Her Majesty The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and was crowned in 1953. Her coronation was a sparkling moment for Britain and the Commonwealth, beginning a new Elizabethan era that would see the whole world change on a monumental scale. Hers has been a time of breakthroughs and achievements in technology, society, culture, science and more. And, just as we have for every British monarch over more than 1,100 years, The Royal Mint has struck coins to mark many of the milestones. Coins, as ever, tell the story of the United Kingdom and its Head of State, particularly the coin most associated with the monarch, The Sovereign. Here are just a few of the landmarks along the way:
Queen Elizabeth II ascends the throne.
The Queen’s Coronation – just a few days earlier, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first men ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Her Majesty’s first coins are struck, with a coinage portrait created by Mary Gillick, but The Sovereign is limited to a small number of Proof sets to mark the coronation.
Although there is no longer a gold coinage, there is a strong demand for The Sovereign, both from the bullion market and collectors. The Sovereign is struck in large numbers for the first time in decades – the first of Her Majesty’s reign to be released.
A new coinage portrait of The Queen is released, created by Arnold Machin RA, heralding the change to a decimal coinage. Three more circulating coinage portraits have been struck to date.
In July 1969, Neil Armstrong takes man’s very first steps on the Moon. That same month, His Royal Highness Prince Charles is invested as The Prince of Wales at a televised ceremony in Caernarfon Castle.
Decimal Day: Decimalisation takes full effect. The Royal Mint has struck millions of coins in preparation for the change.
The Queen marks her Silver Jubilee – 25 years as monarch. Street parties are held up and down the nation and many are thrilled to receive a special coin to mark the occasion.
The Queen’s oldest child, Prince Charles, marries Lady Diana Spencer. The wedding is watched by a global audience of millions. Special coins are struck to mark the marriage with a portrait of the couple by Philip Nathan, who also designed the iconic Britannia seen today on our bullion coins.
Sculptor Raphael Maklouf creates a new coinage portrait of The Queen. It is a more stylised effigy, presenting Her Majesty as a timeless icon.
The Sovereign reaches its 500th anniversary and there is a rare change to its reverse, with a Tudor rose and Royal Arms design, coupled with an obverse portrait of The Queen enthroned, just as Henry VII was depicted on the first ever Sovereigns of 1489.
Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS is selected to create a fourth circulating coinage portrait. His is a bold and realistic effigy, portraying The Queen as an experienced, respected monarch.
The world welcomes a new millennium.
Britain enjoys an extra public holiday to celebrate Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee, the first since Queen Victoria. The Sovereign has a special reverse for only the second time in The Queen’s reign, a Royal Arms design.
Society continues to evolve as same-sex civil partnerships are introduced. The Sovereign has a new reverse design once more – an updated view of St George and the dragon by Timothy Noad.
This is a ‘red, white and blue year’. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games gather a nation of super-fans and there are spectacular celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee. A special Sovereign is issued, bearing a new, modern interpretation of St George.
In September, The Queen becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Unusually, there are two Sovereign editions this year. One is the last to bear the coinage portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, and the other is the first to carry the new portrait by then Royal Mint engraver, Jody Clark.
His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh dies and the nation joins The Queen in mourning. He has been a long-time champion of artistry in British coinage, even serving as President of The Royal Mint Advisory Committee.