I shall be rather sad if Britannia does indeed, as the Prime Minister plans, disappear from British coins. After all, it’s part of the point of a modern coin design that it should include some hoary old symbol that is simultaneously easily recognisable and also not fully comprehensible (or not comprehensible without a bit of research, anyway).
After all one of the Greek Euros has the Rape of Europa on it: a frisky bull, about to run off with -- and worse – an innocent young maid. (Imagine what the New Labour moral police would have done with that one.) And what on earth was that little bird on the old farthing. Was it a wren or a robin? And why?
So Britannia fits the bill rather nicely. An appropriately antique goddess, invented by the Romans, as a symbol of their new province, and used on British coins since the seventeenth century. If she goes, I don’t hold out much hope, long term, for that nice bit of Virgil (decus et tutamen -- from Aeneid Book V) around the pound coin. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Brown isn’t much of a fan of Latin.
But while the traditionalists lament Britannia’s disappearance, they might like to reflect on her first appearance in Roman art. As rape victim of the doddery old emperor Claudius.