Queen Elizabeth II will officially become the longest-serving British monarch Wednesday after serving 63 years, beating a record set by her own great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
The 89-year-old Queen Elizabeth has seen an enormous amount of change during her reign. Unlike most people, however, her own evolution has been documented in an unusual way: On banknote portraits.
Since first appearing as a young royal on Canadian notes as a child to modern-day portrayals, the queen has appeared on currency all around the world.
Before she was queen
The two portraits of the queen prior to her accession to the throne were both featured on Canadian banknotes. The first was the queen at 8 years old; the second, taken by famous photographer Yousuf Karsh, was issued in 1951.
The newly crowned queen
In 1952, the 26-year-old Elizabeth took the throne. The majority of the young queen’s portraits were taken that year: Seven out of the eight portraits listed below of the queen in her 20s that has appeared on banknotes were taken by Dorothy Wilding. She was the first woman to be appointed as the Official Royal Photographer.
These last two portraits were widely used on banknotes around the world. The first, a portrait taken in 1952 with the queen wearing the George IV State Diadem, was used on world banknotes across 13 currency boards, has appeared in more than 20 countries. The second was adapted from a painting by Pietro Annigoni and has been featured on nine currencies.
A queen in her 30s
These three hand-drawn portraits of the queen directly below all appeared on banknotes issued by the Bank of England. Although all portraying the queen in her 30s, the first was issued in 1960, drawn by Robert Austin; the second was issued in 1963, drawn by Reynolds Stone. And the last was not issued until 1970, drawn by Harry Eccleston. By that point, the queen was 49.
The second portrait below was taken in 1977 in event of the queen’s silver jubilee. At the time, the queen was 51. Although taken almost 40 years ago, it still appears on banknotes in Belize, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar (where the tiara and the necklace are not included) and Caribbean States dollars today.
A senior queen
The third portrait below was taken at Buckingham Palace by Terry O’Neil in 1992 as an official photograph. It is the most widely used image of the senior queen on banknotes. Today, you can still find it on banknotes in Saint Helena, Guernesey, Bermuda and the Bahamas.
Coming full circle, it's Canada that today uses the most up-to-date portrait of the queen on its banknotes. The portrait, shown last above, was made in 2011. It appears on current Canadian $20 bills.
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