Saint Helena is a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean which is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The currency of the island is the Saint Helena pound, fixed at parity with the pound sterling. The island has authorised some private mints to issue coins under its jurisdiction, which come in a variety of sizes - including in the very large silver kilogram (1 kg silver) format, denominated variously as £1, £5 or £50.
This design is the second release in The Faerie Queene collection of proof coins.
The series is inspired by Edmund Spenser’s epic medieval poem of the same name, and features designs by one of the world’s most celebrated coin artists, Joel Iskowitz.
First published in 1590, Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene is a classic work of medieval English literature. At over 36,000 lines long, its six books contain one of the longest poems in the English language, believed to be an allegory for the life of Queen Elizabeth I. The story begins with a beautiful princess called Una arriving at the court of Queen Gloriana. Una is carrying a suit of armour upon which is painted a red cross, and is seeking the help of a brave knight to rescue her parents from a wicked dragon. A young peasant boy, keen to prove his worth, volunteers for the task. Una tells the boy that he can try on the armour she carries and, if it fits, she will grant him his wish. Sure enough, it fits him as if it were tailor made. Because of the armour’s distinctive design, Queen Gloriana dubs him "The Redcrosse Knight" and Spenser’s epic story begins.
Redcrosse and Una set out on their journey together but soon became separated when a sorcerer’s spell bewitches Redcrosse and he leaves Una behind. Bereft and quite alone, Una takes shelter in shaded woodland, out of sight of anyone who might be passing. Her peace is shattered when a mighty lion sees the defenceless princess and leaps at her with hungry rage. But as he gets closer he becomes calmed by her beauty and innocence, and instead of attacking her kisses her weary feet and licks her hands to soothe her. As Una rises to continue her quest the lion will not leave her side, striding proudly alongside her as her faithful guardian and protector.
“Still when she slept, he kept both watch and ward,
And when she wakt, he waited diligent,
With humble service to her will prepard:"
The obverse of the coin depicts the crowned old bust of Queen Elizabeth II facing right, wearing the Royal Diamond Diadem crown worn for her Coronation (effigy known as the "Fifth Portrait" worldwide but "Sixth Portrait" in Australia, where the Queen's portrait by Vladimir Gottwald was fifth).
The Queen also wears the Coronation Necklace; originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858, it was also worn at the coronations (as Queen's Consort) of Queen Alexandra in 1902, Queen Mary in 1911 and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen mother) in 1937.
Unlike on British coinage, the effigy is "uncouped" (includes the Queen's shoulders). In small letters on the left, the artist's initials JC (for Jody Clark).
Running continuously around the rim is the monarch's legend, the date of issue and the face value: ELIZABETH II · D · G · REG · F · D · ST. HELENA · 2023 · 50 POUNDS ·. Translated from Latin: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith, Saint Helena.
The reverse design shows poem character Una, with flowing robes, reclining on a tree trunk; next to her, the Lion.
In the rim around above, the inscription THE FAERIE QUEENE. In the rim on the right, the EIC mint mark of the East India Company - the letters are separated by arrows radiating from the centre around which they are situated.
On the tree trunk below right, the designer's initials JI, for Joel Iskowitz.