King Charles III is the current King of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms.
Born in 1948, he is the eldest son of the late Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Charles was first in line to the British throne from the day his mother became Queen in 1952. He was created Prince of Wales in 1958 and invested in 1969 at Caernarfon Castle. Charles was the longest-serving heir apparent and became the oldest person to ascend the British throne, following Elizabeth II's passing on 8 September 2022.
As Prince of Wales, Charles undertook official duties on behalf of the Queen and acted as the patron of more than 400 charities and organisations. His own charity, The Prince's Trust, supports vulnerable young people. His other interests include climate change, heritage conservation, the arts and sustainable farming. King Charles is also known for his marriage to and subsequent divorce from Princess Diana with whom he had two children: Prince William and Prince Harry. In 2005, Charles married his long-time partner, Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now Queen Consort.
During his time as Prince of Wales, Charles III featured on several Royal Mint commemorative coins, all of which featured Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. Read more about Prince Charles coins on our blog: Portraits of Charles, Prince of Wales on British Coinage.
Martin Jennings' Portrait Of Charles III
The first definitive coin portrait of King Charles III was unveiled in late September 2022, just a few weeks after he acceded to the throne. Reportedly, the effigy had been in the works for months and was chosen via a closed competition, held by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.
The artist behind the new royal portrait is Martin Jennings, known for his bronze sculptures of British literary figures like Charles Dickens, Philip Larkin and John Betjeman. Jennings' design was created from photographs, modelled in plaster then digitally reduced to the tiny size necessary for coinage. The profile was then personally approved by the King. Speaking of the commission, Jennings said:
'I was delighted to hear that The King likes the image. He was very interested in it and responded very positively to it. It has been very gratifying to be involved in this important process.'
As expected, Jennings' royal portrait shows Charles facing left, the opposite direction to his mother who looks right on her coins. The tradition for British monarchs to face a different direction to their predecessor dates back to the seventeenth century.
Collectible Royal Mint Charles III Coins
King Charles' coinage portrait will first be used on a range of memorial coins, celebrating the life and legacy of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II who passed away on 8 September 2022.
The collection includes three new coins:
- A collectible 50p, with a historic reverse, inspired by the 1953 Crown, issued to mark Elizabeth II's coronation
- A £5 Crown, designed by John Bergdahl, showing a pair of portraits of Elizabeth II at the start and end of her reign
- Ounce coins, featuring a right-facing portrait of the late Queen within a wreath of laurels and national flowers, also by Bergdahl
These new commemorative designs are available across an extensive range of BU, silver, gold and platinum coins, all of which bear Martin Jennings' portrait of the King to the obverse. They're a perfect way to remember this moment of royal transition.
Read more about the Elizabeth II memorial collection on our blog: First UK Coins With Charles III Portrait: Elizabeth II Memorial Range.
King Charles' First Official Coinage
That commemorative 50p, due to be issued in late 2022, will likely be among the first of King Charles' coins to enter circulation. The Royal Mint has announced that this coin will soon join the roster of special, collectible coins we can find in our change.
Regular, definitive issue coins will follow in due course.
These new Charles III coins will circulate in the UK alongside older ones bearing Queen Elizabeth II's portrait which will remain legal tender. Before the UK decimalised its currency, it was typical for the coinage of multiple British monarchs to circulate along side each other, plus, since there are supposedly 29 billion coins in circulation in the UK, the idea of changing them out is entirely impractical.
We're looking forward to seeing what new coinage designs - both circulating and commemorative - are released in the first year of King Charles' reign. We're banking on a coronation range sometime in 2023 but there's sure to be plenty more in the pipeline as we enter this new period of British royal history.