Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning British monarch in history. She became the constitutional ruler of the United Kingdom as well as many other nations that are or were part of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1952. She is now a great grandmother several times over.
Most of the queen’s subjects can’t remember ever having another sovereign. Furthermore, these same people are used to seeing the queen’s portrait on their coins and bank notes. The queen’s image has appeared on more currency than anyone else in history.
Perhaps it is rude, even if it is pragmatic, to consider what to do about the iconography on future coins and bank notes once the queen is gone, but it is something already under consideration in a few places.
Although it couldn’t be confirmed at the time this article was being written, News Corp Australia reported on Jan. 19 that the British Royal Mint has already approved an image of Prince Charles in preparation for the passing of his mother.
Australian Monarchists League spokesperson Matthew Sait is quoted in the same News Corp Australia article as saying, “Frankly it would be an international embarrassment if we don’t [depict the current monarch on coins] and made a mess of it. There’s no question the next king should be on our coins.”
Royal Australian Mint Chief Executive Officer Ross MacDiarmid told News Corp that changes to the Australian coinage must be made in collaboration with the monarchy.
“The Royal Australian Mint has yet to engage in any discussion in anticipation of a future monarch and has no plans to do so at this time.”
Each nation has its own way of approving coin designs. The Royal Mint Advisory Committee on the Design of Coins, Medals, Seals, and Decorations is the authority in Great Britain. Typically most of the other nations on whose coins and bank notes an image of the queen appears follow their example.
Beginning in 2009, the Sub-Committee on the Selection of Themes for United Kingdom Coins began recommending various themes and what is to be honored on new coins. The current membership includes its chairman and at least two members of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, a representative of Her Majesty’s Treasury, and the director of the Commemorative Coin at the Royal Mint.
All new coin designs must be reviewed and approved by Buckingham Palace before they can be produced. The reigning monarch has the power to approve or disapprove any coin design.
Why the sudden interest in depicting Queen Elizabeth’s future successor? News Corp Australia says it brought up the subject following a severe cold that kept the queen from some of her duties during January.
On Jan. 23 The Japan News reported, “A hoax claiming that Queen Elizabeth II had died circulated online during the new year period ... The hoax was considered plausible because of the queen’s advanced age, and the story was shared widely on Twitter and other social media services.”
At the time of the death of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI in 1952, it was decided not to change the ruler’s image on the obverse of coins until the following year. Coins and bank notes depicting Queen Elizabeth II were issued beginning in 1953, although she had been monarch since Feb. 6, 1952. Nothing has been said since that time regarding when the obverse of British coins will change following her passing.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.
• If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you'll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.