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Britannia () is the
national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germani ...
of
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
as a helmeted female warrior holding a
trident A trident is a three-tine (structural), pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and historically as a polearm. The trident is the weapon of Poseidon, or Neptune (mythology), Neptune, the God of the Sea in classical mythology. The trident ma ...

trident
and shield. An image first used in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ...
, the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
''Britannia'' was the name variously applied to the
British Isles The British Isles are a in the North off the north-western coast of , consisting of the islands of , , the , the and over six thousand smaller islands."British Isles", ' They have a total area of and a combined population of almost 72&nb ...

British Isles
,
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
, and the
Roman province of Britain Roman Britain is the period in classical antiquity when large parts of the island of Great Britain were under Roman conquest of Britain, occupation by the Roman Empire. The occupation lasted from AD 43 to AD 410. During that time, the ...
during the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. Typically depicted reclining or seated with spear and shield since appearing thus on Roman coins of the 2nd century AD, the classical national allegory was revived in the
early modern period The early modern period of modern history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, and since the History of writing, adve ...
. On
coins of the pound sterling The standard circulating coin A coin is a small, flat, (usually, depending on the country or value) round piece of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, whe ...
issued by Charles II of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Britannia appears with her shield bearing the
Union Flag The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through prec ...

Union Flag
. To symbolise the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
's victories, Britannia's spear became the characteristic trident in 1797, and a helmet was added to the coinage in 1825. By the 1st century BC, Britannia replaced
Albion Albion is an alternative name for Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands ...

Albion
as the prevalent Latin name for the island of
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
. After the Roman conquest in 43 AD, ''Britannia'' also came to refer to the
Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. Each province was ruled ...
that encompassed the southern two-thirds of the island (see
Roman Britain Roman Britain is the period in classical antiquity when large parts of the island of Great Britain were under Roman conquest of Britain, occupation by the Roman Empire. The occupation lasted from AD 43 to AD 410. During that time, the ...

Roman Britain
). The remaining third of the island, known to the Romans as
Caledonia Caledonia () was the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...

Caledonia
, lay north of the
River Forth The River Forth is a major river in central Scotland, long, which drains into the North Sea on the east coast of the country. Its drainage basin A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common ...
in modern
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
. It was intermittently but not permanently occupied by the
Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500–31 BC) and the (31 BC–395 AD), and its medieval continuation, the (historiographically known as the ). It i ...

Roman army
. The name is a
Latinisation Latinisation or Latinization can refer to: * Latinisation of names, the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style * Latinisation in the Soviet Union, the campaign in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s to replace traditional writing sy ...
of the native
Brittonic Brittonic or Brythonic may refer to: *Common Brittonic, or Brythonic, the Celtic language anciently spoken in Great Britain *Brittonic languages, a branch of the Celtic languages descended from Common Brittonic *Celtic Britons, Britons (Celtic peop ...
word for Great Britain, ''Pretanī'', which also produced the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
form ''Prettanike'' or ''Brettaniai''. In the 2nd century, Roman Britannia came to be
personified Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning anothe ...
as a goddess, armed with a spear and shield and wearing a Corinthian helmet. When Roman Britain was divided into four provinces in 197 AD, two were called
Britannia Superior __NOTOC__ Britannia Superior (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
() in the south and
Britannia Inferior Britannia Inferior (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Ro ...
() to the north. The name ''Britannia'' long survived the
end of Roman rule in Britain The end of Roman rule in Britain was the transition from Roman Britain Roman Britain is the period in classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural hi ...
in the 5th century and yielded the name for the island in most European and various other languages, including the English
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...
and the modern Welsh ''
Prydain Prydain ( Middle Welsh: ''Prydein'') is the modern Welsh name for Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isle ...
''. In the 9th century the associated terms ''
Bretwalda ''Bretwalda'' (also ''brytenwalda'' and ''bretenanwealda'', sometimes capitalised) is an Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germ ...

Bretwalda
'' and ''Brytenwealda'' were applied to some Anglo-Saxon kings to assert a wider hegemony in Britain and hyperbolic inscriptions on coins and titles in charters often included the equivalent title ''rex Britanniae''. However when England was unified the title used was ''rex Angulsaxonum'' ('king of the Anglo-Saxons'). After centuries of declining use, the Latin form was revived during the
English Renaissance The English Renaissance was a cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, cap ...
as a rhetorical evocation of a British national identity. Especially following the
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
in 1707, which joined the Kingdoms of
England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

England
and
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...
, the personification of the martial Britannia was used as an emblem of British maritime power and unity, most notably in the patriotic song "
Rule, Britannia! "Rule, Britannia!" is a British patriotic song, originating from the 1740 poem "Rule, Britannia" by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in the same year. It is strongly associated with the Royal Navy, but is also used by the Brit ...
". A British cultural icon, she was featured on all modern British coinage series until the redesign in 2008, and still appears annually on the gold and silver "
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.ht ...
" bullion coin series. In 2015 a new definitive £2 coin was issued, with a new image of Britannia. She is also depicted in the
Brit Awards The BRIT Awards (often simply called The BRITs) are the British Phonographic Industry The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) Ltd is the British recorded music industry's trade association A trade association, also known as an industry t ...
statuette, the
British Phonographic Industry The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) Ltd is the British recorded music industry's trade association A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization f ...
's annual music awards.


Greek and Roman periods

The first writer to use a form of the name was the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
explorer and geographer
Pytheas Pytheas of Massalia (; Ancient Greek: Πυθέας ὁ Μασσαλιώτης ''Pythéas ho Massaliōtēs''; Latin: ''Pytheas Massiliensis''; born 350 BC, 320–306 BC) was a Greeks, Greek List of Graeco-Roman geographers, geographer, explore ...
in the 4th century BC. Pytheas referred to ''Prettanike'' or ''Brettaniai'', a group of islands off the coast of North-Western Europe. In the 1st century BC,
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus, or Diodorus of Sicily ( grc-gre, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ;  1st century BC), was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern ...
referred to ''Pretannia'', Snyder, p. 12. a rendering of the indigenous name for the '' Pretani'' people whom the Greeks believed to inhabit the
British Isles The British Isles are a in the North off the north-western coast of , consisting of the islands of , , the , the and over six thousand smaller islands."British Isles", ' They have a total area of and a combined population of almost 72&nb ...

British Isles
. Following the Greek usage, the
Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, ...
referred to the ''Insulae Britannicae'' in the plural, consisting of ''
Albion Albion is an alternative name for Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands ...

Albion
'' (Great Britain), ''
Hibernia Image:Ireland from space edit.jpg, Color depth#Truecolor, True-colour satellite image of Ireland ''Hibernia'' () is the Classical Latin name for Ireland. The name ''Hibernia'' was taken from Greek language, Greek geographical accounts. During ...
'' (Ireland), ''
Thule Thule ( grc-gre, Θούλη, Thoúlē; la, Thūlē) is the farthest north location mentioned in ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into ...
'' (possibly
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#N ...

Iceland
or
Orkney Orkney (; sco, Orkney; on, Orkneyjar; nrn, Orknøjar), also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island A ...

Orkney
) and many smaller islands. Over time, Albion specifically came to be known as ''Britannia'', and the name for the group was subsequently dropped. Although the creation and unification of the province of Britannia is commonly attributed to the emperor
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...

Claudius
in 43 AD,
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
had already established Roman authority over the Southern and Eastern Britain dynasties during his two expeditions to the island in 55 and 54 BC. Just as Caesar himself had been an ''obside'', hostage, in Bithynia as a youth, he also had taken the King's sons back to Rome as ''obsides'' and to be educated. The Roman conquest of the island began in AD 43, leading to the establishment of the
Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. Each province was ruled ...
known in Latin as ''
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.ht ...

Britannia
''. The Romans never successfully conquered the whole island, building
Hadrian's Wall Hadrian's Wall ( la, Vallum Aelium), also known as the Roman Wall, Picts' Wall, or ''Vallum Hadriani'' in Latin, is a former defensive fortification of the Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provincia ...

Hadrian's Wall
as a boundary with ''
Caledonia Caledonia () was the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...

Caledonia
'', which covered roughly the territory of modern
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
, although the whole of the boundary marked by Hadrian's Wall lies within modern-day
Northern England Northern England, also known as the North of England or simply the North, is the most northern area of England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England ...

