Una & The Lion

Una & The Lion

Jun 13 , 2022

The East India Company Collections celebrated ‘Una & the Lion’ silver and gold coin collection features designs by one of the world’s great coin designers as we reimagine this ancient legend to give the story of heroic Una and her devoted companion The Lion a fresh, contemporary twist.

From the very first silver proof kilo coin issued in 2019 to the 2023 upcoming release, Una & the Lion has been created by designer Glyn Davies. His representation of the elegant, determined Una and the powerful but poised lion reflect this ancient bond with all the grace, courage and trust of the original story of this brave princess with the mighty beast at her side.

The legend of Una & the Lion dates back to the 16th Century and Edmund Spencer’s epic poem The Faerie Queene, a classic work of medieval English literature. At over 36,000 lines long, its six books contain one of the longest poems in the English language, each book telling stories of different knights on their various quests to prove or demonstrate their particular virtues. It is believed to be an allegory of the life and achievements of Queen Elizabeth I, but it is in Book One where we meet the heroic figure of Una.

Una is a beautiful princess on a quest to save her mother and father from a cruel dragon who has imprisoned them in a tower. To help her defeat the dragon, she searches for the Redcrosse knight, whose destiny is to become St. George, the patron saint of England.

While on her journey Una enters a dark secluded wood, where she encounters a fierce lion who launches an attack on her.  However, before he is able to leap upon his prey his initial rage is replaced by wonder, his anger subdued as he is instantly captivated by Una’s beauty and innocence. Instead of tearing her to pieces, he kisses her weary feet and licks her hands. He becomes her strong guard and faithful companion, forever by her side, filling her with courage and protecting her from harm.

The Lyon would not leave her desolate,
But with her went along, as a strong gard
Of her chast person, and a faithfull mate
Of her sad troubles and misfortunes hard:
Still when she slept, he kept both watch and ward,
And when she wakt, he waited diligent,
With humble service to her will prepard:

More than 200 years after The Faerie Queene was first published, the theme of Una representing a strong female monarch harnessing the power of a mighty beast was translated into a coin design. The 1839 five-pound piece was produced to mark the first anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria and featured a bold neoclassical design by William Wyon.

Wyon’s design cast Queen Victoria as Una, the young Queen still only 20 years old but shown to be radiating power and poise. Beside her was a mighty lion representing the British Empire, its barely suppressed power and energy being guided forward by Una, while Wyon’s revered ‘Young Head’ portrait of Queen Victoria graced the coin’s obverse.

The East India Company Collection’s annual series of Una & the Lion designs builds on Wyon’s legacy. Inspired by the history and symbolism of the heroic pair, each year their legend is reinterpreted with a modern twist for today’s collector. Minted to the highest quality proof finish, this collection of gold and silver coins is presented in extremely low issue limits, making each annual edition one of the most exceptional, beautiful and sought-after coin designs in the world.