Given the momentous historical change we have witnessed recently, played out on a world stage amid the family drama, you could be forgiven for thinking that if King Charles III holds to his promise of a slimmed-down monarchy, heads will roll.
We have often been told of his desire to create a more modern monarchy, but before and after, his younger brother had to be removed from the shift rota, and his younger son decided to switch channels and build a future with his wife and family in the USA. It has been painful viewing, or perhaps compulsive if you follow the family antics like a soap opera.
He may now have difficulty fulfilling all the requests for royal patronage. To maintain interest/support for the institution, he may adopt the adage, ‘that two heads are better than one.’ Perhaps that has already begun as he quickly promoted his son William to Prince of Wales.
On the rolling of heads, we know that King Charles will appear on the face of new banknotes and coinage, but what will be on the reverse? Continuity is all regarding monarchy, but they must remain relevant to have any currency.
In 2014, the Bank of England introduced a new method of selecting banknote characters. Initially, a Banknote Character Advisory Committee chooses the field they want to represent and invites specialists in that field to join the committee. Then they ask the public to nominate people from the selected area. In 2015, this method resulted in the artist JMW Turner being chosen to appear on £20 notes and in 2019, Alan Turing was featured on the £50 note. The Governor makes the final selection after shortlisting and receiving feedback from focus groups on which characters would resonate with the public.
These new polymer notes are longer lasting, cleaner and less easy to forge, but what about the environmental impact? We know that the new King has credentials in this area, so he may be pleased that the carbon footprint of the new £10 and £5 are 8% and 16%, respectively, lower than their paper predecessors.
I’ve given that some thought to what should be on the reverse, and I propose a picture of Paddington Bear. It acknowledges the excellent writer, Michael Bond, who created the character and nods to Paddington’s special relationship with HM Queen Elizabeth II. We know that the monarchy cannot, and should not, dabble in politics and only have a say on their image for the currency, but if that gave a subliminal acknowledgement of the contribution that asylum seekers can make to the UK, then so be it. Just don’t tell Priti Patel or indeed, Suella Braverman