Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth’s portrait graced the currencies of 33 different countries, more than that of any other individual. Canada was the first, in 1935, when it printed the 9-year-old Princess Elizabeth on its $20 notes. Mother England was slower to adapt. Only in 1960, the Bank England issued a new note which was the first to have the Queen’s image. Five different portraits of the Queen have been used on banknotes since: (above, l. to r.) Robert Austin (1960), Reynolds Stone (1963), Harry Ecclestone (1970 and 1971) and Roger Withington (1990). Over the years, 26 different portraits — most commissioned with the sole purpose of putting them on banknotes — have been used in the U.K. and its current and former colonies, dominions and territories, not without some controversy. While many countries update their currencies to reflect the Queen’s advancing age, others kept her young.

Shortly after Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne, she sat for a single portrait session with Dorothy Wilding, the first woman to be awarded a Royal Warrant to be an official royal photographer. Appearing on magazine covers, banknotes, stamps and coins in slightly different forms, photos taken during that session became some of the most frequently reproduced images in the world. (In the above photo, the Queen was wearing the George IV State Diadem and the necklace presented for her wedding by Nizam of Hyderabad).

On the stamps, Wilding image was used until a second series was made in 1967. John Hedgecoe took a series of profile shots of the Queen in 1966 after being commissioned by the Postmaster General. Once the Queen had selected her favourite, the sculptor Arnold Machin made it up into a plaster relief, which Hedgecoe then photographed. It is this shot which has since been reproduced on some 200 billion (and counting) stamps, making Hedgecoe and Machin most copied artists in history. The image was also put on a banknote; when Bermuda decided to redesign its currency in 2009, it somehow decided to use this portrait which was already 40 years old!.

Professor Hedgecoe died 3rd June 2010.

Her Majesty marked her 84th official birthday yesterday.

Happy Birthday, Ma’am!

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