Royal Mint goes woke: both white and black Britannia bullion coins

Started by eurocoin, March 21, 2021, 07:18:05 PM

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eurocoin

The Royal Mint has announced that starting this year and for at least the next 4 years it will issue 2 versions of its Britannia bullion coin in the premium range. A version depicting a white Britannia and one depicting a black Britannia. Apparently they have figured that it is not politically correct to only issue bullion coins depicting a white Britannia. The designs were made by artist P.J. Lynch.






Alan71

Is it 1st April?  No? 

Yes, there were black Romans but Britannia is such a mythical character that there was really no need to do this.

Will we look back in 20 years' time and laugh at the times we're in now?  I hope so.

quaziright

I suppose it is a copycat move from the US with its Black female liberty representation. I think it makes sense, Britannia is a personification of Britain, and if Britain claims to be multi ethnic, we should soon see a south Asian, Chinese, Malay and perhaps even a (trans/neutral) gender form

chrisild

Lynch posted a photo of a newspaper article about the coin on his Twitter account. Bummer, only parts of it can be read. ;)

Well, I am a little torn here. On one hand the concept of a country being represented by some allegorical female is so late 19th/early 20th century to me. But if you think you have to have it, sure, why not make it reflect at least the feminine portion of a diverse population?

Christian

eurocoin

Am in the fortunate situation of receiving all British newspapers every midnight:

Loose change: why I drew a black Britannia for coins

For the first time in history, Britannia has been depicted as a woman of colour on UK currency and the designer is an Irish illustrator of children's books.

Britannia, the personification of Britain, first appeared on coins 1,900 years ago. With her helmet, trident and shield, the female warrior featured on Roman money before becoming an emblem on British coins 350 years ago. She was always dressed for battle and always white ... until now. PJ Lynch was chosen by the Royal Mint to design its 2021 commemorative coinage. After being sent a brief that stipulated her clothes but did not mention ethnicity, Lynch drew her as a black woman. The depiction shows Britannia in profile and wearing a helmet. A range of coins bearing the image is for sale, varying in price from PS62.50 for a small coin to PS70,275 for a 1kg gold version. The most expensive coins were made in a limited run of five and have sold out.

Lynch was born in Belfast but is based in Dublin. A second illustration by him was also used in this year's collection; it shows a more traditional version of Britannia as a white warrior, seated beside a lion. The design process took 18 months and the final versions were approved by the Queen. Lynch said the idea of presenting Britannia as a woman of colour was his own. "That certainly wasn't anything in the brief," he said. "When I'm working on a project, I do some drawings and if I feel I'm getting nowhere, I re-read the brief. "I kept coming back to one little phrase, which was to do with Britannia representing the people of Britain, as opposed to the leaders of Britain or the royal family or nobility. "I'd been doing these drawings of Britannia looking very much like a Greek goddess, with a Hellenistic profile. Then I thought, 'What's that got to do with anyone who lives in Britain today?' So I started rejigging it." Lynch describes the final design as "an amalgamation of a lot of different faces I have going on in my head". He said the fact that Britannia had never been depicted as anything but white said a lot about Britain and its iconography. "This was the [face] I thought worked best. Why not have someone who's from a different ethnic background? It seemed very apt," he said.

"I've been doing kids' books for a long time and I've always thought those reading the books should see representations of themselves. It's something I've always done without making a big fuss about it. "In some of my earliest books I brought in non-white characters because it felt like the right thing to do."

The Royal Mint has promised to continue to "explore diversity" using its Britannia range over the next four years. "Britannia is an enduring symbol of the people. As the nation evolves it is right that her image should evolve too," said Clare Maclennan, director for commemorative coin at the Royal Mint.

Lynch was approached about designing coins several years ago. It took him a while to get the hang of it. He said: "You're not putting extra stuff in to enhance it, you're cutting it down to the minimum." He said landing the Britannia job was "as big as it gets". He has now done seven designs for the company, which is owned by the government.

Efforts to diversify traditional characters in other industries have encountered resistance, including Disney's decision to cast Halle Bailey, an actress of colour, as Ariel in its remake of The Little Mermaid. Lynch said he would be surprised if his design provoked such a reaction. "I don't think we'd expect a backlash but there'll be some who won't like the idea of it," he said.

<k>

Britannia was originally an ancient Roman invention and not British. That can be seen from her clothes and her name. To quote myself from my topic Ruling out Britannia: "what did the Romans ever do for us (British) anyway?" ; and "personally, I do not pine for the Roman occupation!"

