By Kerry Rodgers
On Sept. 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II achieved the longest reign of any monarch in any kingdom of the British Isles. On that date she surpassed the 63 years 216 days of rule by her great-great-grandmother Victoria. She also became the longest-reigning woman in history.
Elizabeth ascended to the throne on the death of her father, George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952. Since then many changes have taken place in her realm. For numismatists these include five different major obverse effigies of the queen used on the coins of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries. Occasionally other effigies have been employed for commemorative coins. The only additional ones used extensively for circulating coinage are those of Dora de Pédery-Hunt and Susanna Blunt in Canada.
In 1952 a design by 71-year-old Mary Gillick was selected from a field of 17 to be used on first issue circulating coins of Queen Elizabeth II released in 1953. These include those of Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia & Nyasaland.
Gillick was an experienced sculptor. She had been born in 1881 in Nottingham with her first Royal Academy exhibition in 1911. Over the years she had designed a number of bas-relief award medals.
Gillick’s design was deliberately chosen for its freshness and originality. The Royal Mint website describes how it, “beautifully reflected the optimistic mood of the nation as it greeted a new Elizabethan era.”
The effigy is notable for showing the Queen’s shoulders – as had Victoria on many of her coins. In contrast Elizabeth’s father, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather are all shown couped, i.e., cut off above the shoulders.
Secondly, Gillick presented her effigy as a simple laureated bust of the queen that perhaps echoes the early Hanoverians from George I through George IV. From Edward VII-on UK coins had shown the monarch bare-headed.
Of particular note the queen is wearing a close-fitted, sleeved, sheath dress. This has provided considerable numismatic confusion.
Gillick’s plaster had moderately low relief as did the resulting master die. This gave no problem with the working dies used for proofs and early circulation strikes but as die-wear set in some facial features of the queen, her dress seams and neckline became reduced such that she appeared flat-faced and bare-shouldered. Whether the queen minded or not, some authorities did – as did elements of the British media.
Cecil Thomas was called in to recut the obverse master dies used for both British and overseas coins. (This was somewhat ironic. Thomas had been more than a little miffed when his design for a coinage effigy had lost out to that of Gillick.)
The recut dies were used in Britain from 1954 on for the all circulating coins. Their use coincided with the omission of the Queen’s title BRITT : OMN from the obverse legend.
The same remastered effigy was used on coins of Australia (from 1955), New Zealand (from 1956), and Canada (more or less from 1953). Neither the South Africans nor the Rhodesians seemed perturbed and continued with the Gillick original.
Numismatic descriptions of the Gillick dies commonly describe it as “strapless,” “no shoulder strap,” or “NSS,” or “no shoulder fold.” That of Thomas is correspondingly described as showing a “shoulder strap.”
What is being referred to is the most deeply incised line Thomas made in the original Gillick design, that across the Queen’s shoulder. This line is neither that of a shoulder strap nor a fold. Both terms smack of male ignorance on the subject of women’s clothes. The line marks a discreet seam in the Queen’s dress.
Occasionally a 1953 (Gillick) working die was used to strike a later coin. This occurred with some the New Zealand 1956 pennies and threepences and 1957 sixpences. Such coins are rarities.
The Gillick effigy has continued in use for all of Queen Elizabeth’s Maundy money issues. However, it would be the last portrait of Her Majesty used for circulating and commemorative pre-decimal coinage throughout her realm.
Apart from his incisive contributions to Mary Gillick’s effigy, Cecil Thomas provided an effigy to be used on the coinage of British Crown colonies. Fittingly, in this portrait he shows the queen wearing the heraldic Tudor crown as did her father, grandfather and great-grandfather on colonial coins. It symbolizes the monarch’s authority.
However, following her accession Elizabeth had requested that this design be replaced with the heraldic St. Edwards crown. Not all usages were updated throughout the Commonwealth as would appear to have occurred with her colonial coinage effigy.
