02 August, 2013

Putting a Face to the Money

[First up, can I say a huge thank-you to everyone who responded to my post asking for guest writers earlier this week. Next week, I'll put up some info on what to send to me and where to send it!]

The Bank of England recently announced that the new face of British £10 notes is going to be Jane Austen. If you are in the UK, you cannot possibly have avoided this news story, but for my American friends, let me summarise...

Image from austenonly.com
Each of our British denominations of paper money has a picture of the Queen on one side and a famous Brit on the other. Every now and then, the famous face is retired and a new one takes its place. Our current crop are prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, scientist Charles Darwin, economist Adam Smith and then either the first governor of the Bank of England Sir John Houblon (old £50), or engineering business partners Matthew Boulton and James Watt (new £50).

When the Bank of England announced that Elizabeth Fry was going to be replaced with wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, some people kicked up a bit of a fuss - there would now be no women on the bank notes chosen by merit (of course, the Queen automatically gets on every one of them!). One woman in particular - Caroline Criado-Perez - ran a campaign to make the Bank of England think again, and was naturally delighted to be told that Charles Darwin was going to be replaced with novelist Jane Austen. However, because of this effort, Caroline Criado-Perez was subjected to the most vile and vitriolic hate campaign, escalating to actual threats of rape and/or death made against her on Twitter. A man has now been arrested. All this because of a bank note!

Anyway, I don't want to discuss the campaign, as I'm pretty sure we can all agree that threats of sexual violence are never anything other than despicable, and I personally didn't have a strong opinion on the inclusion/exclusion of women on four different bits of paper. I am however, glad to see a writer on the notes again.

No, all I really want to ask, is - if you were in charge of your currency, who would you put on your bank notes? Are there any writers you think should be honoured in this way, or are there other people who would be first in line?

Image from Wikipedia
The Bank of England has produced a list of possible faces, suggested by the public, which you can download here. Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare have already been used in the past, but other writerly suggestions include Geoffrey Chaucer, most of the romantic poets, Robert Burns, Mary Shelley, the Bronte sister (Emily and Charlotte - sorry, Anna!), HG Wells, George Orwell, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf and Terry Pratchett - any of those take your fancy? Perhaps in the future we will see JK Rowling or Iain Banks on our notes? My choice would be CS Lewis as I love his books and it would be nice to see somebody Northern Irish joining the fun.

If I was being sensible my non-writer suggestions would be Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor - kind of - of the internet), the engineer Brunel, or the mathematician Alan Turing, but really, my favourite non-writer suggestion already on the list is John Cleese! In fact, why not lighten the mood after the latest debacle and just agree to have comic characters for a while - Basil Fawlty, Private Pike, Compo, Baldrick...


  1. Baldrick on currency! Excellent suggestions :)

    Just looking through the list of suggestions and spotted John Capability Brown. Joe and I came across him at Chatsworth recently. He was one of the first landscape architects to completely change a landscape if he wanted - building hills, valleys and rivers wherever he pleased. At Chatsworth he had a whole village moved a mile down the road because it spoilt the view!

    1. I also like that Prince Philip is on the list - it would be cool to have a bank note with the Queen one side and her husband the other. I also approve of David Attenborough being on the list :)

    2. Capability Brown is responsible for some great things in this country. Him and Lutyens. He's a good candidate!

  2. My choices would be: George Orwell - for his foresight, Wellesley Tudor Pole - for establishing Chalice Well gardens and the wartime Silent Minute, or Edward Lear.

  3. You have non-American and non-British readers too, you know! Saying hello from Bangalore, India. :)

    Our banknotes are quite boring in this aspect - only a certain Mr Gandhi gets a place on our notes.

    1. That's exciting! Welcome! Bangalore gets a mention in my first novel :)

      I suppose if you're only going to have one person on your notes, Gandhi is pretty cool!


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