See the New British Coins Featuring Charles III

In his new portrait, the king faces left—and doesn’t wear a crown

The Royal Mint - His Majesty The King's Official Coin Portrait
The new coin depicting Charles III The Royal Mint / Getty Images

The first British coins featuring Charles III will enter into circulation before the end of the year, announced the Royal Mint in a statement

The portrait for the 50-pence coin, which Charles himself approved, was designed by British sculptor Martin Jennings. The same image will also appear on a commemorative coin, which features Elizabeth II on the other side. 

“Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has graced more coins than any other British monarch in a reign that lasted for 70 years,” Kevin Clancy, director of the Royal Mint Museum, says in the statement. “As we move from the Elizabethan to the Carolean era it represents the biggest change to Britain’s coinage in decades, and the first time that many people will have seen a different effigy.”

Those who are used to seeing Elizabeth on their coins may notice a few differences that set Charles’ portrait apart. While the late queen’s profile faces right, Charles’ faces left. For centuries, custom has dictated that the new monarch face in the opposite direction as the old monarch, according to the Royal Mint Museum.

In addition, Elizabeth wore crowns—ranging from a simple laurel wreath to a heavy, stately diadem—in each one of her five portraits done for the Royal Mint throughout her lifetime. Traditionally, only female monarchs wear crowns on their coins, while male monarchs go without.

“Queen Elizabeth II wore a crown on her coins, but her father King George VI didn't,” explains Cosmopolitan’s Jade Biggs. “Similarly, coins featuring Queen Victoria showed her wearing a crown whilst her predecessor, King William IV, wore no crown on his coins.”

His Majesty King Charles II Portrait and Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Coin
The new commemorative coin featuring Charles and Elizabeth The Royal Mint

For those unhappy about the change, rest assured that Elizabeth will continue to appear on coins for the foreseeable future. Some 27 billion coins bearing Elizabeth’s portrait currently circulate in the United Kingdom, according to Kelvin Chan of the Associated Press (AP). For environmental and practical reasons, they will continue to be recognized as valid legal tender, taken out of circulation only “once they become worn or damaged,” says the Bank of England in a statement

Jennings says the design was inspired by the iconic effigies of royals on coins over the centuries. “It is the smallest work I have created,” he says in the Royal Mint’s statement, “but it is humbling to know it will be seen and held by people around the world for centuries to come.”

New paper banknotes haven’t been revealed yet, but the Bank of England says a design will be ready before the end of the year.

Similar changes are likely on the horizon for countries that use currency featuring the queen, though they may happen on longer timelines, per the AP.

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