Is this really the end for Britannia?

Dear Editor, The figure of Britannia has appeared on British coins since as far back as Roman times. Several coins issued under Hadrian featured a female figure who apparently personified Britain, with the name Britannia stamped on the coin.

The figure is usually shown sitting on a rock, holding a spear and with a shield beside her, but on some coins Britannia is seated on a globe above waves, perhaps signifying that Britain was on the edge of the then known world.

Move on to the time of Charles II and, according to Samuel Pepys, the Duchess of Richmond (one of the King's mistresses) was posing for the picture of Britannia which was engraved on copper coins of the period. Again, Britannia was sitting on rock, but now holding an olive branch as well as the spear.

In 1797, Matthew Boulton won the contract to produce 20 tons of tuppences and 480 tons of pennies at his Soho works in Birmingham. This was the first time that Britannia had appeared on coins of this worth and meant the figure had now appeared on four different coin denominations.

Now Britannia acquired a more naval look. Her spear became a trident, waves lapped around the rock where she was seated, and a ship was pictured in the background to signify Britain's naval power at this time. In George IV's reign, Britannia was turned round to face right instead of left and she gained a lion (lying beside the rock) and a helmet.

Early Victorian pennies were still in circulation in the 1960s so many Birmingham Post readers will remember the image of Britannia on those coins - still with the sea and the ship, but also with a lighthouse as well. There were various changes over the years (including some coins which featured a standing figure of Britannia) but by the reign of George VI the penny coin showed her sitting again and still with a lighthouse. However the ship had gone - having sailed off to grace the back of the halfpenny coin of this period.

In 1969, a 50p coin was introduced ahead of decimalisation in 1971. Once more, Britannia was featured, still sitting on the rock.

It is clear Britannia has had a long and distinguished career on British coinage, but now Gordon Brown has decided she has to go, having apparently approved new coinage designs as one of his last acts as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Britannia has personified Britain for centuries. Gordon Brown wants to encourage Britishness. Perhaps there isn't room for both of them in 21st century Britain. But personally, I would rather see Gordon Brown go and left Britannia where she belongs, gracing British coinage as she has done for centuries.


Conservative Parliamentary

Candidate for Edgbaston ..SUPL: