England has been a major center of western culture for hundreds of years. Along with Germany, France, Russia and more recently the United States, England has been involved in nearly all important historical events, advances and cultural changes in the west. For such a small and distant island, it is amazing to see the impact England has had throughout the world. The most obvious effect is through it large and enduring empire that stretched around the world. The impact of the empire is seen in banknotes all around the world. Portraits of King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth can be found on more than 1000 banknotes in their colonies and former colonies. England had provincial notes, treasury notes and other forms of paper currency before the nationalization of the Bank of England in 1946.
King George V was on many banknotes in the pre-decimal era before 1946 along with the image of Britannia. Great Britain- the four connected countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use the Great Britain Pounds. The first monarch on ‘National’ English banknotes was Queen Elizabeth II in 1960. The designs and especially the portrait of the Queen evolved over time. The first portrait showed the Queen very stoic and looking off into the distance. The 1970s designs were a significant departure from prior designs. The Queen’s portrait has exquisite detail. She is looking at you, and she is wearing royal regalia and jewelry. This series is also the first time the banknotes started to include a historical English person on the reverse. Many collectors believe the 1971 5 pound “Wellington” note is one of the most beautiful banknotes ever. Isaac Newton, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens have all been included on English banknotes. In 2015, the Bank of England introduced polymer banknotes. The designs integrate the best of the previous designs and take full advantage of the clear polymer window. The holograms of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Kent Lighthouse are beautiful and well integrated into the design and concept. Through its currency, England continues to remain the paper money leader in design, security and culture.