King Charles III Is the New Face of U.K. Money

LONDON — In recent months, as Britain has healed from mourning its queen, the beginning of a new reign has started to show in the country’s daily life.

England’s World Cup team sang “God Save the King.” For the first time in decades, a king welcomed a new prime minister. Now, as Britons prepare for the first Christmas without Queen Elizabeth II’s traditional message, the Bank of England has announced another major change.

On Monday, it unveiled new pound notes with King Charles III’s portrait that are expected to enter in circulation in mid-2024.

The new £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes will be printed only to replace worn-out currency or to meet any increase in demand, so bank notes with the images of the late queen and the current king will circulate at the same time.

The announcement marked another new page in Britain’s history, with King Charles taking his mother’s place on the throne and in the rituals and symbols that testify to the royal family’s presence in everyday life.

“This is a significant moment,” the bank’s governor, Andrew Bailey, said in a statement, adding that King Charles was only the second monarch to be featured on the pound notes.

Pound notes were first issued at the end of the 17th century, but the British sovereign has been featured on them only since 1960, with Queen Elizabeth II being the first monarch to appear. The initial notes bore a portrait of the queen wearing the family’s diamond diadem.

“It was a formal, regal image, and was criticized for being a severe and unrealistic likeness,” according to the Bank of England.

A second portrait by another designer had a better reception, because people thought that the portrait was more realistic and she looked more “relaxed,” according to the bank. Other portraits were introduced later, but the most familiar one for most Britons is the one featuring a more mature queen, drawn in 1990. The same portrait continued to appear after 2016, when the bills started being printed on plastic rather than paper.

A commemorative coin depicting Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.Credit…Ashley Chan/Associated Press
The official coin effigy of King Charles III.Credit…Tom Harrison/The Royal Mint

Since the 17th century, monarchs have been represented on coins facing in the opposite direction of their immediate predecessor, so King Charles faces left, while his mother faced right.

The notes do not seem to be subjected to the same tradition, as the sovereigns are portrayed from the front.

In recent years, Britain has paid tribute to some of its prestigious national figures by introducing currency featuring former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the novelist Jane Austen, the painter J.M.W. Turner and the mathematician Alan Turing.

The Royal Mint, the official maker of British coins, also announced the creation of £5 and 50-pence coins bearing the king’s effigy, created by the sculptor Martin Jennings. They will not replace Queen Elizabeth’s coins, in order to “minimize the environmental and financial impact of the change of monarch,” the Royal Mint said.

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