The Sovereign of the Month
Sovereign of the Month
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The Sovereign: A Regal Coin


The Sovereign has been associated with the British monarchy since 1489, more than five centuries ago. Henry VII demanded a ‘new money of gold’ to demonstrate the wealth and power of the new Tudor dynasty following the Battle of Bosworth, and the coin therefore required a name redolent of majesty and authority. Each successive Tudor monarch, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, continued to issue Sovereigns throughout their reigns until Stuart king James I acceded to the throne. In a shrewd move made by the king to symbolise the union of the English and Scottish Crowns, The Sovereign made way for a coin called the unite.


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The first Sovereign, with its double rose showing the union of York and Lancaster.


The Sovereign was reborn in 1817 in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, which had decimated Britain’s coinage. Although the modern Sovereign was smaller than its Tudor equivalent, it was just as beautiful and featured a new design on its reverse by the Italian engraver Benedetto Pistrucci, one of the finest engravers to work at The Royal Mint. Pistrucci’s design portrayed St George slaying the dragon in the classical style and, like all acclaimed works of art, endures to this very day and still graces the reverse of The Sovereign.

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The 1817 Sovereign featuring Pistrucci's iconic St. George and the dragon design.


Changing Designs for Historic Occasions


Since the reign of Queen Victoria, Pistrucci’s classical and iconic design has predominantly featured on The Sovereign’s reverse. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the design only changed a handful of times and primarily for special occasions or historic moments. In 1989, a reverse design by Bernard Sindall graced the coin’s reverse to honour the 500th anniversary of The Sovereign. In 2005, a modern interpretation of the St George and the dragon design featured for one year only, created by the heraldic artist Timothy Noad.

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The 1989 Sovereign by Bernard Sindall


In a reign that spanned more than 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated many milestones and achievements; three of these included a Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilee in 2002, 2012 and 2022 respectively. For each of these occasions, The Sovereign bore a different design, with two created by Timothy Noad and styled in an armorial fashion, and one belonging to the sculptor Paul Day, who chose to offer a reinterpretation of St George and the dragon.


Marking a Poignant Moment


To mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the memorial edition of The Sovereign features a change in reverse design. In a stroke of serendipity, the design is the work of Jody Clark, who created Her Majesty’s fifth and final coinage portrait. For the memorial Sovereign, the designer’s detailed portrayal of the Royal Arms appears in a fitting tribute to represent the life and legacy of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

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The 2022 Sovereign featuring the first definitive coinage portrait of King Charles III.


Welcoming a New Monarch


Previously the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, His Majesty The King acceded to the throne upon the passing of his mother on 8 September 2022. The monarchical succession also marks a new dawn for the United Kingdom’s coinage, as The Royal Mint quickly set to work on unveiling the first definitive coinage portrait of King Charles III. The new portrait graces the obverse of the memorial Sovereign for the first time in the coin’s history, and His Majesty becomes the eleventh king to feature on the ‘chief coin of the world’.

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