Northern England
. A southern part of what is now Scotland was occupied by the Romans for about 20 years in the mid-2nd century AD, keeping in place the
Picts The Picts were a group of peoples who lived in what is now northern and eastern Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply ...
to the north of the . People living in the Roman province of Britannia were called ''Britanni'', or
Britons The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mix ...
. Ireland, inhabited by the
Scoti ''Scoti'' or ''Scotti'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the po ...
, was never invaded and was called
Hibernia Image:Ireland from space edit.jpg, Color depth#Truecolor, True-colour satellite image of Ireland ''Hibernia'' () is the Classical Latin name for Ireland. The name ''Hibernia'' was taken from Greek language, Greek geographical accounts. During ...
.
Thule Thule ( grc-gre, Θούλη, Thoúlē; la, Thūlē) is the farthest north location mentioned in ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into ...
, an island "six days' sail north of Britain, and ..near the frozen sea", possibly
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#N ...

Iceland
, was also never invaded by the Romans. Claudius paid a visit while Britain was being conquered and was honoured with the
agnomen An ''agnomen'' (; plural: ''agnomina''), in the Roman naming convention Over the course of some fourteen centuries, the Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , fou ...
''Britannicus'' as if he were the conqueror; a
frieze In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. A ...

frieze
discovered at
Aphrodisias Aphrodisias (; grc, Ἀφροδισιάς, Aphrodisiás) was a small Ancient Greece, ancient Greek Hellenistic_period, Hellenistic city in the historic Caria cultural region of western Anatolia, Turkey. It is located near the modern village of G ...

Aphrodisias
in 1980 shows a bare breasted and helmeted female warrior labelled BRITANNIA, writhing in agony under the heel of the emperor. She appeared on coins issued under
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of Atri, Abruzzo, Atri in Picenum. Hi ...

Hadrian
, as a more regal-looking female figure. Britannia was soon
personified Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning anothe ...
as a goddess, looking fairly similar to the goddess
Athena Athena or Athene, often given the epithet An epithet (, ) is a byname, or a descriptive term (word or phrase), accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied ...

Athena
-
Minerva Minerva (; ett, Menrva) is the Roman goddess Roman mythology is the body of of as represented in the and . One of a wide variety of genres of , ''Roman mythology'' may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to ...

Minerva
- both are seated and replete with helmet, spear (trident) and shield. Early portraits of the goddess depict Britannia as a beautiful young woman, wearing a Corinthian helmet, and wrapped in a white garment with her right breast exposed. She is usually shown seated on a rock, holding a trident, and with a spiked shield propped beside her. Sometimes she holds a
standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrology), an object that bears a defined relationship to a unit of ...
and leans on the shield. On another range of coinage, she is seated on a globe above waves: Britain at the edge of the (known) world. Similar coin types were also issued under
Antoninus Pius Antoninus Pius (; la, Antōnīnus Pius ; 19 September 86 – 7 March 161) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emper ...

Antoninus Pius
.


British revival


Medieval use

After the Roman withdrawal, the term "Britannia" remained in use in Britain and abroad. Latin was ubiquitous amongst native Brythonic writers and the term continued in the Welsh tradition that developed from it. Writing with variations on the term ''Britannia'' (or '' Prydein'' in the native language) appeared in many Welsh works such as the ''
Historia Britonum ''The History of the Britons'' ( la, Historia Brittonum) is a purported history of the indigenous British ( Brittonic) people that was written around 828 and survives in numerous recensionRecension is the practice of editing or revising a text base ...
'', ''
Armes Prydein ''Armes Prydein'' (, ''The Prophecy of Britain'') is an early 10th-century Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indi ...
'' and the 12th-century ''
Historia Regum Britanniae ''Historia regum Britanniae'' (''The History of the Kings of Britain''), originally called ''De gestis Britonum'' (''On the Deeds of the Britons''), is a pseudohistorical Pseudohistory is a form of pseudoscholarship that attempts to distort or ...
'', which gained unprecedented popularity throughout western Europe during the
High Middle Ages The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical c ...
. Following the migration of Brythonic Celts, the term ''Britannia'' also came to refer to the (at least from the 6th century). The modern English, French, Breton and Gallo names for the area, all derive from a literal use of ''Britannia'' meaning "land of the Britons". The two "Britannias" gave rise to the term ''Grande Bretagne'' (Great Britain) to distinguish the island of Britain from the continental peninsula. Following the
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain is the process which changed the language and culture of most of what became England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies north ...
, the term '"Briton" only referred to the native British, Celtic-speaking inhabitants of the province; this remained the case until the modern era. The use of the term as an inhabitant of the island of
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
or the is relatively recent.


