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What Happens to Everything With Queen Elizabeth II’s Image?


The situation is somewhat different with mailboxes. There are 115,000 of them around the UK and most carry the queen’s cipher, although there are still some that feature the ciphers of previous monarchs, including Victoria. A few hundred new mailboxes are installed every year, says Gold, and it is only on new ones that Charles III’s iconography will be introduced.

Existing British coins and banknotes will also remain valid, although they will be superseded as new ones enter circulation in the coming months and years. A team of designers will first present a portrait of Charles III in profile to the king. His head will be facing left, following the tradition of successive monarchs facing in alternating directions on coins. The king will look this design over and likely approve it for use there and then. It will then be adopted by the Royal Mint and pressed on to the reverse of every new coin. Separately, the Bank of England will print banknotes depicting the king.

One design change that might take place rather quickly regards the uniforms worn by military regiments associated with the Royal Household, such as those in the Household Cavalry.

“Every single button that you wear has got the royal cipher on it,” recalls Richard Negus, a former member of the Household Cavalry who is now a hedge layer and conservationist. Other items of uniform and paraphernalia such as swords also carry the cipher. Negus says he would expect this to be updated fairly soon: “Otherwise, it’s pretty poor form—you’re wearing an essentially out-of-date uniform.” WIRED understands that design decisions affecting the crowns displayed on military cap badges and buttons are a matter for the new king himself.

Similarly, some police forces use the queen’s cipher on their uniforms. The traditional domed custodian helmet—or “bobby’s helmet”—used by the Metropolitan Police in London and some other forces features the cipher rather prominently, for example, at the center of a silver-colored emblem called the Brunswick star.

Police uniform suppliers contacted by WIRED did not respond to requests for comment about potential uniform changes to reflect the new monarch. “It’s something we would imagine forces will look at going forward after the period of national mourning has ended, likely in conversation with the Cabinet Office,” a spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council says.

“EIIR” as a symbol has become deeply familiar, along with portraits of the queen such as the famous Arnold Machin portrait used on postage stamps, says Pauline Maclaren at Royal Holloway, University of London. “It’ll be so strange, it’s fading into the background,” she adds.

But these things will fade, if not entirely. This has actually been happening for many decades as various nations have modernized and moved away from the trappings of the British Empire. The queen’s image was once even more prominent than it is today, especially in certain countries of the Commonwealth.

“At one point, you would have seen a portrait of the queen in everything [Australian] school classroom—that’s long gone,” says Cindy McCreery, senior lecturer in the department of history at the University of Sydney.





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