The Five Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II

The image of Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Head of the Commonwealth, has appeared on the currency of 35 countries and has graced coins on every continent except Antarctica. A Guinness World Record for ‘most currencies featuring the same individual’. There have been a number of obverse types which have been produced for special occasions such as her jubilees and for the overseas territories and the Commonwealth of Nations. For the purpose of this article we will be looking into the five portraits which were produced not only for commemorative and proof coins, but also those found on coins which have circulated. 


Mary Gillick Portrait 1953 to 1968 

Ascending to the throne in 1952, her image first appeared on coins in 1953 following her coronation that year. This first portrait, by Mary Gillick, a sculptor who had previously designed medals, shows a youthful bust of Queen Elizabeth II, she wears a dress and is uncrowned, instead she wears a laurel wreath. This design was selected from a pool of seventeen designs to be used on circulating coinage. 

The original dies for this portrait lacked the required relief to be struck well, with dress folds and facial features lacking the required detail. This issue was solved by the remastering of the dies by Cecil Thomas, a notable medallist who had produced medals for the Royal Mint. 

 Image courtesy of the Royal Mint


Arnold Machin Portrait 1968 - 1985

Whilst decimalisation in the UK did happen until 1971, to familiarise the public with the new coinage, 5 pence and 10 pence coins entered circulation in 1968. These were to replace shillings and florins and these pre-decimal and decimal coins were in circulation together until decimalisation. To distinguish these new coins, a new portrait was to be designed. 

Designed by Arnold Machin, a renowned sculptor and Royal Academician, the new portrait showed a bust of The Queen enrobed and wearing the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara’. Like the Mary Gillick portrait before it, Machin opted against using a “couped” bust. 

Image courtesy of the Royal Mint


Raphael Maklouf Portrait 1985 - 1997

From 1985 to 1997, UK circulating coins featured a royal portrait by the sculptor Raphael Maklouf. The portrait was “couped” and showed The Queen crowned with the ‘George IV State Diadem wears a necklace and drop earrings’. A first for coinage portraits of Elizabeth II, the designer added his initials to the truncation, Maklouf included his middle initial, D for David, to make sure that his initials wouldn’t be seen as a reference to The Royal Mint.

Image courtesy of the Royal Mint


Ian Rank-Broadley 1998 - 2015

Elizabeth II’s fourth coinage portrait was designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, a highly respected sculptor responsible for many memorials, including Kensington Palace’s Princess Diana statue unveiled earlier this year. He was invited to participate in a competition to design a new royal portrait in 1996 and his selected work introduced a greater degree of realism. In the artist’s own words, ‘… needed no flattery’. As coins of smaller diameters were now being issued, he wanted to fill as much of the field as possible. His portrait shows a realistic Queen Elizabeth II wearing the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara’ and wearing smaller earrings than the Maklouf portrait, she is ‘couped’ and below the truncation are the designer's initials, IRB. 

Image courtesy of the Royal Mint


Jody Clark Portrait 2015 - present

Jody Clark is the first coin designer employed by the Royal Mint to design a royal coinage portrait in over 100 years. The latest portrait of The Queen was unveiled in 2015, and features  ‘couped’ bust with a wavy truncation, again she is depicted with a heavy degree of realism, she wears the ‘George IV State Diadem’ and wearing the larger drop earrings again, the designers initials JC appear below the truncation. 

Image courtesy of the Royal Mint

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