50 years of the Queen on banknotes

The Bank of England museum is to present a special exhibition to celebrate half a century of Queen Elizabeth II's image appearing on British banknotes.

In fact, the current queen is the first to have her image printed on British banknotes. This may surprise some people, as the images of monarchs have been used on coins for thousands of years. But it was only in 1960 that the image of the monarch first appeared on a banknote.

There were two main reasons for using the image. Firstly, the Bank of England became a national body following WW2, and the Queen's image was seen as the best way to represent that fact.

It was also of assistance in deterring counterfeiters. Everyone knew what the image of Queen Elizabeth was supposed to look like, so faking it added a challenge to the crime.

In March 1960, a £1 note was the first Series C banknote to be released with the image of the Queen. The first £5 note with her image didn't appear until 1963.

Blue £5 note (Series C, 1963)
Blue Series C £5 note

Five different portraits of the Queen have been used since 1960.

These were by Robert Austin (1960), Reynolds Stone (1963), Harry Ecclestone (1970 and 1971) and Roger Withington (1990).

The exhibition will include a variety of sketches and artwork relating to the various designs, along with letters relating to the banknotes.


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