19/02/12 08:55 Filed in: Money
When Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer he banished Britannia from our coinage. His reason was apparently that he felt that she was a symbol of Britain’s former colonial power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The first coins with Britannia on them were issued by the Romans when they were the colonial power in Britain. If we choose to sing Rule Britannia! we should remember that the proud boast that ‘Britons never, never shall be slaves’ is rather ironic – when Britannia appeared, her people were enslaved. Incidentally, the is an alternative version: ‘Britons never, never, never shall be marri-ed to a merma-ed at the bottom of the deep blue sea.’
I do not wish to make light of the question of slavery. Along with the opium wars, it is one of the great blots on or country’s history. However, Britannia does not embody our colonial history but everything, good or bad, in our history. It is time to recall her to her proper place on coins of the realm.
I have a particular interest in Britannia’s fate. My father contracted polio when I was about four and was thereafter confined to a wheelchair. When I looked at Britannia on the reverse of pennies, I mistook the her shield for the wheel of a wheelchair and the union flag with which it was emblazoned for the spokes. Clearly, she, like my father, could not walk. Even at the age of five or six I could see that the perspective wasn’t right but who was I to argue with the Master of the Royal Mint?