This year The Royal Mint revealed a series of brand new base metal UK £5 coins featuring an intriguing range of creatures called the ‘Queen’s Beasts’.
The release soon captured collector’s attention as the use of a bullion coin design on a base metal coin was unprecedented.
However, the choice of designs is equally fascinating and I decided to explore the history of these beasts and find out exactly why they were chosen to feature on our new £5 coins.
Why “The Queen’s Beasts”?
Over 400 years ago Henry VIII commissioned the sculpting of 10 heraldic animal statues. They were produced to represent the ancestry of King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour. These became known as “The King’s Beasts” and can still be seen to this day, guarding the main entrance to Hampton Court Palace.
In 1952, in preparation for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, sculptor Sir James Woodford was tasked to create ten new statues, similar to “The King’s Beasts” but more suited to the Queen. Woodford was instructed not to produce exact replicas to those at Hampton Court Palace as some of them would have had little connection with Her Majesty’s own family or ancestry.
As the Queen arrived for her coronation at Westminster Abbey, she was greeted by 10 six-foot tall beasts each representing a different part of her genealogy and thus “The Queen’s Beasts” were born.
The 10 beasts were made up of ‘The Lion of England’, ‘The White Greyhound of Richmond’, ‘The Yale of Beaufort’, ‘The Red Dragon of Wales’, ‘The White Horse of Hanover’, ‘The White Lion of Mortimer’, ‘The Unicorn of Scotland’, ‘The Griffin of Edward III’, ‘The Black Bull of Clarence’ and ‘The Falcon of the Plantagenets’.
After the coronation, the beasts were offered to Canada as a gift. The Canadian government accepted and the beasts can still be seen today on display in the Canadian Museum of History.
The Queen’s Beasts in modern culture
Still to this day, the Queen’s Beasts play a hugely important part in British culture, in particular The Lion of England and The Unicorn of Scotland.
For example, they feature in the logos of some of our country’s most famous and important institutions, most notably The Royal Arms, 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
Now that you know about the history of these heraldic creatures, take a look around and you’ll be surprised how often you see them being used in everyday life.
2018 Red Dragon of Wales CERTIFIED BU £5 coin
The 2018 Red Dragon of Wales £5 coin has been struck to a superior Brilliant Uncirculated condition, ensuring it is perfect for you to add to your collection. It will also come protectively encapsulated in official Change Checker packaging to preserve for generations to come.
In fact, the Lion of England design was first revealed in 2016 but appeared to be released solely for use with gold and silver bullion coins. However, the design by Jody Clark (the man behind the current Queen’s effigy) met such popular acclaim that the Royal Mint has now confirmed its release in brilliant uncirculated base-metal.
Unprecedented in the modern era
The use of a bullion coin design on a base-metal coin is unprecedented in the modern era, often meaning that some of the UK’s very best coin designs, used on Britannia and Sovereign coins, have simply been too expensive for change collectors to own.
In fact, it is only Pistrucci’s St. George and the Dragon that has ever appeared on a base metal coin, under George VI in 1951, notably at a time when the Sovereign was not even being issued as a bullion coin.
More base metal issues to look forward to
So does this mean that we can expect to see Pistrucci’s St. George and the Dragon and the latest Gold and Silver Britannia Coin designs available in base metal?
Sadly, I think not. But there is some good news for collectors who love Jody Clark’s Lion design.
The Royal Mint has also revealed an accompanying Unicorn of Scotland £5 coin, enabling collectors to own both “supporters” of the Royal Coat of Arms.
Will there be eight more coins to collect?
Whilst the Unicorn of Scotland coin is yet to be released in Silver and Gold it is ear-marked to be part of a continued series of Silver, Gold and Platinum Bullion coins to be issued over 5 years. The set is inspired by the Queen’s Coronation Beasts that lined the entrance to Westminster Abbey for her coronation in 1953.
Currently there is no final confirmation from the Mint, but it seems likely the remaining eight coins will follow in brilliant uncirculated base-metal over the coming 4 years- a definite highlight for base metal collectors. And if the popularity of the precious metal coins is anything to go by, this latest release will be a guaranteed winner with base metal collectors too.
The new Lion of England and Unicorn of Scotland £5 Coins are available to order today in certified Brilliant Uncirculated Condition- CLICK HERE