King Charles III’s face arrives on Britain’s bank notes

LONDON — In the United Kingdom, the rapid spread of cashless payments means that cash is no longer king, but now at least the notes will carry the image of one.

Bank notes featuring King Charles III’s face went into circulation on Wednesday, his portrait featured on new 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-pound bills — the last one little used and worth a hefty $64.

The Charles bank notes are entering circulation slowly, with new bills produced to replace torn or tatty notes, or if there’s a need to print more money.

Some people couldn’t wait that long — early on Wednesday, there was a line outside of the Bank of England of people eager to get their hands on the new bank notes.

The only alteration on the money is the addition of Charles’s portrait, which appears on the front of the notes and in a little cameo in the see-through security window. The back of the notes remains unchanged — the 5-pound note features Winston Churchill; the 10-pound note writer Jane Austen, the 20-pound note artist J.M.W. Turner and the 50-pound note Alan Turing, the computer pioneer.

Brits have only had one monarch in their pockets for their whole lives, but now they can carry two.

Queen Elizabeth II, who died in 2022 after 70 years of service to the British people, is still working for the country — her bank notes are regarded as legal tender and can continue to be used.

Even with the rapid rise of cashless payments, there is still a lot of cash out there — the Bank of England says there are more than 4.6 billion notes in circulation featuring Elizabeth’s portrait, worth 82 billion pounds.

“Our approach is in line with guidance from the Royal Household, to minimise the environmental and financial impact of this change,” the Bank of England said on its website.


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The Bank of England said it would provide a temporary service for those eager to snap up the Charles bank notes. People with a U.K. address can send in 300 pounds of their old money in the post, and it will be exchanged with Charles bank notes; anyone can also go up to the Bank of England in person for the next week.

The introduction of the new notes is a “historic moment,” Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said in a statement. “We know that cash is important for many people, and we are committed to providing bank notes for as long as the public demand them. Bringing these new notes into circulation is a demonstration of that commitment.”

Charles was presented with the very first bank notes bearing his portrait at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in April. Charles said they were “very well designed” and said he was surprised at being only the second monarch featured on British bank notes.

The first monarch to appear on a British bank note was his mother, Elizabeth, who was added to a 1-pound paper note in 1960.

Britain was not the first country to include Elizabeth’s likeness on their money — Canada included her image on its currency way back in 1935, when it featured a picture of the 8-year-old princess on its $20 note. Elizabeth’s portrait went on to grace the currencies of over 30 countries and territories.

Although Charles has been king since 2022, various royal symbols are still gradually transitioning. The first coins featuring Charles went into circulation in December. As is tradition, his image on the coins faces in the opposite direction from his predecessor. Charles’s new royal cypher — a kind of official royal logo consisting of his initials, C for Charles and R for Rex (Latin for king), and a crown — has also started cropping up here and there.

Charles chose a new crown for his cipher, the rounded Tudor Crown, which is different from his late mother’s symbol, the familiar hooped St. Edward’s Crown. Earlier this year, the new crown logo began appearing on government websites.

It will also slowly start popping up on things like the iconic red Royal Mail post boxes when they are replaced. This could take some time.

There are still many post boxes around today that feature the cypher of Charles’s grandfather King George VI. And chances are, Britons will also be still be paying with notes bearing Elizabeth’s face for some time to come — as long as they keep using cash, that is.

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