Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has unveiled the new £10 polymer banknote featuring Jane Austen on the 200th anniversary of her death.
The big reveal took place at Winchester Cathedral, where Austen was buried following her death in 1817. It is the first time that members of the public were given an exclusive look ahead of its general release on September 14.
Austen is the only woman – apart from the Queen – to feature on an English bank note, following the withdrawal of the old £5 notes, which featured Elizabeth Fry. The new fivers show a picture of Winston Churchill.
Austen’s presence on the new £10 note was one of the first announcements made by Mr Carney after he took up his position as Governor of the Bank of England in July 2013.
Speaking at Winchester Cathedral, Mr Carney said: “The new £10 note celebrates Jane Austen’s work. Austen’s novels have a universal appeal and speak as powerfully today as they did when they were first published.”
He has previously said that Austen merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on English banknotes because her novels have “an enduring and universal appeal, and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature”.
Among her most acclaimed novels are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Austen’s books have been translated into over 40 languages.
The new note features Austen’s portrait (which was commissioned after her death at the age of 41), and a quote from Pride and Prejudicewhen Miss Bingley says: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment but reading!”
However use of this particular quote has caused controversy as it isn’t spoken by Austen, but by one her most obnoxious characters, a woman who doesn’t actually like reading books at all.
The £10, which is around 15pc smaller than the current £10 note, also shows an image of Godmersham Park, which was the home of Edward Austen Knight, Austen’s brother. She visited the house many times and it is believed to be the inspiration behind a number of her novels.
Jane Austen’s writing table is also depicted on the note. The central design in the background is inspired by the 12-sided writing table, and writing quills, used by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.
The new £10 is the first Bank of England banknote to be printed with a series of raised dots in the top left-hand corner to help blind and partially sighted users. This is in addition to the elements already incorporated in the banknotes for vision impaired people, which include tiered sizing, bold numerals, raised print and differing colour palettes.
Paper bank notes are slowly being replaced by plastic notes, which are more secure and resilient to counterfeiting, more resistant to dirt and more durable. The new £10 is expected to last at least 2.5 times longer than its paper predecessor – around five years in total, the Bank of England said.
The paper fiver has already been replaced, and the new polymer £20 banknote will be issued in 2020, with the face of J.M.W Turner printed on it. Boulton and Watt will feature on the £50 note. “These individuals have advanced British thought, spurred innovation, exerted exceptional leadership, and more generally helped to shape this diverse society and forge our common values,” Mr Carney said today.
Despite criticism from from vegans and vegetarians, the new £10 note contains tallow, a rendered form of beef or mutton fat.
But the central bank has backed the use of palm oil in its new £20 note following the backlash.
More than 136,000 people signed a Change.org petition calling for the Bank of England to cease using animal fat in the production of currency.
While the Bank of England started printing millions of the Jane Austen notes in October 2016, it will be another two months until they appear in people’s wallets. The note will be formally issued on September 14.
The old paper notes featuring Charles Darwin can continue to be used until Spring 2018 when they will cease to be legal tender, with the exact date being announced at least three months in advance.
The Royal Mint has also launched a Jane Austen £2 coin in celebration of her life and works. It can be bought on the Mint website for £10.
£10 in Jane Austen’s time would have been worth the equivalent of £786 in today’s money, according to analysis by Aviva.
If the Bank of England had wanted the new £10 banknote to have the same purchasing power that £10 enjoyed 200 years ago, it would need to be revalued as the £786 banknote. But thanks to the eroding impact of inflation, £10 today has a relative purchasing power of only 13p, compared with what it could have bought in 1817.
According to Mr Carney, £10 was half the annual allowance she received from her father while he was alive. A £10 note may also have had a symbolic meaning to her, as it was the amount she was paid by publishers Crosby and Co. for her first novel, Susan, he said.