The first gold sovereign coins for the accession of a British monarch, released to celebrate our new king, Charles III
This is a great moment in British history: we have a new monarch for the first time in over seventy years, and our first king since the mid-twentieth century. There are generations alive today for whom this will be the first time they have uttered the words “God save the king”.
Another exciting first for our new king’s reign: for the first time in over 200 years of gold sovereign history the accession of a monarch has been commemorated by the striking of commemorative gold sovereign coins.
For our new king, new commemorative gold coins, the very first of their kind in history
In this day-and-age of instant news it’s easy to gloss over just how significant this event is: the last time there was a change of monarch in Britain, the average house price was just under £1,900, wartime rationing was still in place, a pint of beer cost 9p, a pint of milk 4p, and only 8% of households had a fridge. Gold was just over £12 per ounce!
Comparisons such as this illustrate just how long it’s been since Britain had a new monarch. This is an event that many people may only ever see once in their lifetime and so it is entirely appropriate that those who wish to mark this event in their lives, and in the history of our nation, are able to own something precious to anchor this memory.
This is why the accession of King Charles III is being marked with special commemorative gold sovereign coins – the first sovereigns ever issued to mark the accession of a British monarch.
They feature the King’s royal cypher, and Scots cypher (on the quarter sovereign), on one side along with floral symbols of the four countries of the United Kingdom, a reminder of the new king’s visit to those four nations upon his accession. On the obverse side is a portrait of the king by artist Jody Clark, designer of the final portrait of the Late Queen Elizabeth II.
A number of features make these new accession sovereigns among the most important of their kind
Commemorative gold sovereign coins are issued sparingly, to mark events of major national and royal significance. The accession of our new king is an event of incredible magnitude, and these new coins are the first of their kind to celebrate this event. However, this is just one of many features that commend them:
Our new king, Charles III, is the ninth monarch to have sovereigns bearing his portrait – but crucially, he is the very first to ever have any sovereigns commemorate his accession!
On the reverse side of the coins is depicted King Charles III’s royal cypher (or Scots cypher on the quarter sovereign) – an interlocking letter C and letter R, for ‘Carolus Rex’ inside which are the roman numerals ‘III’, all surmounted by a crown. These are also the first sovereign coins to carry the new king’s cypher.
To recognise the importance of the four countries of the United Kingdom to the King, each is represented on individual coins by their distinctive floral motifs: the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh daffodil and the Irish shamrock. You may recall that upon his accession King Charles III visited each of the home nations.
The obverse of these coins is significant too – the King faces the opposite direction to his mother, maintaining a tradition that dates back to the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the reign of the our new king’s namesake – King Charles II.
King Charles III faces the opposite way to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as dictated by centuries of tradition
It may surprise you to see that King Charles III faces left, the opposite direction to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. This is actually a tradition that dates back to the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the reign of our new king’s namesake, King Charles II.
This tradition has not been evident for the 70 years during which we had just one monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – and in fact, for over 50 of those years, we have had only her coins in circulation as the change to decimal currency in 1971 removed any coins of previous monarchs that may have been in circulation up until that point.
This is why it may seem slightly unusual to see our new monarch facing in the opposite direction to his mother, but this is in fact upholding a centuries-old tradition – but for the first time in generations.
You may be wondering why no monarch has ever before had their accession celebrated with gold coins in this way
The modern gold sovereign was first produced in the year 1817 for King George III. Our new king, Charles III, is the ninth monarch to have sovereigns bearing his portrait – but crucially, he is the very first to ever have his accession commemorated by the issue of gold sovereign coins.
The reason no monarch has previously released accession coins is related to the considerable time it takes to design, sample, cut dies, strike then have approved, gold sovereign coins. In the past, this process would have taken so many months that it would have overlapped most monarchs’ coronations. However, King Charles III is the first monarch to accede in the digital age, which has dramatically reduced some (but not all) of these arduous stages.
It’s also worth acknowledging that the accession of a new monarch is often quite sudden, coming as it does upon the death of their predecessor. This means there can be no ‘advance preparation’.
So, although these accession sovereign coins come a few months after King Charles III’s accession, this is the first time in history such coins have been able to be released so close to the event, which is why they are the first gold sovereigns ever to mark the accession of a new British monarch.
Authorised by Tristan Da Cunha and approved by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Buckingham Palace, it is a wonderful celebration – and a first one at that – the first sovereign coins of their kind ever to mark the accession of a British monarch!