Your quick guide to…
BRITANNIA’S MANY GUISES
Britannia, the personification of Britain, has appeared on many of our coins over the centuries, going way back to Roman times and the currency of Emperor Hadrian (you can read an in-depth guide to Britannia coins in issue 10 of Coin Collector). It is fascinating to look at how the symbol of the nation has evolved over the years, and a new set of coins from the Royal Mint reflect this changing attitude to patriotism, gender, age, and what it means to be British.
The latest design, apparently inspired by Gustav Klimt’s classic 1905 painting ‘The Three ages of Woman’, marks the first time Britannia has appeared three times on one UK coin, as we see her move from girlhood to maturity.
The design was created by Italian artist and sculptor, Sandra Deiana, who said: ‘I particularly love the Britannia theme – it is the most difficult concept I have faced so far and I will always remain connected to it. No one had harmonised three female representations together. I had to find a way to represent the Britannia icon in three different eras, through the three ages of woman.’
A second new design captures Britannia’s more classical look. We still see the helmeted figure with her trident and shield, but the intricate design retains a feeling of modernity, the British flag seen behind the strong female protector.
These new coins are the latest in a growing range of coins, issued annually, and depicting Britannia in different and interesting ways. The 2021 interpretation, for example, saw Britannia as a woman of colour for the first time, reflecting and celebrating Britain’s diversity.
First seen on a coin 2,000 years ago, our idea of Britannia continues to change and develop. No doubt many of us are creating fascinating collections of this proud national symbol.