The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.K.’s money, stamps and more to feature King Charles III after queen’s death

Stamps bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth II on railings outside Buckingham Palace in London on Sept. 9. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — The face of Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for 70 years, is arguably among the most recognized in the world. Her name — and insignia — are displayed throughout Britain, looming large on buildings or subtly present on coins inside pockets.

But with the queen’s death on Thursday, Britons will need to swiftly adjust to seeing the face of King Charles III on national symbols.

“With the queen’s exceptionally long reign, few have experienced a regime change. It’s hard to quantify the effect the change of a monarch’s portrait will have on the nation,” said Dominic Chorney, a council member of the British Numismatic Society. (Numismatics is the study or collection of currency.)

Here are some staples of daily British life that will need to change with the new monarch, including postage stamps and the national anthem.

Currency

Britain’s Royal Mint, which bills itself as the “largest and most technically advanced integrated minting facility in the world,” was expected to issue a new coin with Prince Charles’s ascent to the throne.

The Bank of England’s governor, Andrew Bailey, offered his condolences Thursday and reassured the public in a statement that “current bank notes featuring the image of Her Majesty The Queen will continue to be legal tender.”

Elizabeth was the first monarch to appear on Bank of England bank notes, and her image was updated five times as she aged. Her “iconic portraits are synonymous with some of the most important work we do,” the bank said in a statement. The bank said it would offer more updates on future currency once a period of mourning of at least 10 days had been observed.

“In the past, coins of various monarchs would circulate for decades, even centuries after their passing,” said Chorney, a specialist in ancient coins. “The approval of new coins takes time,” he added. Designs are authorized by a Royal Mint committee, which was once chaired by Prince Philip, Elizabeth’s husband.

Operation London Bridge: The plan for after Queen Elizabeth’s death

Coin collectors shouldn’t expect modern circulating currency to rise much in value, but commemorative sets “may be desirable,” said Chorney, a specialist at A.H. Baldwin & Sons, a London coin dealer dating to 1872.

During Elizabeth’s reign, her profile faced to the right. Charles’s profile, as the new monarch, will probably flip and face toward the left, in keeping with a tradition that dates to the 1600s of alternating the direction between the coinage of successive monarchs. There has been just one exception to this quirk in British history. Edward VIII, who, after taking the throne in 1936 — and before abdicating the same year — insisted that coins featuring his image face to the left. John Richardson, an emeritus professor at Britain’s Open University, has said it was unclear whether Edward’s insistence was “an expression of rebellion against convention, or vanity, to show what he regarded as his better profile, containing his hair parting.”

National anthem

“God save our gracious Queen! Long live our noble Queen! God save the Queen!”

The words, roared by attendees at official events, sports matches and parties alike, date to the 17th century but were adopted as Britain’s national anthem at the beginning of the 19th century. The writer or writers of the words and the tune are unknown, according to Buckingham Palace.

While the song has been synonymous with Elizabeth for the past seven decades, the word “queen” will be substituted with “king” for Charles — as it was in the years before Elizabeth was crowned.

“God Save the King” was first publicly performed in London in 1745 and was commonly heard in playhouses and to greet entering monarchs. But the version referring to a king has not been used since 1952, when the queen’s father, George VI, died. A number of Commonwealth countries and territories also use the song.

Britain’s newly installed Prime Minister Liz Truss addressed the nation Thursday and urged the public to support Charles as they had his mother, ending her speech: “God save the king.”

Royal Mail

Across the United Kingdom, there are more than 115,000 public post boxes, according to the Royal Mail, which originated in 1516. The postal network at first operated only for the king and his court, but in 1635, it opened to the public under Charles I, who set up a Letter Office in London to carry mail across the country.

There are hundreds of bright red pillar boxes, cylindrical or hexagonal, which have become a symbol of Elizabeth’s Britain. Over 98 percent of the British population lives within half a mile of a post box, the Royal Mail says.

Each mailbox on the country’s roadsides features the insignia or cipher of the monarch reigning at the time it was erected. Many carry the letters “E” (for Elizabeth II) and “R” (for “regina,” which is Latin for “queen”). It is highly unlikely any post boxes bearing the late queen’s royal cipher will be removed; some across Britain bearing the emblem of the queen’s father can still be found. Looking ahead, new postboxes may feature the emblem of King Charles III, who now uses the cipher “CR,” which stands for “Charles Rex III.” Rex is the Latin word for king.

“We join with people across the United Kingdom and around the world in mourning the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” the Royal Mail said Thursday. “We extend our deepest condolences to His Majesty and to all members of the Royal Family.”

Stamps

The world’s first adhesive postage stamp, known as the Penny Black, was launched in England in 1840, according to the Royal Mail. It had an image of Queen Victoria’s face and led to the introduction of the “penny post,” making letters cheap and easy for the majority of the population, who sent more than 1 billion of them annually by 1875.

In 1966, Elizabeth approved an Arnold Machin-designed image of her to be used on postage stamps, and it has since appeared on more than 220 billion and in more than 130 different colors, according to the Royal Mail. She also was featured on numerous stamps created to mark special royal occasions and anniversaries. In 2004, the Royal Mail launched Britain’s first digital stamp, which also features her profile.

The Royal Mail said Friday unused stamps will remain valid for use until at least the end of 2023. “We will make further announcements at the appropriate time after consultation with Buckingham Palace,” it added. “For now, we remember the Queen’s lifetime of dedication to public service.”

The death of Queen Elizabeth II

The final resting place: Queen Elizabeth II has been buried in her final resting place next to Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, capping an elaborate state funeral, which was invested with all the pomp, circumstance and showmanship that the monarchy, military and state could put on display for a global broadcast audience of millions.

The state funeral: The funeral was full of pageantry and pathos, including a new national anthem, funeral ensembles with affectionate touches in honor of the queen, a personal note from King Charles III, appearances by the young heirs, Prince George and Princess Charlotte and the royal corgis. Here are some of the most memorable moments in photos and videos.

A new monarch: Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Charles, became King Charles III the moment his mother died. He may bring a markedly different personal vision of religion and spirituality to the role. Here’s what to know about him.

We’re following changes in the British monarchy post-Elizabeth. Get the Post Elizabeth newsletter for the latest updates.

Loading...