Royal Mint reveals new coin designs
When Cranmer first heard that British coins were to be given a makeover, and that the theme was to be heraldry and the Royal Coats of Arms, he was both surprised and delighted that tradition was being upheld and heritage preserved. The Royal Arms has featured in some form on the coinage of every monarch since Edward III - it is a symbol of the Monarch’s authority over the whole of the United Kingdom.
But the new design is manifestly symbolic of a dis-United Kingdom, for the Royal Arms is divided into four parts: England being represented by the three lions passant guardant in the first and fourth quarters, the Scottish lion rampant in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third, with all four quarters spread over the six coins from the 1p to the 50p. It is only in the £1 coin that the shield of the Royal Arms is featured in its entirety, uniting the six fragmented elements into one design.
It is a creation of postmodernity, which evidences a willingness to combine symbols from disparate codes or frameworks of meaning, even at the cost of disjunctions and eclecticism. It embraces spontaneity, fragmentation, superficiality and irony. And it is ironic, if not purposely prophetic, that each of these new designs is meaningless in isolation: the Royal Arms has been carved-up, sliced and diced, fragmented and fractured.
The coins are thereby symbolic of what New Labour has done to the United Kingdom, to the British Constitution, and to the ancient rights and liberties of the British people. From the grandness of unity, purpose, meaning and wholeness which was symbolised by Britannia, we now have the splintered autonomy of micro-narratives; a disparate collection of sub-cultures and designer cults, each with its own language, code and life-style. What a farrago.