I think the noblest coins of the last century were the Irish set. Deriving inspiration from the drachmae of Greek city-states, they offered elegant renderings of such animals as befitted Mr de Valera's rural paradise. Three cheers for Percy Metcalfe ... and, indeed, for W B Yeats.
But, for more than a couple of millennia, monarchs had tended to dominate most such national systems. Thus a potentate could leave his mark upon his subject peoples; thus a People velit nolit could be reminded who their Ruler was. I could give you a Gospel reference ...
England and Scotland did well out of such a culture. Most recently, British coins, during the period 1998-2015, offerred a most elegant rendering of Elizabeth II, by a Mr Ian Rank-Broadley. It stood as proud of the surface as the genre permitted; it occupied as much as possible of the surface space available. And it married ... in my view, perfectly ... a recognisable likeness of a recognisable human being, with an expression of Majesty. you can see the tiny initials IRB just beneath where the neck is cut away.
I do not claim that my own aesthetic opinions are anything better than subjective and personal ... but I much dislike the current bust which replaces it. It shows Elizabeth II grinning ... or smiling ...
Many readers will be familiar with the Preface to Paradise Lost of C S Lewis. He emphasises the adjective solempne and its noun Solempnitie. He points out that these Middle English terms, unlike their derivatives in modern English, "do not suggest gloom, oppression or austerity".
" ... you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar's head at a Christmas feast--all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age which presides over every solemnity. The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual."
I think a fair bit of this logic applies also to how Majesty is or should be represented numismatically.
If we are to bother with Majesty at all ... either on coins or anywhere else ... we had better enable it to be Majestic.
Even long-standing republics, when they place symbolic figures on their representative tokens, instinctively show them raised by dignity above common humanity.
Not giggling.I think the only beta triple plus coin currently in circulation is the 50p of circa 2008, with the IRB Elizabeth II on one side and Britannia on the other. I regard the current chopping-up of the royal shield as a most unfortunate idea.