The Una and the Lion £5 coin is widely considered to be the most beautiful British coin ever minted. It was designed and first struck in 1839 as a celebration of the beginning of the young Queen Victoria’s reign and to coincide with her twentieth birthday. The coin was the work of the Royal Mint Chief engraver William Wyon, who drew his theme from Edmund Spenser’s 16th century epic poem Faerie Queene.
The stunning piece depicts a graceful and elegant young Victoria as the character Una, whom Spenser had used in his poem to represent truth, gently guiding the British lion. The message is clear – the graceful young monarch is leading a powerful beast and whilst she herself may only be a young woman the strength and power that she wields, that she has at her command, is formidable.
Now this century’s leading numismatic engraver has created a new version of Una and the Lion, with not Victoria but Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II taking on the mantle of Una. To celebrate Her Majesty’s 95th birthday, the new coin depicts Elizabeth not as the young woman of Spenser’s poem, but as she is today, an experienced ruler, embodying wisdom and grace. She stands, coronation orb in hand, with the lion beside her, it is proud and defiant, guarding her legacy, protecting all she has overseen and achieved as Great Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
With this stunning new version of a classic numismatic piece, Jody Clark, whose elegant portrait of Her Majesty adorns the obverse of all United Kingdom coins struck since 2015, and whose work on a variety of bullion coins has been especially praised, has created a coin that represents not the beginning of a new era but is rather the embodiment of one of this country’s most stable and prosperous periods.
This Una is not just starting out as the young girl of 1839 was, but rather she has achieved much in her nearly seven decades on the throne; this magnificent interpretation reflects those achievements, and perfectly embodies the grace and poise with which they have been undertaken. It is truly a classic for a new era.