Royalty Depicted On Coins

Posted by Allison on 6 April 2009, 15:14

Many different people have had the honour of seeing their images represented on currencies over the years.  Both coins and banknotes have played host to many a person from royal circles, not to mention rulers, dictators and other famous (or in some cases infamous) people.

But royalty definitely takes centre stage, and not just when specific events occur either.  The ruler of a country will usually have their head appearing on all the banknotes and coins for that currency, until such time as they are replaced by their successor.  This doesn't mean that the same image will appear throughout a single person's reign however – Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for over fifty years for example, and so her portrait on the coins of the pound currency has changed from the young woman that we once saw in our pre-decimal days.

But other countries have seen plenty of royalty on their currencies too.  The famous Frenchwoman Marie Antoinette, who met her end at the guillotine in 1793, would no doubt have been proud to see her image depicted on the one thousand schilling coin struck in gold in Austria in 1997.  As one of the more controversial Queens that history bears record of, it is perhaps not surprising that any mention of her features appearing on coins before her death is absent.

King Albert II of the Belgians may not be the most famous Royal in history, but he has the honour of appearing on the 2005 issue of the two Euro coin which was released in Belgium.  Of course before the Euro took over and came into circulation the head of King Albert could be seen on several of the Belgian francs that were then in circulation.  The one franc and five franc coins showed his features, as did the twenty franc and fifty franc coins.

Indian rupees reveal an interesting history of royalty in that country.  The country was ruled by Royals right up until 1947 when it gained its independence, and at that time the coinage which was in use had to be changed.  This was because it showed the portrait of Queen Victoria (she of the 'We are not amused' tag line.)  Because she was no longer reigning over the country her image had to go and a new set of coins were struck and put into circulation. 

The Danish krone – one of the few currencies still in use in the so called 'Euroland' which hasn't succumbed to being replaced by the Euro – doesn't show royal images on its banknotes, but Queen Margrethe II does make an appearance on the higher valued coins of the currency.  King Christian V doesn't show up however – the only sign of his existence is on the lower valued coins, which depict his crown rather than displaying his image.

Monaco is also ruled by a monarchy, and when it joined the Euro in 2002 it made sure that the image of its Sovereign, Prince Rainier III took pride of place on the national side of the coin.  Many countries which are ruled by royalty and which decided to get rid of their own currencies in favour of using the Euro made a similar decision and put the features of their ruling monarch (or another member of royalty) on the national side.  Some countries also included more than one member of royalty on their Euro coins; a good example of this came from Monaco as well, where the features of Prince Rainier III appeared alongside Prince Albert on the one Euro coin in the inaugural 2002 set.

Perhaps the most famous Royal resident of Monaco however was Princess Grace of Monaco – more famously known as the actress Grace Kelly.  She died after a horrific car crash in 1982, but her memory lives on and her image was shown on a two Euro coin in 2007.  Despite the relatively recent release date of the coin it is very highly sought after by collectors, partly due to its rarity and partly due to the fact that it bears an icon who is still very much missed by Monaco as well as the world at large.

This particular event illustrates the fact that many coins which have a Royal theme to them are in fact worth far more than their face value would indicate.  This can depend on a number of factors – the popularity of the occasion for which the coin was struck; the number of coins issued each time, and also what the coin itself is made from.  Some coins with royal family members on them are intended for common circulation and as such we all see them in our pockets and in our change.

But some, such as the classic British Sovereign for example, are intended purely for display and for keeping as part of a larger collection, since their value is far in excess of the face value shown.  The British Gold Sovereign has a history stretching back over five hundred years, and the current issue – despite its hefty price of £215 – is just as highly sought after as previous issues have been.  You do get a wooden case to keep it in though, and you aren't just getting any old coin; this one has been made in pure 22 carat gold.  You shouldn't expect to see it in your change any time soon!

As long as there are Royal families ruling countries throughout the world, there will always be currencies showing the head of the family who currently has the throne.  We can also expect to see commemorative coins surfacing from time to time, to mark such landmark events as Royal marriages, wedding anniversaries and even the length of a reign.

Royalty certainly seems to be the most popular subject for the design of a coin, and even when Royal members themselves don't appear on coins, some other aspect of royalty does instead, such as a crown or a royal coat of arms for example.  It seems they rule over our currencies as well as our countries.