On the two hundredth anniversary of her death, the new ten pound note featuring Jane Austen will be unveiled by the Bank of England today.
On 18th July 1817, one of England’s most beloved authors died at the age of 41, having written and published four novels, with two more published posthumously, and a seventh left unfinished. Her novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, are some of the most read and well-loved classics to this day, but they brought her little fame during her lifetime. It wasn’t until 1833, when her novels were republished and sold as a set, that her readership began to grow.
Depicted on the new note will be a portrait of Austen painted by James Andrews in 1869, based on the only certain surviving portrait of her, painted by her older sister Cassandra c. 1810. In addition, a quote from Pride and Prejudice will feature on the note: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” Unfortunately, this phrase is actually said ironically by a character who has no interest in reading whatsoever. But never let the truth get in the way of a good quote.
The new tenner follows the five pound note in receiving the polymer treatment, resulting in cleaner, safer and stronger notes that can withstand a washing machine cycle (we’ve all been there), but will melt under the heat of an iron (perhaps still check your pockets before washing).
As well as being tougher than the old cotton versions, the new notes include updated security features to prevent counterfeiting and are expected to last up to five years, 2.5 times longer than the old notes.
Jane Austen was chosen as the figurehead for the ten pound note after a successful viral campaign by Caroline Criado-Perez, who realised that when Winston Churchill replaced Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, on the new five pound notes, there would no longer be a woman other than the Queen on our currency. Disappointingly, Criado-Perez’s calls for Austen to replace Charles Darwin when the ten pound note was redesigned received a shocking response on social media, including death threats. When Mark Carney was appointed as the new Bank of England governor, he invited Criado-Perez to their offices to announce that Austen would be appearing on the new notes.
In a huge shake up of the UK currency, 2017 has seen the launch of a new hexagonal £1 coin, as well as the upcoming ten pound note, which will become legal tender in September. The twenty pound note will follow suit in 2020, depicting artist J.M.W. Turner in a self-portrait from c. 1799, as well as his piece The Fighting Temeraire and a quote from his 1818 lecture, “Light is therefore colour.” Turner’s signature from his Will also features on the note.
What are your thoughts on the new polymer notes so far? Do you believe they will help to reduce counterfeiting and save the country millions of pounds in the long run? If you could choose three different figures to appear on the five, ten and twenty pound notes, who would you have chosen? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.