When Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8, 2022, she had reigned for 70 years, the longest reign of any British monarch. At the age of 21, she pledged herself to a life of service to the people of the Commonwealth, a pledge that she renewed upon her coronation in 1953. She fulfilled that promise over the course of her many decades on the throne, and the Royal Canadian Mint honours her commitment with a new $20 commemorative silver coin called A Sense of Duty, a Life of Service.
A Symbol of Unity
Queen Elizabeth’s life of service began when she was very young before she had made her pledge. During World War II, she and her sister, Margaret, were sent to Windsor Castle for their safety while their parents, the King and Queen, remained in London. Many children around the country were in a similar situation, and the 14-year-old princess agreed to give a radio broadcast intended to boost morale. She spoke with empathy to children who were separated from their families, pointing out that she and her sister were going through the same experience.
Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth would give multiple addresses, broadcast to the public via radio and later on television. In her first television address, she regretted that she must, of necessity, be a “remote” figure to many of her subjects and expressed a hope that her public addresses would connect with them more personally.
Groundbreaking Military Service
Members of the royal family frequently serve in the military, but Queen Elizabeth, while she was still a princess, was the first female member of the British royals to serve actively. In 1945, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and trained to be a car mechanic. As Queen, she would hold many honourary ranks and military appointments. She would go on to serve as Air-Commodore-in-Chief, Captain-General of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, and Colonel-in-Chief of several Canadian Armed Forces units. The title of Commissioner in Chief of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was conferred on her in 2012.
An Unexpected Queen
When Princess Elizabeth was born, no one expected that she would one day be Queen of England and the Commonwealth. Her uncle, later known as Edward VIII, was the heir to the throne at the time. When he abdicated in 1936, Elizabeth’s father, George VI, became King, and Elizabeth became heir to the throne.
While on a royal tour with her husband, Philip, in 1952, Elizabeth was in Kenya when she received the news that her father had died and that she was the new Queen. It wasn’t an office that she had actively sought or even necessarily wanted, but she accepted it with grace, dignity, and humility. These shine through in the portrait of Her Majesty on her coronation day that graces the reverse of this commemorative coin. The Queen wears the Imperial State Crown, as she did on that occasion over 70 years ago, and is surrounded by the floral symbols of the United Kingdom (Tudor rose, Irish shamrock, Scottish thistle, and Welsh daffodil) as well as the Canadian maple leaf.
A Four-Fold Effigy
Throughout her reign, four different effigies of Queen Elizabeth have graced the obverse of Canadian coins. For this commemorative coin, the Royal Canadian Mint has included them all, with the most recent in the forefront, as the nation looks back on her legacy. The dates of her reign, from 1952 to 2022, appear with a Tudor rose between them. The obverse bears the familiar inscription “Elizabeth II D.G. Regina,” which translates from Latin as “Queen by God’s Grace.”
A Fitting Tribute by the Royal Canadian Mint
The Queen’s humble commitment to duty and service has engendered a deep respect and affection for her in the hearts of many Canadians. This coin, one of many Royal Canadian Mint coins for sale at Colonial Acres, serves as a beautiful memento of her many years of service.