In preparation for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, four new statues were added to the six ‘King’s Beasts’ to create the ‘Queen’s Beasts’ which stood guard outside Westminster Abbey during the celebrations. As four of Henry VIII’s beasts were not relevant to the current Queen’s lineage (she is not descended from Jane Seymour rendering the Seymour ‘beasts’ at Hampton Court unnecessary) four new beasts were created to reflect her specific ancestry. These were the Unicorn of Scotland, the Falcon of the Plantagenets, the White Horse of Hanover, and the Griffin of Edward III (the final and as of yet unreleased coin in the Royal Mint series) and all have been marvellously brought to life on coins by engraver Jody Clark.
The Unicorn of Scotland
The unicorn of Scotland likewise features on the modern royal coat of arms and is the design for the second coin in the series. This mythical creature with its white coat has long represented purity and James I added it to the royal arms when he became the monarch of both England and Scotland in 1603. It represents the Queen’s descent from the monarchs of Scotland and its golden chains are meant to indicate its strength; a fierce animal that must be tamed. Jody Clark’s design shows the unicorn rearing its hooves and it holds a shield depicting the royal arms of Scotland, a lion rampant.
The Falcon of the Plantagenets
The falcon is another symbol that connects the Queen to the House of Plantagenet, specifically to the great warrior King Edward III. Edward III chose this symbol to demonstrate his love of falconry and hunting and from then on it was popular as a royal symbol. The shield clutched in the talons of Jody Clark’s proud falcon depicts another falcon in a fetterlock, the badge of Edward IV. The falcon was chosen in 1953 as one of the new Queen’s Beasts and it is no wonder given its pedigree as an ancient royal symbol.
The White Horse of Hanover
This was one of the ‘new’ Queen’s Beasts created in 1953 and reflects Elizabeth II’s German heritage and her descent from George I and the House of Hanover. In 1714 the British throne passed from Queen Anne to George, the Elector of Hanover who was a maternal great grandson of Charles I. The white horse was a symbol of the Guelph dynasty from which the House of Hanover descended and became a part of British heraldry when George I assumed the throne. The horse holds the arms of George I which include the lions of England and lion of Scotland, the harp of Ireland, and the arms of Hanover. These arms were used by all the Hanoverian Kings until the accession of Queen Victoria, when the Kingdom of Hanover passed to another branch and the current Royal Arms were adopted.
The Griffin of Edward III
The mythical griffin was used in the personal seal of Edward III. This creature was thought to represent strength and courage. In its arms it holds a shield showing the round tower of Windsor Castle enwreathed and crowned. Edward III was born at Windsor and strongly associated with the castle. While the Queen is descended from Edward III, this beast is particularly relevant as Windsor is the Royal Family’s favourite home and gives its name to the current royal house. The shield carried by the griffin is the badge of the House of Windsor and thereby the heraldic symbol of the modern royal family.