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Jane Austen's double whammy 200 years on

Posted: 8th January 2017
Category: Jane Austen News
Jane Austen's double whammy 200 years on

Chief reporter, Robert Mendick from The Telegraph newspaper, describes how Jane Austen will not only appear on the new £10 British bank note in 2017, but also the £2 coin as well. No-one has ever appeared simultaneously on a bank note and a coin, apart from Her Majesty, The Queen.

 

For two centuries, she has ruled the nation’s bookshelves. Now she is set to dominate the public’s purses and wallets as well. Jane Austen, long revered as the greatest of female novelists, is about to break new ground 200 years after her death – by appearing simultaneously on a coin and a bank note. No man has managed such an honour in a generation. Only the Queen, who as head of state must be depicted on British currency, will be more prevalent. The Royal Mint, in a New Year’s statement, announced that Austen has been chosen as the new image for its commemorative £2 coins.


About five million will be released into mass circulation. The coins, which feature a silhouette of Austen, will be launched in the spring. At about the same time, the Bank of England is expected to release its new, plastic, unrippable £10 note and in the process will replace Charles Darwin with an Austen portrait. Historians cannot recall the last time a figure other than the reigning monarch graced both coins and notes simultaneously.“The Bank of England has also chosen to put Jane Austen on the new £10 note. I don’t think it has ever occurred before.” siad Dr Kevin Clancy and only Florence Nightingale has come close. The nurse appeared on £10 notes from 1975 until she was withdrawn from circulation in 1994. A £2 coin in honour of Nightingale was issued in 2010, but the two never coincided.


“The decision to put Jane Austen on the coins was taken about two years ago,” said Dr Kevin Clancy, the secretary to the Royal Mint advisory committee, which approved the new design. “The Bank of England has also chosen to put Jane Austen on the new £10 note. I am not aware of this ever happening in the same year. I don’t think it has ever occurred before.” The release of the coins and notes will be in step with the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death in the summer of 1817 at the age of 41. In the space of just four years, she published Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Two more novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published in the year after her death.


Few portraits exist of Austen and the coin’s designer chose a silhouette, described by the National Portrait Gallery as “possibly Jane Austen”. It featured in the back of Mansfield Park when the book was published in 1814. Dominique Evans said, “I imagined the framed silhouette as if it were in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen’s books, on the wall of a corridor as guests pass by to attend a dance, perhaps in Pride and Prejudice, or on the wall in the home of Emma”. Dominique Evans, the coin’s designer, explained she placed the silhouette at the centre of the coin with stripes behind it to depict Regency wallpaper. “I imagined the framed silhouette as if it were in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen’s books, on the wall of a corridor as guests pass by to attend a dance, perhaps in Pride and Prejudice, or on the wall in the home of Emma,” said Miss Evans, one of the Royal Mint’s team of graphic designers. The Royal Mint described the novelist in its official statement as “a revolutionary romantic”, adding: “The Jane Austen 2017 £2 coin celebrates one of the best-loved authors in the world, 200 years after her death.”


The decision to put Austen on the new £10 note has not been without controversy. It followed an online petition signed by more than 35,000 people to demand a female figure be placed upon it.That, in turn, was prompted by the announcement that Sir Winston Churchill was replacing Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note, meaning that for the time being British bank notes – with the exception of the ubiquitous Queen – have an all-male line-up. But the campaign to put a woman on a bank note suffered its own backlash. Two people were jailed for a Twitter abuse campaign directed against Caroline Criado-Perez, the feminist who began the campaign, and against Stella Creasy, the Labour MP who backed it.

 

The Royal Mint also announced on New Year's Day two further commemorative coins – a First World War aviation £2 coin which will pay tribute “to the defence of Britain’s skies”; and a Sir Isaac Newton 50p coin, “which is celebrating Newton’s pioneering work and achievements in the field of physics and astronomy”. Austen already features on the new plastic £5 note – albeit surreptitiously. A microscopic image of her was engraved on to just four notes by the artist Graham Short. It is thought the collector’s items could be worth up to £50,000 each. So far, two of the four £5 notes with the Austen micro-engraving have been found, one in Wales and one in Scotland. Mr Short came up with the idea as a further tribute to the author on the 200th anniversary of her death.

 

For further reading: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/31/janeausten-possesses-good-fortune-face-banknote-2-coin/


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