In 1964 Machin was chosen to design a completely new effigy of the queen to be used on the new decimal coinage being introduced in Britain in 1968, Australia in 1966, and New Zealand in 1967. It would appear on all Canadian coins from 1965.
This same effigy would be used on coins of many Commonwealth countries including Britain’s remaining colonies. No longer would a numismatic distinction be made between sovereign countries and colonies.
Machin had been born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911. Early in his career as a sculptor he worked with Derby, Minton and Wedgwood ceramics. He was made a Royal Academician in 1956 and awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1965.
His effigy made its first appearance in Britain in 1968 on 5p and 10p UK coins, the first of the new decimal issues to circulate alongside pre-decimal coins during the changeover. It would still be in use 19 years later to become the most widely used portrait of the queen on all British Commonwealth coinage.
This effigy is among Machin’s best work. It is characterized by clear lines and great subtlety of shading. Machin followed Gillick in avoiding a couped portrait. The young Queen is indisputably regal and wears the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” tiara, a.k.a. “Granny’s tiara,” a wedding present from her grandmother, Queen Mary.
The resulting portrait is believed to be a favorite of the queen. When she came to pose for subsequent coin and medal effigies she is said to have expressed her desire that the quality of a new portrait live up to the standards of Machin’s work.
At some point in the late 1970s the master die used by the Royal Canadian Mint was reworked. A smaller effigy was produced on which details such as the queen’s hair, dress and even eyebrows were severely accentuated. Coins struck by the RCM from at least 1980 on used this reworked die. Its use is apparent in RCM strikings of circulating coins for New Zealand from 1980 on. In these years New Zealand’s proof coins were struck at the Royal Mint and the differences of the two obverses, Canadian vs. British, are readily apparent on circulating vs. proof coins of the same date.
The trivia buffs among us may wish to know that as a conscientious objector Machin was imprisoned during World War II. And in 1956 he chained himself to a Victorian metal lamp post in protest at its impending removal. The authorities compromised and presented it to him for his garden allowing his wife Patricia to unlock him. The lamp has since been restored to its original position.
Raphael David Maklouf
In 1982 the Royal Mint invited seventeen artists to submit portrait models to replace the Machin effigy. The Mint Advisory Committee received 38 proposals from which they selected a group by Raphael Maklouf.
One of his models, as revised, was recommended and accepted by the queen for use on Britain’s circulating coinage from Jan. 1, 1985.
Maklouf arrived in Britain in the aftermath of World War II from Jerusalem where he had been born. Although a long-time working sculptor his effigy of the queen was his first coin design.
He chose to show Her Majesty couped and wearing the George IV State Diadem that she uses for the State Opening of Parliament each year. It dates back to the reign of George IV, making it one of the older pieces of regalia in the Crown Jewels.
Critics have suggested that Maklouf portrayed the queen somewhat younger than her then 58 years. But he made it clear he wished to produce a, “regal and ageless symbol.” He certainly succeeded.
Although there is no obligation for Commonwealth countries to follow Great Britain the Maklouf effigy was used by many for their coins but not Canada. Several variations on the original have been used by some a Commonwealth countries for commemorative issues.
In 1997 Rank-Broadley won the Royal Mint competition to supply a fourth new coin effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. His work was chosen in competition with 10 other artists. Following this selection he was granted two sittings by Her Majesty to refine his design.
Rank-Broadley was conscious that the circulating coinage was getting progressively smaller. As a consequence he deliberately made the image as large as possible within the available field of the coin.
For his portrait he chose to show the queen couped and wearing the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” tiara she had worn for Machin. There is a difference. This tiara has a detachable base. The queen originally wore it without the base, as in the Machin effigy, but in 1969 she had the pieces reunited as shown by Rank-Broadley. It is the queen’s most frequently worn diadem.
In an interview with The Times Rank-Broadley observed, “There is no need to flatter her. She’s a 70-year old woman with poise and bearing. One doesn’t need to see a rather distant mask.” To which the Royal Mint comments, “His ‘strong and realistic’ portrait could also be viewed as a return to a more traditional design following the idealistic style of its predecessor and the boldness of the Gillick portrait 50 years previously.”
