A brief look at the history of the ‘Graces’

This year, we have been influenced by William Wyons’ classical Three Graces design for the new 2022 Her Majesty’s Graces Platinum Jubilee Gold Sovereign range, celebrating the incredible Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.

However, what do we actually know about the ‘Graces’ and where the inspiration for the design came from? In this blog, we will be looking back at the history of the Graces.

Greek Mythology

According to Greek mythology, the Three Charites, were the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome (or as stated in other accounts Hera) and were the personifications of beauty, charm and grace. Although their name was ‘Charites’ in Greek mythology, they became known famously by the name ‘Graces’ in Roman mythology. They are named Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia. The goddesses were frequently associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Aglaia was the goddess of beauty, elegance, brightness and splendour. She was the wife of Hephaistos with whom she had four children. Euphrosyne was the goddess of joy, mirth and good cheer, and she is always depicted dancing and making her sisters happy. Thalia was the goddess of festivity, cheer and bloom, and is almost always depicted with her sisters, rather than alone.

Their main role was to give joy to all people and to serve as role models to young women. Occasionally, the Graces were regarded as the goddesses of dance, music and poetry, as they would often entertain the gods Dionysus, Apollo and Hermes. The Graces also symbolise beauty, arts, joy, fertility, youth and creativity.


The Graces are particularly inspirational to artists, and over the years there have been countless paintings, sculptures and designs depicting the three sisters. The earliest depictions of The Three Graces were in sculptures and mosaics in ancient temples, and it wasn’t until during the Renaissance when the goddesses became a popular theme in paintings. Botticelli featured the Graces draped in cloth in his painting ‘Primavera’ in the 1400s, while Raphael decided to depict the women naked in his painting ‘Three Graces’ created in the early 1500s; a theme that would carry on for centuries.

It was common for artists to use women as mythological characters as a way of representing the female body naked, otherwise, it would have been deemed outrageous. Similar paintings to Raphael’s portrayal of The Three Graces include: Lucas Cranach’s ‘The Elder’ from 1531, Peter Paul Ruben’s ‘The Three Graces’ from 1620-5, and Alessandro Varotari (Il Padovanino) ‘s ‘The 3 Graces’ from 1620-1640. Paintings of the goddesses have repeatedly been created, but the most famous depiction of the Three Graces comes from the sculpture created in Rome by Antoni Canova, between 1815 and 1817.

William Wyon

William Wyon, born in 1795, was one of the greatest ever coin designers from the Victorian era. He became Chief Engraver for the Royal Mint in 1828 and created dies for coinage for George IV and William IV. However, he was most renowned for his portraits of Queen Victoria. He worked for the Royal Mint until his death in 1851 and during that time engraved at least 43 different coins.

When he was just 22 years old, William took inspiration from Greek mythology and created his own interpretation of ‘The Three Graces’ for a competition to design the coins for the ‘Great Re-coinage of 1816. Unfortunately, William did not win this competition, and so they were only created as ‘pattern coins’. The tiny limitation of these coins made them incredibly sought after.

William’s design of The Three Graces depicts three female figures, dressed in classical style – he followed in Botticelli’s footsteps by having the women clothed. Above them reads ‘Foedus Inviolabile (Inviolable or Unbreakable League). At their feet lies a harp, a shield bearing the cross of St George, and an oversized thistle. Shamrocks, roses and more thistles are also depicted, representing the union between the three nations, formed as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.


You can view the 2022 Her Majesty’s Graces Platinum Jubilee Gold Sovereign Range HERE.