H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’s forthcoming Diamond Jubilee makes it a fitting time to recall the four Royal effigies to have graced Australian coinage over the past 60 years. This article first appeared 9 years ago in ‘The Australian Numismatic Post’ (October 2002):
“All four effigies of The Queen to have appeared on Australian coins depict Her Majesty facing right. According to Britain’s Royal Mint, a convention dating back to the seventeenth century dictates that successive monarchs face in alternative directions on their coinage.
While the switch from the left-facing King George VI to the right-facing Elizabeth II was expected, Mary Gillick’s 1952 effigy of The Queen clearly took a new approach. Nottingham-born Gillick beat off competition from 16 other artists with her delicate design depicting the head and shoulders of the young, uncrowned monarch.
The Melbourne Mint considered the effigy “very beautiful, but rather difficult to do.” Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Treasury complained: “Seeing that the effigy of the late King George VI is quite clear cut, we do not understand why the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II should not be equally clear.”
In its response from London, The Royal Mint underlined the fact that Gillick’s treatment represented a “deliberate departure” from tradition. Despite the controversy it stirred at the time, the delightful image of the young Queen remains a favourite for many. It featured on Australian coins until decimalisation in 1966 when the Arnold Machin portrait was introduced (thereby pre-dating its adoption by British coins by two years).
Stoke-born Machin is justly famous for another portrait of The Queen, which featured on British stamps from 1967. It has been described as the most reproduced portrait of all time – literally, there have been billions. Earlier, in 1964, he had been chosen to design a new effigy for The Royal Mint – remarkably, his first numismatic project.
For his ‘decimal’ portrait, Machin was granted four sittings at Buckingham Palace and Balmoral. The work depicts a young but regal Queen, wearing a diamond tiara. When The Royal Mint unveiled the new coinage, numismatist and author H.W.A. Linecar wrote that it “adhered to the last vestige of tradition”.
The third portrait was by Raphael Maklouf, whose design shows The Queen with the Royal Diadem, which she wears on her way to and from the State Opening of Parliament. Jerusalem-born Maklouf, like Machin, was an accomplished sculptor when he tackled his first coin design.
It has been said that the resulting image, which first appeared on coins in 1985, depicts Her Majesty somewhat younger than her then 58 years. But it was Maklouf’s avowed intention to produce a “regal and ageless” symbol.
The fourth effigy, by Ian Rank-Broadley, first appeared on Australian coins in 1998. The design, selected from 19 entries submitted by 10 artists, again features The Queen wearing the tiara given to her as a wedding present by her grandparents. But the British designer noted, that as well as being Head of State, she was also a real person.
“There is no need to flatter her. She’s a 70-year old woman with poise and bearing,” he told the Times newspaper. “One doesn’t need to see a rather distant mask.”
Rank-Broadley’s “strong and realistic” portrait would probably have pleased numismatic conservatives of the earlier era. In many ways, it completes the gradual return to traditional design following Gillick’s bold experiment fifty years ago.”