The Royal Portraits

Mary Gillick Portrait

The first portrait of Her Majesty The Queen to appear on a coin was issued in 1953. The portrait was fresh, evocative and beautifully reflected the optimistic mood of the nation as it greeted a new Elizabethan era. It was designed by Mary Gillick and shows The Queen wearing a wreath. It was used on both United Kingdom coinage and the coinage of many commonwealth countries until Arnold Machin’s portrait of The Queen was adopted for decimal coins.

Mary Gillick coin portrait

Arnold Machin RA Portrait

Although decimalisation did not take place until 1971, the first decimal coins – the 5p and 10p – entered circulation in April 1968. They were introduced as replacements of shillings and florins, and because they corresponded exactly in size and value they were able to circulate together until 1971 when the coinage officially changed to decimal coins. As such they served a useful purpose in preparing the public for what was to happen.

As part of the change, a new portrait of The Queen was adopted for the decimal coins. Designed by Arnold Machin RA, it had in fact been approved by The Queen as early as June 1964. Like Mary Gillick, Machin avoided the couped portrait - cut off by the neck - which had been usual on coins earlier in the century. The wreath, however, was replaced with the tiara which The Queen had been given as a wedding present from her grandmother, Queen Mary. A modified version of Machin’s portrait has appeared on definitive British postage stamps since 1967 – and as a result it is possibly the most reproduced image in history.

Arnold Machin RA Portrait

Raphael Maklouf Portrait

From 1985 to 1997, UK circulating coins were struck bearing a royal portrait by the sculptor Raphael Maklouf. The couped portrait – cut off at the neck – shows The Queen with the royal diadem which she wears on her way to and from the State Opening of Parliament. Unlike the Gillick and Machin portraits of The Queen, Raphael Maklouf’s portrait also included a necklace and earrings. Having been accused by some of sculpting The Queen ‘flatteringly young’, the artist responded that such critics had misunderstood his intention which was ‘to create a symbol, regal and ageless’.

A close examination reveals the artist’s initials, RDM, on the truncation of the neck. The inclusion of the middle letter – for David – was to ensure that the signature would not be misinterpreted as a reference to The Royal Mint.

There is a long-standing urban myth that the first bi-colour £2 coins – bearing the Maklouf portrait and dated 1997 – are rare and valuable. But given that more than 13 million of these coins were issued, this is certainly not the case.

Raphael Maklouf Portrait


Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS Portrait

The idea of replacing the Maklouf portrait had its origins in a competition held by The Royal Mint to design the obverse of the 1997 Golden Wedding crown. Such was the standard of the entries for the conjoint portrait of The Queen and Prince Philip that it was decided to explore the possibility of a new standard portrait for the circulating coins as well.

The winning design by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS – introduced in 1998 – makes an interesting contrast with its immediate predecessor, being less idealised and more strongly realistic. So far as Mr Rank-Broadley was concerned, there was ‘no need to disguise the matureness of the Queen’s years. There is no need to flatter her. She is a 70-year-old woman with poise and bearing’. Conscious that the coinage was getting smaller – the 5p, 10p and 50p coins having been reduced in size in 1990, 1992 and 1997 respectively – he also deliberately made the image as large as possible within the framework of the coin’s outer edge.

Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS Portrait


Jody Clark Portrait

The portrait of The Queen by Jody Clark was unveiled in 2015 and is the fifth definitive coinage portrait of Her Majesty. It will become the fourth portrait of The Queen in circulation, with the Machin, Maklouf and Rank-Broadley portraits still featuring on the circulating coinage of the United Kingdom. Jody Clark is the first Royal Mint engraver to design a definitive royal coinage portrait in over 100 years.