Volume 60, Number 11, November 2022
Looking forward THE passing of Her Majesty was a sad event, made no less so than it was, to a certain extent, expected given her age. The fact that she hadn’t seemed ill or infirm added, I think, to our sense of shock and loss but few of us were truly surprised. Indeed, after the initial news had sunk in it seemed that the overwhelming feeling was that she had, inasmuch as possible, had a “good” death. She died at an advanced age, in a place she loved, surrounded by at least some of her family and, at least to our knowledge, hadn’t suffered. She also hadn’t had to live for too long without the love of her life—we must remember that her mother, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, lived for over half a century after her husband King George VI died, and that’s a long time to be alone. Her Majesty only had to spend 18 months without her beloved Philip. Now though, now the period of mourning is over, now that we are finding ways to adjust to the end of the second great Elizabethan era, now we must move on. We will never forget Her Majesty’s legacy, of course, but the world continues to turn and we look to the future—to put it in basic terms, the Queen is dead, long live the King. Just how what “moving on” means for the medal world we will have to see. We know now that the King’s coinage profile has already been released. In what was quite a surprising move for many of us who hadn’t expected to see anything for a while, the new portrait that will appear on coins of the realm was announced at the end of September. The effigy, by sculptor Martin Jennings, is a realistic, rather than stylised, portrait of King Charles III (who we now know is Charles and not CAROLVS which was always a possibility, although whether he stays Charles on medals or adopts the Latin remains to be seen) and has generally been well received, but there has been no word on whether this will also be used on medals. Using a coinage bust is not uncommon; as detailed in last month’s MEDAL NEWS, many of Her late Majesty’s early medals use the Mary Gillick laureate head (and the later ones used the Ian Rank-Broadley coinage effigy) and the campaign medals of the two World Wars used coinage profiles too. However, as a rule, the portrait that appears on the coins isn’t necessarily the only one to feature on medals. Queen Elizabeth had the Tudor Crown profile, as did her father, and later she had the St Edward’s Crown effigy too. King George V had a number of portraits in use showing him in Field Marshal’s Uniform, Admiral’s uniform, Coronation robes and Delhi Durbar robes. Edward VII also used military uniformed busts as well as the coinage profile and Queen Victoria’s medals featured four main portraits, the three coinage effigies and the younger veiled head. We do not know at this stage whether King Charles III will wish to stick with the couped uncrowned head visible on the new coins or go with something more elaborate but it cannot be long before we find out—the coronation date has been set for May 6, 2023, and there surely must be a Coronation Medal to commemorate the event. In the meantime, other more subtle changes will take place. Those medals that feature cyphers will change, as too might the names of certain medals—or perhaps they’ll now be ceased altogether with new medals taking their place. Take, for example, the Queen’s Gallantry Medal—that was instituted in 1974 but will it now stop, to be replaced by the King’s Gallantry Medal? Will it be the same medal just with a new title and new profile or will it be redesigned? Or perhaps it will continue on as the Queen’s Gallantry Medal in memory of Her Late Majesty? That seems unlikely but it’s not impossible. One assumes that the Elizabeth Cross will continue to be called just that, in the same way the George Cross and Victoria Cross continue to bear the name of the monarchs who instituted them, but that in turn leads us on to wonder whether there will in time be a “Charles Cross” or “Charles Medal”, after all, apart from King George V, all monarchs stretching back nearly 200 years have a medal named after them—will our new king want to follow suit? All of these questions and more will be answered in time, we have had the same Queen for the past 70 years and now a new Monarch sits on the throne there are bound to be changes but not, I think, all at once. King Charles has always been seen as a modern, progressive man but he understands tradition too and I don’t see a major overhaul of anything just yet, although that of course supposes Charles remains Head of State of all the countries of which his mother was Queen, again something we do not yet know. One thing is for certain—in medal terms at least, it’s going to be an interesting few years. Watch this space.
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