How advent of King Charles will affect coins, stamps and etiquette

Many everyday items and traditions will be different under the new monarch

A Royal Mail post box in London
A London post box bearing the Queen’s ‘ER’ symbol
(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III, there are many aspects of British society that will now have to change.

A new flag and coat of arms will be designed for the King and the lyrics of the national anthem will need to be tweaked.

And “it is believed Charles will sit for a new portrait to be used on all new coins, notes and stamps that enter circulation after he takes the throne”, said The Independent.

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However, “unpicking” the Queen’s “name, image and iconography from the fabric of national life in the UK and across the Commonwealth” will be quite a task, The Guardian reported.

What will happen with cash?

There are 4.5 billion sterling bank notes in circulation with the Queen’s face on them, with a combined value of £80bn, said The Guardian. Replacing them with notes featuring the head of the new monarch “is expected to take at least two years”.

This is the first time that such a change has been necessary because when the Queen took to the throne in 1952, the monarch was not featured on British banknotes.

Since the reign of Charles II in the 17th century, tradition has dictated that monarchs should be represented on coins facing in the opposite direction to their predecessor, said The Independent. Therefore, Charles’s portrait is expected to face left, as the Queen’s faced right.

Coin designs are expected to be updated much more slowly than notes, so the Queen will not be disappearing from cash anytime soon.

Will there be a new national anthem?

An easier change will be switching the words of the national anthem from “God save our gracious Queen” to “God save our gracious King”. The anthem was introduced in 1745 when it said: “God save great George our king, Long live our noble king, God save the king.”

Similarly, MPs will have to swear a new oath to the Queen’s successor as they are not allowed to sit in the House of Commons, speak in debates, vote or receive a salary unless they pledge allegiance to the crown. Since 1952, they have sworn allegiance to “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth”.

What about stamps and post boxes?

The Post Office will change stamps, with a profile image of the new monarch being used. Royal Mail has said that all stamps featuring the Queen remain valid for use, noted The Telegraph.

However, said The Guardian, post boxes bearing Queen Elizabeth’s royal cypher, ER, are “unlikely to be removed” as “some with King George VI’s GR cypher remain in use today, 70 years on”.

What will happen to the royal coat of arms?

The royal coat of arms, used since the start of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, will remain the same. However, said the i paper, “just as when the Queen became monarch, it is likely that new artwork will be issued early in Charles’s reign by the College of Arms for use by public service bodies such as the civil service and the armed forces”.

What about Charles’s signature?

Until now the King’s signature was simply “Charles” but now it will be the name he has taken as King with an additional R for Rex – Latin for King – at the end.

In another change, during criminal court cases, the R to denote the Crown now stands for Rex rather Regina (the Queen).

Speaking of the law, where Queen’s Counsel (QC) referred to a set of barristers and solicitors who the monarch appointed to be a part of Her Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law, the title switches to King’s Counsel (KC) under Charles’s reign.

How will people refer to Charles when they meet him?

Social etiquette will also have to change when people meet the new monarch.

“Face-to-face, Charles will be Your Majesty rather than Your Royal Highness on first meeting,” said The Telegraph, “and Sir on second reference, instead of Ma’am – to rhyme with ‘lamb’ – which was used on second reference to Elizabeth II.”

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