poisonous gases and many Mint workers suffered injuries including loss of fingers and eyes from the process.
In the 1600s, coins were no longer made by hand, but instead a screw-operated press was introduced. However, risk still befell the Mint workers, as they faced severe punishments should they be caught tampering with or forging coins.
In 1810, the Mint moved from the Tower to a new site at Tower Hill and eventually on to its present location in Wales to allow for expansion.
Now that the first coin in the Royal Mint’s brand new four coin series celebrating the Tower of London has been released, I’m sure £5 coin collectors will be looking forward to building up this fascinating collection.
Let us know what you think about the design and which coin in the series you’re most looking forward to seeing.
Secure your Tower of London Raven £5
You can now own the Raven £5 coin to kick start your Tower of London collection.
The UK’s incredibly popular Paddington 50p coins are to be followed up by a brand new Snowman 50p coin.
According to the Royal Proclamation, published on 29 June, there will be a new coin:
– A depiction of the Snowman from the book The Snowman and the boy flying through the air.
It’s expected the coin will be issued later this year to celebrate 40 years of Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman, with commemorative collector’s editions available in Brilliant Uncirculated, Silver and Gold being made available.
Not the first time The Snowman has appeared on a coin
In fact it’s not the first time that The Snowman has appeared; he featured on few different 50p coins from the Isle of Man – now listed for as much £40 on eBay.
The next 50p collecting craze?
Although all the details have not been released yet and the actual designs are still top secret, it seems likely that the Snowman 50p coins will be as popular with the British public as Peter Rabbit and friends have proved over the last three years.
Stay up to date with all the latest Snowman news…
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Earlier this year, we announced the exciting news that the UK’s incredibly popular Beatrix Potter 50p coins are to be followed up by two new Paddington™ 50 pence coins.
It’s now with great anticipation that we can reveal the first Paddington coin has been officially released!
Celebrating the very British bear
The coins have been issued to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Paddington’s first adventure and this first design is based on the modern adaptation from the CGI-live action movie, featuring Paddington on his suitcase in front of the station and excitingly, one more Paddington 50p coin will also be released by The Royal Mint later this year and this coin will feature the bear waving a Union Flag outside Buckingham Palace.
Of course fans of the movie Paddington 2, will also remember a 50p coin playing an important part in his adventure.
Not the first Paddington coin…
Whilst this is not the first time Paddington has appeared on a coin, it is his first time appearing on official UK coinage.
The nation’s loveable bear has previously featured on 1 crown (25p) coins from both Isle of Man and Gibraltar – now listed for as much £30 on eBay.
Due to the popularity of these coins, and the whole new generation of collectors created by the Beatrix Potter 50ps, it is expected that these coins will be extremely sought-after by collectors and Paddington fans alike.
These coins will be available in Brilliant Uncirculated collector’s edition, with coloured Silver and even Gold versions also being made available.
Paddington at the Station 50p, now available to own!
You can now own the FIRST EVER UK 2018 Paddington 50p Coin in superior collector quality.