Britannia – the dog that didn’t bark

So the new set of UK coinage has been announced by the Royal Mint. This flora and fauna themed set look a bit toytown to me but then all new coins have that lack of familiarity, overall they are a nice set. What interests me is the reaction – or rather lack of reaction.

You see when the move to decimal currency happened, there was an outcry as the old penny disappeared and there was no Britannia depicted in the new range. Quickly the original 50p design of the full Royal coat of arms was ditched (eventually being released as a commemorative in 2013) and a new design with Britannia seated released to replace the 10-shilling note in 1969.

40 years is a long time for a set of coins so in 2008 the shield definitives again, again there was no place for Britannia, the new 50p formed the point of the shield with segments of the Irish harp and English leopards. Cue outcry from the usual subjects, the Daily Mail calling it an embarrassment to Gordon Brown. William Hague was even stronger, proclaiming “It is all too typical of a Government with an inadequate sense of British pride and an ignorance of history to want to do away with such a symbol.”1

The Mail’s petition did not result in another change of mind and Britannia disappeared until George Osborne to some fanfare brought the image back to the little seen definitive £2 coin in 20152

Now, as you will have noticed, there’s no Britannia to be seen in the new set, the £2 has been replaced by a four-nation selection of rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock. So any shock from the Mail or the Conservative Party? Absolutely not a squeak. The Mail’s story is basically just a copy/paste from the Royal Mint’s press releases, gushing about King Charles’ love of nature.3

So, was the furore back in 1968 and 2008 just a concocted story to attack Labour governments? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

  1. As reported by the Daily Mail on 2nd February 2008. ↩︎
  2. Somewhat tempered when the Mail discovered the model for the new Britannia was slightly based on a Polish immigrant. ↩︎
  3. It would be easy to attribute the capercaillie’s plight to the fact the King’s father shot so many of them, but they were only reintroduced to Scotland after their first extinction from these Isles so that people could carry on shooting them. ↩︎