The Enduring Icon of Britain
16 Apr 2010
Today, the Royal Mint launches its newly designed 2010 Britannia coin series, which depicts the famous icon of Britain and British coinage as an Amazonian-like warrior, with a protective and serene watch over modern Britain’s liberty and values. The new design has been launched to celebrate Britannia’s enduring presence as an important symbol of national identity in changing times.
Designer Suzie Zamit says: “Britannia is a really important British icon and I wanted to create a design that represents her as a symbol of British liberties and democracy. I felt it was important to portray Britannia as strong - almost Amazonian - and courageous, but not overly warlike, more peaceful and protective.”
The new 2010 Britannia coin series is launched in both gold and silver, available in an extended range of both individual coins and Proof sets. Suzie Zamit’s beautiful design is the first new Britannia design since 2008 and offers a fresh interpretation of the goddess, capturing the strong, courageous and watchful qualities of her spirit.
The new Britannia wears a Corinthian-style helmet, emphasising her warlike spirit and is accompanied by a lion to symbolise courage. However, Britannia’s serene gaze and the presence of an olive branch, also portrays the goddess as a protective defender of peace and modern British liberty and values. Her eastward looking gaze alludes to Britain’s role in the EU and its presence in Afghanistan.
Dave Knight, Director of Commemorative Coin at the Royal Mint, said: “Britannia is an enduring icon that has become an integral part of British coinage and heritage. She represents the strength of the British national identity and Suzie Zamit has captured this force in her new design. We are delighted to have created a coin that honours the history of British coins, whilst celebrating the future of modern Britain. Our 2010 Britannia Series is a great chance for us, along with the public, to celebrate this constant symbol of British success.”
Background to Britannia
The image of Britannia is closely associated with British coinage (and used on the reverse of the circulating 50p coin until 2008). The Britannia Silver Bullion Coin was introduced in 1997
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a symbol of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the first century BC Britannia came to be used for Great Britain specifically
In the second century, Roman Britannia came to be portrayed as a goddess, armed with a spear and shield and wearing a centurion's helmet. A highly recognisable image that has survived until today
It was the Romans who, in recording their invasion and colonisation of Britain, first portrayed Britannia on their coins. Much later Britannia was to become a fitting symbol to grace the reverse of the copper coins of Charles II when her image symbolised her sovereignty of the seas
Universally recognised as a British icon, she has graced the coins of every British monarch since then. On the coinage of the present Queen, she featured on every pre-decimal penny and following decimalisation, was chosen to appear on the 50p coin until 2008
She was chosen to grace the new gold Britannia coinage introduced in 1987, and on the silver bullion coins introduced from 1997
An interview with Suzie Zamit is available on the Royal Mint’s website and includes further details of her design process and final portrait design for the 2010 Series: http://www.royalmint.com/BRITANNIA