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The Tower of London is one of the world’s most famous landmarks. It has a rich and bloody history during which it has housed conquerors, monarchs, invaders, and rebels. Besides serving as palace and prison, it has also been home to the Royal Armories, the Royal Mint, and even a zoo. One night in December of 1340, Edward III arrived to discover that the gates were unguarded. He decreed that the tower gates were to be locked from sunset to sunrises.
Since then, the gates have been locked nightly in a ceremony. Two of the central items used in the ceremony, a lantern and keys, feature on these two coins, one proof and one piedfort proof. Both were struck from .925 sterling silver and bear a Tower mint mark, which was first used for this series. The proof was struck on a 28.28 g planchet, while the piedfort proof was struck on a 56.56 g planchet. The former has a mintage of 4,000 pieces and the latter just 1,160.
The British Royal Mint issued a one year, four-coin series to tell the story of the Tower of London. Capturing the complete history of such an edifice in four books, much less four coins, would be a challenge, but the four coins of this set do an exceptional job.
The first in the set features a Crown, symbol of the monarchs who have called the Tower home, as well as the building’s current role in housing the crown jewels. The second issue features a Raven. The Tower holds at least six at any given time. Legend has it that both the Tower and the Kingdom will fall should the ravens ever leave.
The third coin featured a Yeoman Warder, better known as a Beefeater. The Warders are responsible for the security of visitors and carry out ceremonial duties. This final issue features the keys and lantern, which are associated with one of those ceremonies, the locking and unlocking of the Tower. Parts of the Tower’s plans are incorporated into each design, and a viewer gets a bird’s eye view of those plans when placing the coins together.
All the coins in this series feature a common obverse. It is dominated by a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark. The monarch wears the same crown that she wears at the State Opening of Parliament, her Royal Diamond Diadem. Her name and abbreviated Latin title, “ELIZABETH II D G REG F D” (Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith), join the coin’s face value, “5 POUNDS,” and date, “2019,” along the rim.
The Proof and Piedfort Proof Ceremony of the Keys also share a common reverse. It consists of three keys and a lantern that is used in the ceremony of locking the building. “TOWER OF LONDON” is inscribed along the rim. On the edge is an inscription of a line in a poem written from the perspective of someone imprisoned in the Tower. It reads, “ON INTO TWILIGHT WITHIN WALLS OF STONE.”
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