Britannia: The History & Coin Usage

Britannia; conceived as a symbol of strength and unity, and created to personify the province shores taken over by the Romans. Since then, the symbol of Britannia has been as ever-present figure, reassuring the nation through the many times of disruption, change and upheaval.

A warrior, seated with a spear in her hand, was created to establish political unity, with Britannia first appearing on coins of the Emperor Hadrian more than 2,000 years ago. Britannia sadly disappeared with the Romans in 400 AD, only to be revived during the reign of Elizabeth I, and through 1672 coinage by Charles II.

On these new 1672 coins, Britannia looked remarkably similar to her Roman appearance; seated, facing left, with a shield close to her left arm. However, she now held a prominent spear in her left arm and a laurel branch in her right hand. Since then, the obverses of these coins altered with each new ruler, but Britannia’s pose and appearance remained the same.

Since her initial 1672 reappearance, Britannia has never been absent from the nation’s coins. She has also become more and more associated with the sea, seated on rocks and with ships in the background, even replacing her spear with a trident in some cases.

Britannia is now the national identity, and in turn, has been a fixture on coins for centuries. Her pose represents strength, her shield offers protection, and her forward-facing gaze looks towards the future. She does however continue to be reinterpreted by different artists, each choosing to emphasise a different aspect of her symbolism and appearance, to reflect the time and meaning behind the coin.


Britannia: Modern-Day Sovereigns

As mentioned, Britannia now stands proud on many coins today, including one of the most unique in the Hattons of London range; The 2019 Four-Sided Gold Proof Sovereign, the world’s first four-sided gold sovereign. This was created to celebrate the four countries of Great Britain, with Britannia seated central and the HMS Ark Royal behind. The four corners of this sovereign then feature the floral motif from each of the four nations.

This is the first four sided sovereign every to be minted.  Authorised by Tristan da Cunha, and approved by both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Buckingham Palace, it is a wonderful celebration, and features Britannia, the nations symbol of strength, in full view.

You can view the full 2019 Four-Sided Gold Proof Sovereign range HERE.