The Tower of London Coin Collection : The Royal Menagerie - 2020 UK £5 Gold Proof Crown
The Royal Menagerie £5 special edition gold proof Crown is the second of a four-coin collectible series from The Royal Mint to honour its origins in the Tower of London. All the coins are crafted by Heraldic artist and Scrivener to the Royals, Timothy Noad, in partnership with The Royal Mint and the Historic Royal Palaces. This special edition coin takes inspiration from London’s very first zoo - and it’s not the one you think! Noad’s design centres on the three lions believed to be the first exotic animals in The Royal Menagerie, which opened in the 1200s. While spotlighting the plight of the Royal beasts, the three lions image is often depicted in British culture and heritage. For example, the three lions passant design features on coinage and the England football strip. Together, the four coins of this Tower of London 2020 collection are united in their reverses by a Norman arched window motif. The window is a distinctive characteristic of the Tower of London, which aptly aligns with the curvature of the coin set. The Royal Menagerie’s obverse also features the 5th Portrait of Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, by Jody Clark.
Erected by William the Conqueror with a nearly 1,000 year history, the Tower of London is the oldest standing building in London. The Tower and its grounds have been home to; the Crown Jewels, a palace, a fortress, a state prison, the Royal Menagerie, a public records office, Britain’s arsenal and The Royal Mint. It is thronged with myths and legends such as; the ravens’ departure will cause the fall of Britain or the Monarchy, multiple ghost sightings including the castle keep’s White Lady, and a treasure trove of gold worth £20,000 is supposedly hidden within the grounds. The Tower of London is guarded by Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters, who live on site and are descendants of ancient warders before them. In 1279, The Royal Mint became the centralised Mint of England, sited at the Tower of London by Edward I. The surrounding area became known as Mint Street and The Royal Mint remained there for 500 years.
In the 13th century, a trend emerged in which medieval Monarchs would exchange rare and exotic animals as gifts. On being presented with three lions in 1235 by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, England’s King Henry II was inspired to start a zoo in the grounds of the Tower of London. A polar bear was given by the King of Norway in 1252 followed by an African elephant in 1255 from the French King. In the 14th century, visitors would have crossed a drawbridge to the Lion Tower, where the entrapped animals prowled a courtyard. By 1622, the collection had expanded to three eagles, two pumas, a tiger, a jackal, lions and leopards. Sadly but unsurprisingly, many animals did not survive the cramped and restricted conditions but for the lions and tigers, which bore cubs. By the 19th century, this Royal Menagerie had 300 specimens but with growing animal welfare concerns, thanks to the establishment of the RSPCA in 1824, it eventually closed in 1835. In 1826, 150 of the animals were transported to a new home in Regent’s Park, forming The London Zoo we know today. The Lion Tower was later demolished and in 2010, artist Kendra Haste created wire animal sculptures within the Tower of London. The exhibition, Royal Beasts, pays tribute to the animals held captive in the Tower grounds.
This four-part coin series from The Royal Mint pays homage to the landmark Tower of London with an elegant design finished to Proof standard. Each coin spotlights a different area of the landmark; the White Tower, the Royal Menagerie, the fortress as The Royal Mint and its infamous prison. The designs are unified by a Norman arched window, the hallmark of the Tower of London. Every coin includes an intricate edge inscription and complementary information approved by the Historic Royal Palaces.