Introducing The Queen’s Beasts Collection
As Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in June 1953, the entrance to Westminster Abbey was guarded by ten fantastical creatures. They symbolised her heritage, with each statue representing a royal ancestor that had gone before her. They have watched over Her Majesty through an extraordinary reign; from a young woman inheriting the throne at the age of 25, to an experienced monarch 65 years later.
Heraldry may be littered with mythical creatures, but it has very practical origins. Centuries ago, enemies needed to tell each other apart on the battlefield, so they carried simple flags or shields in different colours to fly in the wind as they charged into battle. Over time the standards and seals used by knights and the nobility evolved; they started to incorporate emblems, and were often decorated with ‘beasts’ – an intimidating representation of their holder.
The beasts that lined the entrance to Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 were six-feet tall, plaster sculptures created by James Woodford RA for the occasion. The Queen’s Beasts – lions, griffin, falcon, bull, yale, greyhound, dragon, unicorn and horse – have gone on to inspire a new artist, Royal Mint coin designer Jody Clark, who also created the fifth definitive coinage portrait of The Queen’s reign.