When I first saw the signature of Queen Elizabeth II, ‘Elizabeth R’, I was curious and started asking questions about what the ‘R’ stood for and why.
Did the ‘R’ mean Reigns, Royal, Respect or what? As it turned out, it wasn’t even an English name or word from where the letter was generated.
The ‘R’ stood for “Regina”, a Latin word for Queen. Obviously, if a king were signing, the ‘R’ would stand for “Rex”, which is Latin for King . This is what has now been confirmed after her son and successor, King Charles III, has revealed his signature as ‘Charles R’.
He revealed his new signature and royal cypher for the first time since becoming monarch, as he was officially proclaimed King by the Accession Council during the ceremony at St James’ Palace on Saturday. As part of the centuries-old formality, he was required to sign two official documents to record his agreement to the Scottish Oath, which has been taken by every King and Queen of England since 1714.
The documents he signed showed his Royal Sign Manual, which is the signature he will use as reigning monarch and it is said to feature his name, Charles, with an ‘R’ added at the end, in line with the centuries old tradition. During the proclamation, he appeared to display his cypher for the first time.
The Royal Cypher is a way of combining a monarch’s initials and title, and can be either standalone letters or entwined like a monogram. It is used on a variety of items across the country, including postboxes, stamps, uniforms, government signage and medals. King Charles also appeared to showcase his cypher on a tie pin during his proclamation, which featured the letters ‘CR’ intertwined with a crown on top.
The late monarch signed official documents and guest books and others with ‘Elizabeth R.’ There is no doubt that Elizabeth II, Queen, had some class. Even in her old age, she lately maintained a personal Instagram account and made some tweets too, still signing off as ‘Elizabeth R’. She reigned well and long. Her unique signature has been described by royalists as “symbolic”, “an instrument of state” and “her personal promise and commitment”.
It is said that the tradition of signing with the initial ‘R’ dates back several centuries for English monarchs, to designate the authority of the sovereign, showing how they sign all official documents formal letters etc.
As part of late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, marking her unprecedented 70 years on the throne, a new collection of coins featuring her signature were unveiled by UK’s Royal Mint and it was the first UK coin collection to feature her signature in detail.
The Queen had the cyphers EIIR or ER, which stood for Elizabeth Regina, with the Roman numerals II referring to her being the second monarch named Elizabeth.
With King Charles, the new reigning monarch, his cypher and signature will soon be used instead on postboxes, uniforms and government signage all across the country.
Well, Queen Elizabeth II has signed ‘Elizabeth R’ for the last time with her death last Thursday, 8th September, 2022, just two days after appointing Liz Truss as the new British Prime Minster. And a signature with ‘R’ for Regina will not be signed, at least for almost the next 100 years because it doesn’t look like a woman will rule in that time, as those next in line to the throne are already known. Elizabeth reigned as Queen for 70 years and has been immediately succeeded by her first son who has become King Charles III. The other princes next in line are Williams and George and if one were to combine how many years they may live, there is no woman close to the throne at this time.
The new King Charles III is now Head of State, not just of the UK but in 14 other Commonwealth countries, including Australia and Canada. Nigeria was one of those countries until the country became a republic in 1963. At its peak, there were over 50 countries over which the Queen was Head of State and the countries she was Head of State at death included Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the non-Commonwealth states of Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria two times, her first visit being in 1956 when I was just 2 years old. During that visit, many of our nieces, cousins, sisters and others who were born during and after the visit, more or less, were given the name Elizabeth. It is said that that year produced more girls called Elizabeth than any other year in Nigeria’s history.
Elizabeth II, as the longest-reigning monarch in British history, died at the age of 96, leaving behind a legacy that blended the ancient and the modern with the help of mass media.
Queen Elizabeth II had many firsts, even as the longest reign as monarch. Born on April 21, 1926, she ascended the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952. In 2015, she became the longest-serving British monarch in history, exceeding even the reign of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who sat on the throne for 63 years and seven months. Elizabeth was also the first-ever British monarch to see the platinum jubilee, honoring her 70 years on the throne. She was the only female royal family member to have entered the armed forces.
Elizabeth II was the world’s best-traveled Head of State, as she visited more than 110 countries but never used a passport as she did not have one. She was also the only person in the UK who was allowed behind the wheel of a car without a driver’s license, and she enjoyed driving her Land Rover, even in her old age, although not too far from home and mostly within the vicinity of her castles and palaces.
When Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952, the leader of the USSR was Joseph Stalin, and the US president was Harry S. Truman. There were 14 US presidents during her reign and the UK saw 15 prime ministers under Elizabeth’s long reign, from Winston Churchill to the new PM Liz Truss. She also met with five Popes – Pope Francis at the Vatican in April 2014; Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland; Pope John Paul II, thrice – in October 1980 at the Vatican with her late husband, Prince Philip, at Buckingham Palace in May 1982 and again at the Vatican on October 17, 2000; Pope John XXIII at the Apostolic Palace on May 5, 1961; and Pope Pius XII in 1951 in Rome, one year before she acceded to the throne.
Queen Elizabeth visited Nigeria twice after she was crowned as British monarch. As noted earlier, the first time was from 28th January to 16th February 1956, three years after she ascended the throne. At that time, Queen Elizabeth toured Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, Jos and Enugu. She also came in 2003 during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, in Abuja from 3rd to 6th December, accompanied by her husband, the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The new King Charles III, as Prince of Wales, has visited Nigeria four times – 1990, 1999, 2006, and 2018, so he has a lot of connections to Nigeria and Nigerians.
Farewell, Elizabeth R; welcome, Charles R.
IMAGE CREDIT: numismag, BBC