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Gold Britannias

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Who is Britannia?

Britannia has been the national personification of Britain, an allegorical figure like Lady Liberty here in the U.S., since the second century. When the Roman Empire reigned over Britain, they called the British Isles Britannia. She was revived as a national symbol in the 1680s, on coins minted by King Charles II.

Britannia is a helmeted female warrior, armed with a trident (sometimes a spear) and carrying a shield. Traditionally, she wears a Corinthian full-face helmet, often topped with a horsehair crest  – because that’s how geneBritannia gold bullion coin designsrals and other important battlefield leaders were recognized by their troops.

Her choice of weapons is interesting… A spear is a weapon more widely used for hunting than for combat. The trident is nothing more than a fishing spear. Both weapons have peaceful uses (unlike, say, a sword), representing Britannia’s ability to fight without an inclination to do so. The same logic applies to her shield – she’s a defender of the people. A warrior by necessity rather than by choice.

In other words, Britannia is a fantastic example of a defender of the people she loves.

Britannia’s appearances on coins

The image of Britannia first appeared on Roman coins of the 2nd century CE.

Her modern incarnation began in 1649, with coins minted by King Charles II. He began the tradition of adding the Union Flag to Britannia’s shield.

Though previously she’d preferred a spear, in 1797 Britannia started carrying a trident instead, symbolizing the Royal Navy’s victories in the French Revolutionary War.

Her Corinthian helmet was added in 1825, symbolizing her connection to Britain’s distant Roman past.

In modern times, Britannia appeared on all modern British coinage until 2008. After a seven-year hiatus, she returned on the 2015 £2 coin in a modern design by Antony Dufort.

Today, she’s well-known for her appearances on The Royal Mint’s gold Britannias and silver Britannia bullion coins. So well-known, in fact, that we once called her “the Royal Mint’s other woman.”

History of the Gold Britannia

Delve into the captivating history of the Gold Britannia Coin, which made its debut in 1987 during a dynamic period in the gold bullion market. The rise of the gold Bull Market in the 1970s prompted numerous sovereign mints to respond to the popularity of the South African Gold Krugerrand, introduced in 1967, and capitalize on the growing demand for privately-owned gold bullion coins. The Canadian Gold Maple Leaf emerged as the first competitor to the Krugerrand, making its debut in 1979, followed by the Chinese Gold Panda and the American Gold Eagle.

However, the depiction of Britannia predates the modern Gold Britannia coinage by a significant margin. The history of Britannia as a term traces back to the first millennium AD when the Roman Empire invaded the British Isles. Britannia was used to refer to the province when it came under Roman control, with Emperor Hadrian featuring it on a coin for the first time around 119 AD.

The vision of Britannia on British coinage was revived by King Charles II of England in 1672. Following the unification of the crowns of England and Scotland in the early 18th century, the utilization of the Britannia image on British coinage further increased. The monumental return of Britannia to British coinage took place in 1987 with the introduction of the Gold Britannia, featuring a design unlike any other seen on a British coin.

While the reverse design has remained consistent, the obverse field has changed designs over the years. The obverse always features the reigning British monarch, however, many designs have been used over the years.

  • 1987-1997: Queen Elizabeth II designed by Raphael Maklouf.
  • 1998-2015: Ian Rank-Broadley’s depiction of Her Majesty.
  • 2016-2023: Jody Clark’s depiction of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 2023-Present: Martin Jennings created this design of King Charles III, the first time someone other than the Queen has been shown.

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