The Royal Mint has, this morning, unveiled the new portrait of The Queen which will soon appear on UK coins in an event at London’s National Portrait Gallery.
The new portrait, only the fifth time it has changed in Her Majesty’s reign, replaces the current Rank-Broadley effigy that was introduced in 1998. It is standard practice to update the royal portrait on coinage every 15 to 20 years.
Introducing the new portrait at this morning’s event, the CEO of The Royal Mint, Adam Lawrence, said: “This change of royal portrait will make 2015 a vintage year for UK coins, and it will be hugely exciting for us all to see the new design appear on the coins we use every day.”
The new portrait provides a fresh take on The Queen’s effigy in which she wears the Royal Diamond Diadem Crown, which she wore originally for her Coronation in 1953. Since the last portrait was introduced, Her Majesty has celebrated both her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and her Diamond Jubilee, ten years later, in 2012.
Compared to its predecessor by Ian Rank-Broadley, the new design is much more defined in certain areas. The Queen’s eyes are much more visible, and the lack of shadow brings about cleaner lines. It arguably strikes a more flattering tone for Her Majesty, who will overtake Queen Victoria to become the longest reigning British monarch in September.
Robert Jobson, Royal Editor for the London Evening Standard said: “I think it’s a wonderful, authentic portrait of Her Majesty. It reflects not only her status as Head of State but her femininity too.”
Designed by Jody Clark, it is the first time in over 100 years that one of The Royal Mint’s engravers has been selected as the creator of a definitive royal portrait.
Jody’s design was chosen after a closed competition saw a number of specialist designers submit their artworks for judging.
Speaking of the vision behind his new design, Clark said: “Although we were given photographs of Queen Elizabeth’s profile, I researched images online, something that past engravers would not have had the luxury of doing, which also helped me to decide what regalia I would include.
“I chose the Royal Diamond Diadem. I think it’s the most familiar, and I wanted to make some clear distinctions between the portrait by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, as Her Majesty hasn’t aged too much in the years since. The Diamond Diadem was featured in the portraits designed by Raphael Maklouf and Arnold Machin, so it’s a real nod to the past.”
The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC), which advises and acts as a panel of consultants for the Treasury, is responsible for the selection process.
Experts from a varied range of fields from history, sculpture, architecture, art and design invite a select group of designers to submit their interpretation of The Queen’s portrait.
After careful consideration and being judged on its merits, Jody’s artwork was recommended to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, before being submitted to Her Majesty for final approval.
The new design took around two to three weeks to initial a model before it was submitted to the RMAC and was subject to numerous changes and alterations as the finalisation process went along.
Gordon Summers, Chief Engraver at The Royal Mint, spoke about new technologies that are appearing and how they are changing the way in which The Royal Mint operates when minting coinage:
“What we don’t want to do is create an environment where there’s only one type of technology that can be used to produce a coin or portrait design. As the newer technology – the idea of digital modelling – comes along, we’ve accommodated that, and if a particular artist wants to use that technique to create their portrait or models, that’s fine. But there’s still a place for traditional modelling.”
Dr Kevin Clancy, the Royal Mint’s Head of Historical Services, described the new design as portraying a “warm, accessible and comfortable” Monarch, adding: “I think in achieving that, Jody’s done something very important which is to make an image that is human and could still be assembled. You don’t often see that in the portraits of Monarchs over the centuries.”
Profile: Jody Clark, Engraver, The Royal Mint
Born in the Lake District in 1981, Jody Clark is the youngest ever designer of a definitive royal portrait for UK coins at the age of 33. He began his interest in design at an early age and went on to study illustration at the University of Central Lancashire at 21.
Jody embarked on multiple freelance design projects and built up his experience in computer-aided design whilst working in the packaging industry.
He joined The Royal Mint in September 2012 and is responsible for medals and both UK and international circulating and commemorative coins. He has worked on a number of notable projects since, including designing the medals celebrating the 2014 Ryder Cup and NATO Summit in Wales, for which Prince Charles held a reception.
Last year, his contemporary interpretation of the Roman goddess, Britannia, adorned the coin’s 2014 collection and his latest achievement and interpretation of one of the most admired women in the world will last for many years to come.
Asked what he was going through his mind when he found out his design had been selected as the winner, he said: “I was shocked and a little bit nervous because I know this big launch would happen and the apprehension started.”
“I had to keep it quite quiet so I just let my immediate family know and they were really happy and really proud.”
The Royal Mint began minting British coins over 1,000 years ago and was for the largest part of its history based at the Tower of London. It remained there until 1812 when it moved outside the Tower into premises on the opposite Tower Hill. The Royal Mint moved to its current site in South Wales after building began in 1967.
Aside from its work with UK coinage, The Royal Mint is also responsible for making the official military campaign medals and has done since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The bi-centenary of the Battle will be commemorated later this year at St Paul’s Cathedral with members of the Royal Family expected to be in attendance.
In the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, The Royal Mint manufactured the medals for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – turning out 4,700 medals in total. It estimates that 28.9 billion UK coins are in use as of March 2014 with a face value of over £4billion.
The face of UK coins – four distinctive effigies
The Gillick Portrait, 1953
The earliest effigy of The Queen was created in 1953 to mark her Coronation. Designed by Mary Gillick, it was filled with youth which mirrored the young age of 25, at which Princess Elizabeth succeeded her father as Queen.
The portrait shows The Queen wearing a wreath of laurel as opposed to a crown and was a much more idealistic design, capturing a young lady’s promise, arguably to help people come to terms with the Coronation of the first Queen since 1901.
The Machin Portrait, 1968
9 years before Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee, discussions were underway for decimalisation in the UK. Arnold Machin, a sculptor from Stoke-on-Trent, was brought in to create a new portrait of the monarch which he modelled in two sittings.
The design is distinctive in its portrayal as it shows The Queen almost from the back. It prompted John Betjeman to declare the portrait as a little “racy” – to which Machin responded that his aim was to “produce a design with charm and dignity, and yet without sentimentality.”
The Maklouf Portrait, 1985
As the 1980s were in full swing, Raphael Maklouf was chosen to create the third definitive portrait of The Queen. Born in Jerusalem in 1937, Maklouf came to Britain after the Second World War. His portrait was the first to ‘cut off’ Her Majesty’s head at the shoulders.
Proud of his portrait, Maklouf reported on The Queen’s own comments, saying: “Her Majesty exclaimed that I took less time to complete the portrait in front of her eyes than it sometimes took photographers to get the lighting right and take the photographs.”
The Rank-Broadley Portrait, 1998
The most recent of the portraits and the one which is on the majority of today’s coins in the UK. Surrey born sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley took many months to complete his depiction trying to ensure that the portrait was “recognisable but not over-idealised.”
The portrait came after a particularly tough period for the monarchy. The Queen’s residence at Windsor, Windsor Castle, suffered severe damage in 1992. The decade then saw the breakdown in the marriage of three of the Queen’s children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew. Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in 1997 and the ensuing outcry over the Royal Family’s response is one of the few times that the Queen’s popularity has suffered.
The portrait is particularly heavy in shadow and doesn’t provide the most flattering of depictions of Her Majesty – something the new portrait by Jody Clark changes.
Image Credits: James Brookes / Royal Central & The Royal Mint.