The Daily Telegraph
About-face on all fronts in the land of King’s English
Currency, passports and stamps will change along with conventions that underpin British culture
AT THE Old Bailey yesterday morning, a court usher stood up and called for silence, inviting the King’s justices to draw near and give their attendance, before proclaiming: “God Save The King.”
It marked the beginning of a major transition, in which the pageantry, iconography and language of daily life will need to adapt to a new, male, sovereign.
Take currency. There are 4.5 billion sterling banknotes in circulation with the Queen’s face on them, worth £80 billion. All will remain legal tender, but which will gradually be replaced by those bearing the King’s image. It is expected to take at least two years for a new note to be designed and circulated.
The issue has not arisen because Elizabeth II was the first monarch to be featured on British banknotes – her face being used on the £1 bill in 1960. Before then notes were illustrated with Britannia, the Bank of England’s emblem.
New coins featuring Charles III will also need to be minted but are also not expected to appear in general circulation for some time. The Royal Mint advisory committee needs to send recommendations for new coins to the Chancellor and obtain royal approval.
Elizabeth II’S coins are expected to stay in use until they are gradually replaced and it was usual in the past to find coins of different monarchs in circulation at the same time.
The Royal Mint has said a further announcement about the timing of the change will be made after the period of mourning is complete.
When the new coins do arise, the King is expected to face to the left, the opposite direction to the late Queen, a tradition that has been in place since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Only Edward VIII broke this tradition, but had abdicated before the prototype coins were released.
Stamps and military medals will also switch to a silhouette of Charles III, once an image has been agreed upon, while passports will now be issued in the King’s name.
Police and military uniforms will be given the new royal cypher of the King, which is likely to feature a rounded Tudor crown typical of male monarchs rather than the St Edward’s crown favoured by queens.
New post boxes will also switch to the King’s cypher, although the Royal Mail has said it will not retrofit boxes but wait until they need replacing – examples from the reign of Victoria still make up around six per cent of postboxes.
The royal coat of arms, adopted at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, is expected to remain the same but the King will get a new personal flag which will be flown on royal visits.
Even the language of Britain is about to change. Lags will now find themselves detained at His Majesty’s pleasure, and those who snitch on their confederates, will be turning the King’s evidence rather than Queen’s.
The police will no longer be preserving the Queen’s peace, but the King’s, while those joining the Navy will now euphemistically take the King’s shilling, and our soldiers will fight for “King and Country”. Criminal cases are now termed “Rex” v defendant, rather than “Regina” while jurors’ will swear oaths to “Our Sovereign Lord”, instead of “Our Sovereign Lady.”
Queen’s Counsel (QC) barristers become King’s Counsel (KC) and are reportedly dreading the switch, amid fears they will be asked frequently the whereabouts of their “Sunshine Band”. King’s Counsel are also expected to wear mourning bands, two small strips of linen attached to the neck to signify the death, and weepers, special cuffs used to dry the eyes.
However, there will be less disruption than in times past. Before 1272, the passing of a monarch meant the King’s Peace expired until the coronation of a new sovereign and the courts had no power to enforce criminal law, which often led to lengthy periods of anarchy.
Until the 1901 Demise of the Crown Act, judges and legal officers needed to be resworn in and re-appointed, leading to a temporary suspension of cases.
Elsewhere, The King’s Speech will no longer be just a film about a stuttering George VI, but an annual requirement for the State Opening of Parliament, and a Christmas Day staple. Likewise, those adhering to correct enunciation and grammar will find themselves speaking the King’s English.
The words of the National Anthem revert to God Save the King. In London, “Her Majesty’s Theatre” continues a 200-year-old tradition by becoming “His Majesty’s Theatre.” Anglicans should expect changes to the Book of Common prayer, with congregations invited to now pray for the King.