Portraiture on British coins – tezbid

Portraiture on British coins

Posted by Amit Bhandari on

Coins, Silver, Elizabeth, Charles, UK

Left or Right? 

After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there has been some speculation on the design of coins of the newly crowned King Charles III. One factor, almost certain, is that the effigy/portrait of Charles on newly issued coins will be facing to the left.

Prior to Queen Elizabth, Empress Victoria was the longest reigning ruler of UK. Her reign lasted 63 years, from 1837 to 1901. Her coins over this period used multiple portraits, but all of these portraits looked to the left. After her death in 1901, her successor Edward VII’s portrait looked in the opposite direction – to the right. This convention was followed not just in coins of UK, but also the coins of the British Empire.

Edward VII died in 1910 and was succeeded by his son George V – and the portait on new coins of UK again faced left. Next in line was Edward VIII – who ascended the throne in January 1936 and abdicated it in December of the same year. No coins were minted during his short reign. Edward VIII was succeeded by his younger brother, Prince Albert, who ruled as George VI. The portrait on these coins faced to the left – opposite in direction to what would have been a right-facing Edward VIII.

Coins, Silver, British India

Coins of India - which was under British rule at the time - also reflected these changes. However, the effigy of the British ruler was no longer used after 1947 - it was replaced by Ashoka's pillar. 

Queen Elizabeth II became the Queen in 1952, after the death of George VI. Billions of coins have been issued in her name, with multiple portraits. The common feature is that all of these face to the right. In keeping with this tradition, it seems almost certain that coins of King Charles III will be facing left.


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