Apparently ancient Rome was multi-racial, being near the Mediterranean and Africa, and - so far as we know - Romans did not think in 'racial' terms. So a Roman woman might well have been black. But in any case, Britannia is a fictional woman. I argued in my topic cited above that we Brits should get rid of her anyway. Nobody would think of portraying Bouddica / Boadicea as black, because she was a real ancient Briton and therefore presumably white. Britannia is fictional, so presumably there is no problem with changing her 'race'. Just look at Doctor Who - the character has been portrayed as a black woman recently.

So, there is nothing wrong with a black Britannia - except that in my opinion she is NOT British! I therefore suggest that we get rid of Britannia from our UK coinage entirely and put Doctor Who in her place. In future, gold and silver 'Doctor Who' coins would replace the Britannia bullion coins, and then nobody could complain even if the good doctor would be portrayed as an extraterrestrial. Come on, bullion collectors: would you invest in a Doctor Who?

Beyond that, it is of course true that the UK is increasingly multi-ethnic, and those below the age of 40 accept it as normal. The NHS hospitals in London are overwhelmingly run by people who would previously have been regarded as 'ethnic minorities'. I suspect they would have no problem with a black Britannia.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

chrisild

Quote from: eurocoin on March 22, 2021, 01:02:28 PM
Am in the fortunate situation of receiving all British newspapers every midnight

;D Thanks for the "context"! The part about Britannia as a person of color being his own idea, not the government's or mint's, is quite interesting ...

Christian

Figleaf

If Britannia is a symbol, not a person, who cares about its race/age/gender/religion/pose/first language or even clothes? I have seen people enraged by a cartoon rendition of the prophet and being strongly condemned for it, possibly by the same people who are now enraged by the profanity of a black Britannia. I have seen Britannia in a miniskirt, Marianne on a bicycle, the statue of liberty in hundreds of variants. The only point is whether the symbol remains immediately recognisable. So why is this an issue?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

chrisild

Quote from: Figleaf on March 23, 2021, 01:34:48 PM
So why is this an issue?

Because a 19th century (or so  ::) ) symbol may or may not work well in the present. If a government, mint etc. insists on using such symbols these days, why not think about what they could look like today? After all, this is not about replacing Britannia with a Black Britannia but rather enhancing the concept. You still have more than one current depiction ...

(Besides, we are talking about bullion pieces, not means of payment.  >:D )

Christian

<k>

There again, people usually still think in binary: black or white. What about the UK's Chinese community? Latin American community? Et cetera. Where are their Britannias? If anybody from the Tower or Pobjoy Mints are reading, what's the betting they will steal my idea?  ;D
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

chrisild

Quote from: <k> on March 23, 2021, 02:12:21 PM
Where are their Britannias?

From what I heard, there will be a year 2022. ;)  Thus new design opportunities, and yes, there may well be a different Britannia then. I am fine with this, as long as it demonstrates there are several "ethnicities" – it should not mean each and every ethnic group has to be represented. Just as it should be perfectly normal to have various skin tones on the job, in movies, and so on.

Christian

Deeman

Quote from: <k> on March 23, 2021, 02:12:21 PM
There again, people usually still think in binary: black or white. What about the UK's Chinese community? Latin American community? Et cetera. Where are their Britannias? If anybody from the Tower or Pobjoy Mints are reading, what's the betting they will steal my idea?  ;D

How about an uncoloured Britannia accompanied by a pot of paint with your choice of colour?

quaziright

Quote from: <k> on March 23, 2021, 02:12:21 PM
There again, people usually still think in binary: black or white. What about the UK's Chinese community? Latin American community? Et cetera. Where are their Britannias? If anybody from the Tower or Pobjoy Mints are reading, what's the betting they will steal my idea?  ;D

*ahem* your idea; obviously stolen from my post earlier. Any royalties can be sent to Toronto please.

<k>

Quote from: quaziright on March 23, 2021, 03:49:02 PM
*ahem* your idea; obviously stolen from my post earlier. Any royalties can be sent to Toronto please.

Actually, I never read your post. I am much older than you and first mentioned my critique of binary thinking (a concept you did not reference) to a workmate circa 1990. I am not a monarchist and thought you were not either, but perhaps we Europeans can send our royalties to live with you for good.  ;D
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.