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Heads (kings and queens, on coins)

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746710.  Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:36 pm Reply with quote

Could I correct Stephen et al on the piece about monarchs facing left and right alternately, and having done so since at least Charles I?

This is generally true - but there is an exception, and Stephen mentioned it... but was wrong. He implied or stated that the convention did not apply to Edward VIII because he abdicated and had no coins.

This is not true. Even though only a very few "ordinary" coins made it into circulation Edward VIII had coins designed for him, and some "proof sets" were issued.

However of more interest is that Edward VIII did NOT follow the left/right tradition - the only monarch do so. He thought his left profile was better than the right he should have displayed on the coin, and therefore insisted that he face left on his coins - the same as his predecessor George V. Even more interestingly George VI then insisted that the old tradition was revived... and so he too faced left (because he would have done if Edward had also followed tradition). So we had three successive kings facing left.

I might add that if Edward had had no coins issued, as Stephen implied, our current Queen WOULD have faced left, because her father would have faced right.

746716.  Sun Sep 26, 2010 4:22 pm Reply with quote

Hmm, sounds like a pretty decent quibble to me

746745.  Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:12 pm Reply with quote

The coins of Edward VIII that went into circulation were the three penny bits.

As these were a new design of coin some were sent to slot machine manufacturers for testing. Some of these ended up in the system.

As a youngster I regularly inspected every 3d coin I had in vain.

I do however possess an undated QE2 20p coin.

Liefesa Idleleaf
746843.  Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:49 am Reply with quote

During the episode, Bill asks if she faces the other way on paper money, and our dear Mr Fry replies "no, on the stamp".

Grab a fiver and have a look. The main image, while it is not fully a profile, does actually face left (opposite direction to the coins).
And the watermark is of course reversible.

Not a mistake, as Stephen was simply stating what she does face the other way on, but a whole nother set of images and conventions.


746901.  Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:50 pm Reply with quote

Handedness was glossed over in the episode, but I think it has a major bearing on the question. Right-handed people naturally draw things facing to the left -- not just human heads, but animals, cars, bicycles, etc. Lefties naturally draw things facing to the right.

It may be because we tend to start with the head or face or similar salient feature, and then work from there. Right-handers naturally work from left to right, so the head/face is placed on the left and the rest of the figure follows to the right (and vice versa for left-handers).

None of this is invariable, but it's a high percentage.

747913.  Thu Sep 30, 2010 3:29 am Reply with quote

Could I add a further correction to the piece about monarchs facing left and right alternately since Charles II?

The monarch’s profile has alternated since the reign of Charles II only in the case of gold coins.

Most silver coins of Charles II had an obverse with a right-facing profile, but there were some undated small silver coins issued early in his reign with the profile facing left. From the reign of James II all silver coins followed the alternating convention.

The copper and tin halfpennies and farthings of both Charles II and James II had obverse profiles facing the opposite way to those on the gold and silver coins.

It was only from the reign of William and Mary that the monarchs’ profiles faced the same way on all denominations. William’s coinage continued to be right-facing after Mary’s death. So, really, it was from the reign of Queen Anne that the convention of alternating the profile of the monarch could be said to have begun.

750513.  Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:31 am Reply with quote

Yes Handiness does effect it I guess mainly because we start from the top and move inwards and down to the nose when drawing a head.

BTW the Queen is facing left on coins, it just that her left is our right.

750664.  Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:41 pm Reply with quote

Welcome Rockman :-)

750671.  Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:04 pm Reply with quote

Hi Rockman


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