Renaissance and British Empire

It was during the reign of
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
that "Britannia" again came to be used as a
personification Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as an anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread spec ...
of Britain. In his 1576 "General and rare memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation",
John Dee John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an Anglo-Welsh mathematician, astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe as ...

John Dee
used a frontispiece figure of Britannia kneeling by the shore beseeching Elizabeth I, to protect her empire by strengthening her navy. With the death of Elizabeth in 1603 came the succession of her Scottish cousin, James VI, King of Scots, to the English throne. He became James I of England, and so brought under his personal rule the Kingdoms of
England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

England
(and the dominion of Wales),
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
and
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...
. On 20 October 1604,
James VI and I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy, constitutional form of gover ...

James VI and I
proclaimed himself as "King of Great Brittaine, France and Ireland", a title that continued to be used by many of his successors. When James came to the English throne, some elaborate pageants were staged. One pageant performed on the streets of London in 1605 was described in
Anthony Munday Anthony Munday (or Monday) (1560?10 August 1633) was an English playwright and miscellaneous writer. He was baptized on 13 October 1560 in St Gregory by St Paul's, London, and was the son of Christopher Munday, a stationer, and Jane Munday. He ...
's ''Triumphs of Reunited Britannia'':
On a mount triangular, as the island of Britain itself is described to be, we seat in the supreme place, under the shape of a fair and beautiful nymph, Britannia herself...
Britain's first road atlas was updated in a series of editions titled from the early 18th into the early 19th century using the title '' Britannia Depicta''. During the reign of , Britannia made her first appearance on English coins on a farthing of 1672 (see ''Depiction on British coinage and postage stamps'' below). With the constitutional unification of England with Scotland in 1707 and then with Ireland in 1800, Britannia became an increasingly important symbol and a strong rallying point among Britons. British power, which depended on a liberal political system and the supremacy of the
navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense ...
, lent these attributes to the image of Britannia. By the time of
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of En ...

Queen Victoria
, Britannia had been renewed. Still depicted as a young woman with brown or golden hair, she kept her Corinthian helmet and her white robes, but now she held Neptune's trident and often sat or stood before the ocean and tall-masted ships representing British naval power. She also usually held or stood beside a Greek
hoplite Hoplites () ( grc, ὁπλίτης : hoplítēs) were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa' ...
shield, which sported the British
Union Flag The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through prec ...

Union Flag
: also at her feet was often the British Lion, an animal found on the arms of England, Scotland and the Prince of Wales.
Neptune Neptune is the eighth and farthest-known Solar planet from the Sun. In the Solar System, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. It is 17 times the mass of Earth, slightly mo ...
is shown symbolically passing his trident to Britannia in the 1847 fresco "Neptune Resigning to Britannia the Empire of the Sea" by
William Dyce William Dyce (; 19 September 1806 in 14 February 1864) was a Scottish painter, who played a part in the formation of public in the , and the system. Dyce was associated with the and played a part in their early popularity. Life Dyce was bo ...
, a painting Victoria commissioned for her
Osborne House Osborne House is a former royal residence in East Cowes, Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, ceremonial county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the En ...

Osborne House
on the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
. New Zealanders adopted a similar personification of their country in
Zealandia Zealandia (pronounced ), also known as ( Māori) or Tasmantis, is an almost entirely submerged mass of continental crust 350px, The thickness of Crust (geology)#Earth's crust, Earth's crust (km) Continental crust is the layer of Igneou ...
, Britannia's daughter, who appeared on postage stamps at the turn of the 20th century and still features in the New Zealand Coat of Arms. Perhaps the best analogy is that Britannia is to the United Kingdom and the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
what
Marianne Image:MariannedeTheodoreDoriot.JPG, Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the Senate (France), French Senate Marianne () has been the national personification of the France, French Republic since the French Revolution, as a personific ...

Marianne
is to France or perhaps what
Columbia Columbia may refer to: * Columbia (personification), the historical female national personification of the United States, and a poetic name for the Americas Places North America Natural features * Columbia Plateau, a geologic and geographic regio ...
is to the United States. Britannia became a very potent and more common figure in times of war, and represented British liberties and democracy.


