A set of three coins with intriguing stories to commemorate the three crowned kings of the twentieth century
Three crowns for three crowned kings
In 2015 Her Majesty The Queen became Britains longest reigning monarch, surpassing the length of Queen Victorias reign. Between these two reigns were three crowned kings Edward VII, George V and George VI.
The story of the Royal Family in the first half of the twentieth century is fascinating, a tale dominated by the three kings who were crowned at Westminster Abbey. This story is now brought to life in this limited edition set that combines three original circulating coins one from each reign with a unique story to tell. This is the first time that these three silver crowns celebrating two coronations and a silver jubilee have been presented together by The Royal Mint.
The twentieth century was a time of great change for the British monarchy, as the respected, although distant, institution headed by Queen Victoria became the modern, more accessible Royal Family we know today. When the century began Queen Victorias long reign was approaching its end. Edward VII succeeded his mother in 1901 and the oldest coin was struck for his coronation in 1902. Just two days before the coronation the king was diagnosed with appendicitis. The illness had a high mortality rate at the time, and the nation waited anxiously as the king underwent emergency surgery. Fortunately, he recovered and the coronation was rescheduled for later that year. This was the only crown struck during his nine-year reign. It has a portrait of the king by George William de Saulles on its obverse, and its reverse features the iconic St George and the dragon design created by Royal Mint Chief Medallist, Benedetto Pistrucci, in 1817. This famous design is more usually struck in gold for The Sovereign, and it was not struck again in silver for more than a century, until the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge in 2013.
By contrast, Edwards son, George V, reigned beyond a Silver Jubilee. To celebrate his 25 years as king, a silver crown was struck the first true commemorative coin to be issued by The Royal Mint. On the coins reverse is a depiction of St George slaying the dragon by Percy Metcalfe; Metcalfes initials can be found under the dragons tail. The design was not praised by the critics of its day. The king himself, an accomplished horseman, described the rather stiff St George seated on his horse as a damned bad rider perhaps why the coin is now widely, and affectionately, known as the Rocking Horse Crown. Today, it is considered a classic design by a respected artist, as Metcalfe also designed the beautiful coins of the Irish Free State in 1928, and the George Cross in 1940.
The coin for George VI features an intricate depiction of the Royal Arms on its reverse, created by George Kruger Gray CBE, a First World War veteran of the camouflage unit of the Royal Engineers. He resumed his career as an artist after the war and went on to design coins for many countries including Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Mauritius, New Guinea, New Zealand and South Africa. Due to the high price of silver at the time, this was the only silver crown to be struck in the reign of George VI. A later crown to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951 was minted in cupro-nickel. The crown struck for the coronation of his daughter, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was also only issued in cupro-nickel, making the coin in this set the last silver coronation crown to be struck by The Royal Mint.