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Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II surpasses Queen Victoria: From Young Heads to Old Head
This week is quite a momentous one and worthy for us to take the time away from writing about current financial news and the impending Chinese economic implosion, to discuss the remarkable longevity of our current sovereign Queen Elizabeth II. This week on the 9th September at around 5.30pm, she will surpass Queen Victoria as the longest reigning sovereign in British history.
To mark this event, this year the Royal Mint have unveiled the fifth and last portrait of Queen Elizabeth to be displayed on coinage in the UK. Jody Clark, the current Royal Mint engraver and designer of the portrait, was delighted to win a competition in which the portrait will be used for circulating coins at the end of this year. The portrait will replace the current design by Ian Rank-Broadley which has been in place for 16 years.
A gold Sovereign comparison
Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 and reigned 64 years until her death in January 1901. During her reign she approved 4 separate portraits for gold sovereigns. After many sittings and wax models, the designs for the first gold sovereign were submitted to Queen Victoria in 1838 and after some discussion the biggest changes to be made were to the Royal Arms on the shield. Queen Victoria’s first act as sovereign was to remove the Hanoverian Royal arms, as they no longer could be shown after her Uncle’s (King William IV’s) death.
The Young Head Shield sovereign was the first of four types of Victorian gold sovereign. It is under Victoria that British gold coinage undertook its greatest change since the reintroduction of the gold Sovereign by George III in 1817, after nearly a 250 year absence. Queen Victoria oversaw significant changes for coinage in the British Empire. It was by Royal proclamation that the Sydney Mint in 1863 could mint gold sovereigns and again in 1866 by Royal Decree that coins minted in Australia and throughout the colonies, would be recognised as authentic gold sovereigns and as such legal tender. By 1901 and onto the last portrait of Victoria, known colloquially as the Widow Head or Old Head, Queen Victoria passed away to be remembered fondly by her subjects with millions of coins bearing her bust.Queen Elizabeth II like her Great-Great Grandmother above, has achieved the grand status of an enduring monarch, encapsulated in five distinct portraits of gold sovereign, the most of any monarch in the modern bullion era. Queen Elizabeth has overseen huge change within the UK, from post-war austerity, to booms and most recently economic busts. The Queen has shown keen interest in British coins and its minting and has supported the UK coin industry. Over her long reign, she has granted many personal sittings for artists to capture her Majesty to be used for the UK coinage and she has also put her penny worth in (pun intended), regarding the decision to adopt a decimal currency system in 1971 and also in moving the Royal Mint, from the old Mint building at Tower Hill to Llantrisant in Wales.
Whatever your opinions on monarchy, I think we have been fortunate to have such a dedicated Monarch whose steadfast commitment to duty and stoicism has navigated an ever changing landscape of Britain. From rationing and Empire to 3D television sets and IPads – she’s been a constant in an otherwise transforming modern United Kingdom.
For more information about gold sovereigns – visit our Gold Sovereign Coin Directory
Article by Michael Cooper