Her Majesty’s First Coinage Portrait
When Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, a new coinage portrait was commissioned. International society photographer Dorothy Wilding was asked to take photographs of the young queen and a competition was opened to find a designer for the portrait. Traditionally, new monarchs have always faced the opposite way from their predecessor, and as George VI had faced to the left, it was Her Majesty’s turn to face to the right.
Seventeen sculptors entered the competition, and Mary Gillick, whose portrait featured Queen Elizabeth II wearing a laurel crown, created the winning design. Portraying a regal and dignified presence, the design seemed to sum up the mood of the nation following the Second World War and was praised as a symbol of a new, more prosperous era. The portrait became the first of five, more than any other British monarch in history has had, to feature on the coins of Her Majesty’s reign.
The Silver Jubilee
The 1977 Silver Jubilee crown was the first major UK commemorative coin produced at The Royal Mint’s home in Llantrisant after it ceased minting coins in London in 1975. Celebrating 25 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, The Royal Mint produced roughly 37 million coins at that time and gave a coin to thousands of children across the United Kingdom as a memento of the occasion. The design on the reverse of the coin does not feature the standard coinage portrait and instead depicts Her Majesty on horseback, designed by Arnold Machin RA.
The Golden Jubilee
As part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, The Royal Mint released a series of commemorative coins, including a special coin to mark her 50 years as monarch. Created by acclaimed artist Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, the designs on both sides of the coin only appear on this issue. The reverse design features a portrait of Her Majesty looking over her right shoulder, whilst the obverse shows a youthful equestrian portrait, which bears similarities to the motif that appeared on the reverse of the 1977 Silver Jubilee Crown.
Britain’s Longest-Reigning Monarch
On 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after serving 63 years on the throne, a record previously held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. To mark this momentous occasion in British royal history, The Royal Mint released a commemorative UK £5 coin designed by James Butler MBE RA. Created to be a lasting reminder of such a rare occasion, the reverse of the coin features an effigy that did not feature on circulating coins.
The Platinum Wedding Anniversary
On 20 November 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh married in front of 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey. In 2017, the royal couple celebrated 70 years of marriage, which The Royal Mint celebrated with the release of a UK £20 coin available in limited numbers in addition to a wider range.
Accompanied by an equestrian design capturing the couple’s shared love of horses on the reverse by John Bergdahl, the obverse of the coin features a rare conjoined portrait created by Etienne Millner.
The Platinum Jubilee
In 2022, Her Majesty became the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. To honour this momentous occasion, The Royal Mint struck one of its largest commemorative coin collections to date, which includes the first UK 50p coin celebrating a royal event. Created by Andrew Ross and Deborah Osborne, the reverse of the coin features a bold, graphical celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign.
Featuring a beautifully decorated reverse design by renowned artist John Bergdahl, the collection also included a UK £5 coin. The obverse of the coin features a special commemorative portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on horseback in place of the Jody Clark effigy, Her Majesty's fifth and final definitive coinage portrait.