Modern associations

During the 1990s the term ''
Cool Britannia Cool Britannia was a name for the period of increased pride in the culture of the United Kingdom throughout the second half of the 1990s, inspired by Swinging London from 1960s pop culture. This loosely coincided with the 1997 United Kingdom gene ...
'' (drawn from a humorous version by the
Bonzo Dog Band The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (also known as The Bonzo Dog Band or "The Bonzos”) was created by a group of British art-school students in the 1960s. Combining elements of music hall, trad jazz and psychedelic pop Psychedelic pop is pop mus ...
of the song "
Rule Britannia "Rule, Britannia!" is a British patriotic song, originating from the 1740 poem "Rule, Britannia" by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in the same year. It is strongly associated with the Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is ...
", with words by James Thomson 700–1748 which is often used as an unofficial national anthem), was used to describe the contemporary United Kingdom. The phrase referred to the fashionable scenes of the era, with a new generation of pop groups and style magazines, successful young fashion designers, and a surge of new restaurants and hotels. Cool Britannia represented late-1990s Britain as a fashionable place to be. Britannia is sometimes used in political cartoons to symbol the United Kingdom's relationship with other countries.


Depiction on British currency and postage stamps


Coinage

Although the archetypical image of Britannia seated with a shield first appeared on Roman bronze coins of the 1st century AD struck under
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of Atri, Abruzzo, Atri in Picenum. Hi ...

Hadrian
, Britannia's first appearance on British coinage was on the farthing in 1672, though earlier pattern versions had appeared in 1665, followed by the Halfpenny (British pre-decimal coin), halfpenny later the same year. The figure of Britannia was said by Samuel Pepys to have been modelled on Frances Teresa Stuart, the future Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, Duchess of Richmond, who was famous at the time for refusing to become the mistress of Charles II, despite the King's strong infatuation with her. Britannia then appeared on the British halfpenny coin throughout the rest of the 17th century and thereafter until 1936. The halfpennies issued during the reign of Anne, Queen of Great Britain, Queen Anne have Britannia closely resembling the queen herself. When the Bank of England was granted a charter in 1694, the directors decided within days that the device for their official seal should represent 'Brittannia sitting on looking on a Bank of Mony' (sic). Britannia also appeared on the History of the English penny, penny coin between 1797 and 1970, occasional issues such as the fourpence under William IV of the United Kingdom, William IV between 1836 and 1837, and on the Fifty pence (British coin), 50 pence coin between 1969 and 2008. See "External Links" below for examples of all these coins and others. In the spring of 2008, the Royal Mint unveiled Coins of the pound sterling#2008 redesign, new coin designs "reflecting a more modern twenty-first century Britain" which do not feature the image of Britannia. The government pointed out, however, that earlier-design 50p coins will remain in circulation for the foreseeable future. Also Britannia still appeared on the gold and silver "
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.ht ...
" bullion coins issued annually by the Royal Mint. A new definitive £2 coin was issued in 2015, with a new image of Britannia. In late 2015, a limited edition (100000 run) £50 coin was produced, bearing the image of Britannia on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. In 2021, the Royal Mint issued a new range of commemorative coins featuring a redesigned Britannia as a woman of colour.


Banknotes

A figure of Britannia appeared on the "white fiver" (a five pound note printed in black and white) from 1855 for more than a century, until 1957. From 1928 "Britannia Series A" ten shilling and one pound notes were printed with a seated Britannia bearing both a spear and an olive branch. The 25 cents fractional paper currency of the Dominion of Canada (1870, 1900 and 1923 respectively) all depict Britannia.


Postage stamps

Britannia also featured on the high value Great Britain definitive postage stamps issued during the reign of George V (known as 'King George V Seahorses, seahorses') and is depicted on the £10 stamp first issued in 1993.


Britannia watermark in paper

The Britannia watermark has been widely used in papermaking, usually showing her seated. An example can be found a
papermoulds.typepad.com


Brit Awards

Britannia is depicted in the Brit Award statuette, the
British Phonographic Industry The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) Ltd is the British recorded music industry's trade association A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization f ...
's annual music awards. The statuette of Britannia is regularly redesigned by some of the best known British designers, stylists and artists, including Vivienne Westwood, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake (artist), Sir Peter Blake and the late Zaha Hadid, Dame Zaha Hadid.