This portrait is the sole example where the designer’s initials appear separate from the effigy within a coin’s obverse field.
Rank-Broadley was 25 when he chose to specialize in bas-relief sculpture. Twenty years later he won the commission for the royal effigy. Among later commissions are the reverse of the Queen Mother Centennial 2000 crown, the obverse and reverse of the queen’s 2002 Diamond Jubilee £5, the obverse of the 2007 £5 Diamond Wedding Anniversary of the Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the reverse of the 2008 Prince of Wales 60th birthday £5, and the reverse of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee 5-ounce silver £10 and gold £10.
His sculptural works are in the permanent collections of the British Museum, London’s National Portrait Gallery, the Ashmolean Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Rijksmuseum, and several others. In 2012 he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Vicenza Numismatica.
As with the Maklouf effigy a number of Commonwealth countries have used the Rank-Broadley portrait for their coins with some employing a variation for commemoratives.
Dora de Pédery-Hunt & Susanna Blunt
From 1990 the Royal Canadian Mint broke with tradition and introduced effigies of the queen produced by home-grown artists rather than those provided by the Royal Mint.
That used from 1990 to 2002 is by Dora de Pédery-Hunt, a Hungarian-born sculptor who arrived in Canada in the aftermath of World War II. Her portrayal resembles Maklouf’s design in that the queen is wearing the same tiara and jewelry but differs slightly in her profile orientation.
Blunt’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth was chosen by the RCM from those of eight other artists following a nationwide competition. She created her image from a photograph of the queen and it differs sharply from all other effigies. It shows Her Majesty bare headed, couped and wearing just a single-string pearl necklace and pearl studs. Simplicity is the watchword of Blunt’s design.
It first appeared on Canadian coins in 2003 and continues today.
James Berry and Vladimir Gottwald
Both New Zealand and Australia have also produced home-grown effigies of the queen but for just a few commemorative coins.
In New Zealand’s case James Berry provided a couped effigy in which the queen wears Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara. This Russian-style diadem contains 488 brilliants. It was a present from the Ladies of Society to mark the silver wedding anniversary of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, then Prince and Princess of Wales, in 1888. It was passed to Queen Mary and subsequently to the present queen who regards it as one of her favorites.
Berry’s effigy appeared on the 1979 Arms dollar and subsequently on dollars in 1980 (Fantail), 1981 (Royal Visit) and 1982 (Takahe). It was not used on coins in circulation.
A similar in-house effigy was produced in Australia by Royal Australian Mint designer Vladimir Gottwald. It appeared on a commemorative Royal Visit 50 cents in 2000. The queen wears the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” tiara as well as the King Faisal of Saudi Arabia Necklace, made by American jeweler Harry Winston and gifted to the queen on a state visit to England in 1967.
This effigy was approved for use on the 2000 coin only but appeared again on the Coat of Arms 50 cents in the 2010 Gold Year Set to mark its 10th anniversary.
On March 2 this year the Royal Mint unveiled the fifth a portrait of the queen to be used on the nation’s circulating and commemorative coins later in the year. This places Queen Elizabeth alongside her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, in terms of number of royal portraits used on Britain’s circulating coinage.
The new effigy is by Jody Clark who at 33 has become the youngest designer to have created a coin portrait of the Queen Elizabeth during her 63-year reign. He is also the first Royal Mint engraver to be chosen to create a definitive royal coinage portrait in over 100 years.
Clark’s work was selected from a number of anonymous submissions. His portrayal shows her wearing the George IV State Diadem. Given its history it is perhaps appropriate that it makes a fresh appearance in the year when Her Majesty passes Victoria as the longest-ever reigning monarch in British history.
Coins featuring the new fifth effigy went into production on March 2. Among the first struck was a new £2 piece that saw Britannia make her comeback to Britain’s circulating coins.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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