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Pistrucci’s classic St George and the dragon on the 1817 sovereign

Pistrucci’s classic St George and the dragon on the 1817 sovereign

Artistic sensitivity

Pole was more than just an efficient administrator. There was also an artistic sensitivity which made him want to ensure that the Royal Mint ‘may not only have to boast of the most beautiful and correct machinery in the world, but that we may stand equally unrivalled for the perfect form and exquisite taste of our several coins’. To this end, he obtained designs for the coinage from the talented Benedetto Pistrucci, and it is largely due to Pole’s patronage of the difficult and mercurial Italian that the famous St George and the dragon design came to be adopted for the sovereign in 1817.

Public criticism

The patriotic British press, however, rebuked Pole for his neglect of British artists and for his ‘persevering disposition to shew an utter disregard of public taste and public opinion’. Popular criticism was also provoked by the insertion of Pole’s initials on some of the coins, even though the Mint indenture had long allowed the Master of the Royal Mint to identify his coins in this way. There were some, indeed, who professed to see in a portrait of George III the features of Pole himself. But for Pole, it was all a matter of ‘no consequence’, being prompted in all probability by spite.

His initials were rather more cunningly included on this George IV shilling of 1821

Far left: Pole’s initials on a pattern
two-pound piece of 1820

Left: His initials were rather more cunningly included on this George IV shilling of 1821





Pole’s legacy

Pole’s legacy to the modern Royal Mint includes the establishment of a Museum which has grown since 1816 to become one of the most important in the world. It is a tangible reminder of a man who wanted British coins not only to be perfectly produced but also works of art.