Namesakes

The name "Britannia", symbolising Britain and British patriotism, has been adopted for a variety of purposes, including: * Britannia silver, a high-grade alloy of silver introduced in Britain in 1697. * Britannia coins, a series of British gold bullion coins issued since 1987, which have nominal values of 100, 50, 25, and 10 Pound sterling, pounds. * HMS Britannia, HMS ''Britannia'', any of eight vessels of the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
. * HMY Britannia (Royal Cutter Yacht), HMY ''Britannia'', King George V's famed racing yacht, scuttled in 1936. K1 Britannia, K1 ''Britannia'' is a 1994 replica (refit in 2012). * Britannia Royal Naval College, the Royal Navy's officer training college. * The former Royal Yacht Britannia, Royal Yacht ''Britannia'', the Royal Family's personal yacht, now retired in Leith, Edinburgh Scotland. * RMS Britannia, RMS ''Britannia'', the first steam ocean liner owned by Samuel Cunard in 1840. * SS Britannia (1925), SS ''Britannia'', a 1925 British liner, sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser Thor, German auxiliary cruiser ''Thor'' in 1941 with the loss of 122 crew and 127 passengers.Wrecksite: SS Britannia (+1941)
/ref> * MV Britannia (2015), MV ''Britannia'', the flagship of the P&O Cruises fleet, which came into service in 2015. * Bristol Britannia, Bristol Type 175 Britannia, a 1952 British turbo-prop airliner. * Bristol Type 603, Bristol Type 603S3 Britannia, a 1983 British luxury car. * Pugnaces Britanniae, war dog of Britain. * The patriotic song "
Rule, Britannia! "Rule, Britannia!" is a British patriotic song, originating from the 1740 poem "Rule, Britannia" by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in the same year. It is strongly associated with the Royal Navy, but is also used by the Brit ...
", set to music in 1740. * Company names such as Britannia Building Society, Britannia Airways and Britannia Industries. * The ''Britannia'' Class, an alternative name for the BR Standard Class 7 series of steam locomotives produced between 1951 and 1954, the first of the BR "standard" classes. Preserved BR standard class 7 70000 Britannia, Class 7 locomotive No. 70000, built in 1951, was also named ''Britannia''. * The Britannia (former building society), Britannia Building Society traded for over a century before deciding to merge with The Co-operative Bank in 2009 and now trades as ''Britannia''. * Britannia is a community south of the town of Bacup, in Lancashire, UK, and "home" of the Britannia Coconut Dancers. * Britannia Sea Scouts is a sea scouting group connected to Sea Scouts New Zealand located in Evans Bay, in the Wellington zone of New Zealand. Britannia was started in 1927.


See also

* Hibernia (personification), a personification of Ireland * Kathleen Ni Houlihan, a personification of Ireland *
Prydain Prydain ( Middle Welsh: ''Prydein'') is the modern Welsh name for Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isle ...
, Welsh name for Great Britain in both ancient and modern times. * William Camden, author of ''Britannia'', author of topographical and historical survey of all of Great Britain and Ireland, first published in 1586. *
Britannia Superior __NOTOC__ Britannia Superior (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
*
Britannia Inferior Britannia Inferior (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Ro ...


References


Notes

* * * * Hewitt, Virginia. "Britannia (fl. 1st–21st cent.)", ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,'
online edition 2007, accessed 28 Aug 2011
* * M. Dresser (ed.), 'Britannia', Patriotism: the making and unmaking of British national identity, vol. 3 * R. Samuel, National fictions (1989), pp. 26–49 * Britannia depicta: quality, value and security, National Postal Museum (1993) * H. Mattingly, Nerva to Hadrian, reprint (1976), vol. 3 of Coins of the Roman empire in the British Museum * J. M. C. Toynbee, The Hadrianic school: a chapter in the history of Greek art (1974) * M. Henig, 'Britannia', ''Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae'', 3/1 (1983), pp. 167–69 * K. T. Erim, 'A new relief showing Claudius and Britannia from Aphrodisias', Britannia, 13 (1982), pp. 277–81 * H. Peacham, Minerva Britannia, or, A garden of heroical devises (1612) * J. Thomson, Britannia: a poem (1729) * R. Strong, Gloriana, the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (1987) * H. A. Atherton, Political prints in the age of Hogarth. A study of the ideographic representation of politics (1974)


External links


Britannia on British coins and medals
– Guy de la Bédoyère * {{Authority control Britannia, Fictional British people National personifications National symbols of the United Kingdom Roman Britain Roman goddesses Terminology of the British Isles