Volume 61, Number 6, June 2023
Something of a rarity IT TOOK a while, but we finally have the design for the Coronation Medal! Although why it took so long to be unveiled is something of a mystery, as it hardly breaks with tradition and doesn’t seem like something that would have needed to be pored over endlessly or debated in any way. It is a British Coronation Medal and simply couldn’t be anything else! The design of the conjoined busts of the respective King and Queen have appeared for the coronations in 1902, 1911 and 1937 (and the Jubilee in 1935) and so Charles and Camilla’s appearance in 2023 should have come as no real surprise. They even face the same way as Charles’ forebears did on their medals (i.e., to the left) opposite to the Queen’s bust on the ’53 coronation (although that rule of alternating profiles seems only to apply to coins not medals, if you think of Edward VII’s effigy on medals most appear facing left, the same way as his Mother, Queen Victoria, but on his coinage he faced right) so again no break with tradition there. The reverse is the same, it is very much in keeping with what has gone before, bearing as it does the Royal Cypher and the date of the Coronation. The ribbon is also very traditional—it’s red, white, and blue (with the pattern of the colours very reminiscent of the Union Flag) so again no surprises there at all; every Coronation and Jubilee medal since 1887 has used one or more of those colours, only the shades differing from time to time. Only the metal and plating (nickel silver, nickel plated) sets it apart from the previous medals and there is no doubt it has a modern look, but I cannot imagine that that was the reason we didn’t know about the design until 48 hours before the ceremony. Whatever the reason, whether it was because the Palace wanted to keep an eye on things or perhaps because they wanted secrecy to ensure no cheap copies were in circulation before the event (or something else entirely), it doesn’t really matter now—we have the medal, it’s being manufactured as I write and soon the first will be being presented to the 400,000 eligible to receive one (as with the Platinum Jubilee Medal of last year that will be members of the Armed Forces and the uniformed Emergency Services with five years continuous service as of May 6, 2023). All we do now is sit back and wait for the first ones to appear on eBay and the subsequent frenzy of bidding and vocal condemnation as happened last year when the first Platinum Jubilee Medals appeared online! I hope these new medals won’t be sold on as quickly as they are received. As a collector I’d love to get hold of one, of course, but I think if anyone does seek to get rid of theirs at the earliest opportunity then they will regret it—mainly because I’m not sure just how many medals are actually going to feature our new King. If you think about it logically it’s going to be very few—his reign will not be as long as his Mother’s was, we aren’t going to have a World War like his Grandfather and Great-Grandfather lived through, and we aren’t in an age of Empire like we were in the days of his Great-Great Grandfather or Great-Great-Great Grandmother. There will, of course, be Long Service, Accumulated Service, and Meritorious Service Medals that show his effigy (which we still haven’t had a glimpse of so still don’t know if it will be the Jennings coinage profile or something new) as we have to assume that if you reach your requisite number of years’ service/criteria under King Charles III then the medal you receive will bear his likeness, but what else? Hopefully there will be no new wars under our new monarch, no new Koreas, Falklands, Iraqs or Afghanistans to issue campaign medals for—far more likely these days are NATO or UN Campaign Medals anyway—and although there is the new General Service Medal 2008 the numbers being awarded that are far smaller than were awarded its predecessors. This lack of active military campaigns will, inevitably, mean fewer military gallantry awards to bear the King’s effigy too. There will be gallantry awards but will they, I wonder, be new ones? Will the Queen’s Police Medal and Fire Service Medal remain titled as they are with the King’s head on? Will they be renamed? Will they keep the late Queen’s bust as a memorial? Will there be brand new medals entirely? Either way there won’t be many of them, the same with the Royal Victorian Medal, it will, presumably, now have His Majesty’s effigy on the obverse but there are never that many awarded. There’s unlikely to be a Silver Jubilee Medal, it’s possible of course but King Charles will be 98 if he makes 25 years on the throne so the odds are against him if we’re honest; so, in all likelihood this new Coronation Medal is going to be the only one featuring the King many people will ever receive. So, whilst it may seem a perfectly ordinary Coronation Medal now, the same as Coronation Medals of old, I think we will, in time, come to view it as just a little bit special and despite it having the largest distribution of all the Coronation Medals, we’ll soon realise just what a rarity it really is.
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