When someone reaches their 95th birthday, it is a very special occasion that is bound to stir memories and lead to people sharing stories of the past. In 2021, Her Majesty The Queen marks her 95th birthday, and the memories and stories of a life like no other are bound to come to mind once more. As our monarch, The Queen has stood with the nation through so many times, both happy and sad. We have watched her mark the more private moments of her life, as a young princess, wife, mother, queen, grandmother and great-grandmother, and we have rejoiced with her as she has celebrated the magnificent milestones of her reign.
Many public moments in Her Majesty’s life have been recorded on our coins as part of the story of Britain. The Royal Mint struck her very first coins, and since that first effigy – a portrait of the young monarch – we have witnessed the passing of time with four more circulating coinage portraits. We have struck coins for her Silver, Gold and Diamond Jubilees, along with her significant birthdays, anniversaries and more.
Behind the public face of the monarch, The Queen has travelled the world and has had the opportunity to experience lands, people, art, history, science, society and more on a vast scale. And perhaps it is when her public duties mirror her own personal interests that we see a sense of joy in the woman who has dedicated her life to duty. Just as public and private lives come together, so too do The Queen’s passions and her coins.
The Queen famously has a love for breeding, racing and riding horses. Like many monarchs, she has been depicted on horseback on her coins, in images known as equestrian portraits. On the coin struck to celebrate her coronation, there was an added personal touch to the design as she was shown riding her favourite horse, Winston. For her Silver Jubilee crown, Her Majesty was shown riding Burmese, the noble black horse who carried her through 18 Trooping of the Colour ceremonies. Horse riding is a hobby shared by most of the Royal Family and as a result, in 2017, the coin that marked The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince, Philip Duke of Edinburgh’s platinum wedding anniversary featured a joint equestrian portrait of the royal couple.
Whilst many of us fill family albums with photographs and mementos of our families, the pride that The Queen finds in her family is also reflected in her coinage. Perhaps the most poignant examples in recent years include the coins struck to celebrate four generations of the Royal Family and the centenary of the House of Windsor; both coins featured designs with softened, heraldic symbols, to represent the growth of the family, with acorns turning into mighty oaks through the generations.
Trees and plants are another of The Queen’s interests. She has planted hundreds of trees on her official visits, and has championed The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, a network of forest habitats that unites the 54 countries of the Commonwealth. Behind the scenes she is just as passionate, as shown in a fascinating 2018 documentary by Sir David Attenborough that saw her guide him through the trees at Buckingham Palace, many of which had been planted to mark special moments in her life, including one for each of her children.
The Queen’s love of flowers is also well documented. Floral emblems and national symbols have often featured on her coins and are usually selected to represent the four nations of the United Kingdom. Sixpences and florins featured intricately twined designs of a rose, a shamrock, a leek and Scottish thistle, as did the Coronation Crown of 1953, whilst the £1 coin, as it has many times since it was first struck, features the flowers of the nation.
Surely showing no favouritism, The Queen has a love of roses, and the flower has appeared on coins struck for the more personal moments of her life. For her 90th birthday, a celebratory coin collection featured a reverse design by Christopher Hobbs, which bore the rose of England. Now, in her 95th birthday year, two reverse coin designs have been created for The Queen and each reverse design features roses. Heraldic artist Timothy Noad has chosen a posy of roses together with other flowers of the four UK nations, whilst sculptor Gary Breeze has added a rose flourish to his coin.