Regency Era

Travel back in time and learn about the era synonymous with classic design, fashion and society

Cartwheel penny (1797) by Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

The Beginning of a Grand Era

When King George III became unable to govern effectively, his son George IV, the then Prince of Wales, was appointed Prince Regent on 5 February 1811. 

George IV Regency Medal (1811) by Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

George IV Regency Medal 1811

The Regency Medal of 1811 was struck to commemorate the Prince Regent's new role.

It was engraved by Thomas Wyon Jr., who joined the Royal Mint’s Engraving Department in 1811. Described as ‘a young Artist of promising abilities’, his talent was recognised in his promotion to Chief Engraver in 1815.

The Mint (1809) by Rowlandson & PuginThe Royal Mint Museum

The Move to Tower Hill

The Royal Mint was to experience change and renewal. The Royal Mint's operations had increased substantially during 500 years in The Tower of London and the Mint could no longer continue to thrive in cramped conditions.

Plans for the new Royal Mint building at Tower Hill (1804) by UnknownThe Royal Mint Museum

The surveyor James Johnson and his successor Robert Smirke began to design a new building, just 100 yards from the Tower, on Little Tower Hill. It took several years of planning and building until it was finally completed in 1809.

The New Mint Tower Hill (November 1810) by S. Rawle & J. AsperneThe Royal Mint Museum

With a classically inspired frontage, Tower Hill still stands today as a powerful visual symbol of Regency elegance. It has since been described as one of the finest buildings in London.

William Wellesley Pole (1815) by J. Wright and Charles PicartThe Royal Mint Museum

William Wellesley Pole

This engraving is of William Wellesley Pole, drawn from an image published in 1815, the year after he was appointed as Master of the Royal Mint.

William Wellesley Pole (1823) by Benedetto Pistrucci and Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

The Royal Mint saw great technological progress during the Regency Era, and Pole was at the forefront of driving much of this development. He resigned in 1823 after a period of diligent service that altered the Royal Mint and Britain.

Waterloo Medal (1815) by Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

Pole’s younger brother was Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. He helped to secure his brother's position as Master following his part in the victorious Peninsular War in 1814. Wellington is now most famous for his role in the Battle of Waterloo.

The Battle of Waterloo Medal 1815

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had expanded his empire into much of Europe by the early nineteenth century. In 1815, British forces defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo and brought peace to Europe.

Waterloo Medal (1815) by Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

The Medal Roll begins with letters written by Pole in which he expressed a desire for the design to demonstrate ‘the high state of perfection which the Arts have now attained in Great Britain' under the Prince's regency. 

The obverse featured a portrait of the Prince Regent. Pole was anxious to gain the approval of the Prince Regent ‘upon whose firmness and decision these glorious events have so pre-eminently depended.’ 

Memorandum of the Royal Mint Museum (1816-02-12) by Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

Royal Mint Museum 1816

The Royal Mint Museum was established by Pole on 12 February 1816. In an era which increasingly uplifted the arts, he was committed to building a collection that would include, promote, and be of service to artists and engravers. 

A significant donation of around 2,500 coins and medals were gifted to the Museum upon the death of Sarah Sophia Banks in 1818. 

A Catalogue of the Entire Museum of the Late Samuel Tyssen, Esq., F.A.S. (1803) by Printed by T. Burton, Little Queen StreetThe Royal Mint Museum

The donation included Banks' numismatic library. Her large and well organised collection remains a core part of the Museum’s collection today.

'The New Coinage or John Bulls' visit to Mat of the Mint!!' Cartoon (1817-02) by J SidebothamThe Royal Mint Museum

The New Coinage 1816–1817

Copper and silver coinage had long been neglected by the governments of the eighteenth century, resulting in worn coins. The government judged them unfit for Regency ambition.

Under Pole's leadership, preparations began for the production of new coins ready for an exchange on 13 February 1817. This event attracted the attention of cartoonists, one of whom depicts Pole shovelling coins into a bag for the symbolic John Bull.

George III Jasper Cameo (1815) by Benedetto PistrucciThe Royal Mint Museum

Last coinage of George III

An updated portrait was needed as part of the production of the new gold and silver coins. Italian gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci came to Britain in 1815 and was quickly commissioned to provide the portrait models, which he cut in his natural medium of red jasper.

The portrait became colloquially known as the Bull Head due to its bulky depiction of George III’s proportions.

George III Sovereign Trial Piece (1817) by Royal MintThe Royal Mint Museum

The Sovereign

In the summer of 1817, the twenty-shilling sovereign was revived. The distinctive design, by Pistrucci,  captured the stylistic mood of the period with a neoclassical image of St George and the dragon. 

In this trial piece St George holds a broken lance, a design element which was changed to a sword in 1818. 

Queen Charlotte Trial Electrotype (1761) by Thomas PingoThe Royal Mint Museum

Queen Charlotte

Born in Germany in 1744, Queen Charlotte came to Britain to marry King George III in 1761. This trial electrotype, for a medal commemorating their joint Coronation, portrays her youthfulness at the beginning of her new role.

On the afternoon of 17 November 1818, Queen Charlotte passed away. George III died just two years after his late wife.

George IV Coronation Medal (1820) by The Royal Mint and Benedetto PistrucciThe Royal Mint Museum

George IV Coronation Medal

The Prince Regent ascended the throne in 1820 as George IV. To commemorate the occasion of his Coronation, the Royal Mint produced commemorative gold, silver and bronze medals.

George IV Coronation Medal Cracked Die (1820) by Royal Mint and Benedetto PistrucciThe Royal Mint Museum

Pistrucci was tasked with designing and engraving the medal. 

His first design was rejected. Instead of producing a new die, he made a cut in the centre, adjusted the position and engraved a dais to raise the monarch. The two parts were then enclosed in an iron ring.

George IV Coronation Medal (1820) by The Royal Mint and Benedetto PistrucciThe Royal Mint Museum

End of the Regency Era

The Regency period, synonymous with classic design, fashion and society, ended as George IV's reign began.

Credits: Story

Follow this link to read more: Regency collection (royalmintmuseum.org.uk) 

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