The 1939 Royal Visit Medallions
The recent death of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, reminds us of a life time of accomplishments by the most beloved member of Britain's Royal Family. When her husband was thrust into the position of King by the abdication of Edward VIII, her dignity, dedication and grace held a country, a commonwealth, and a monarch together through the darkest days of World War II.
In May of 1939, on the eve of the conflict, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth embarked on an unprecedented visit to North America. This visit, the first visit of a reigning monarch to Canada, helped solidify Canadian and American support for Britain. The Royal Tour ended in June: by September, the world was at war.
To commemorate the visit, the Royal Canadian Mint struck three series of commemorative medallions: 77 mm presentation medals in gold, silver and tombac, 38 mm bronze and silver medallions for sale to the public (see above), and a 25 mm bronze medallion which was distributed to Canadian school children. The Obverse featuring the conjoined profiles of George VI and Elizabeth was designed by Percy Metcalf and was also used on the 1937 British Coronation Medal. The reverse, designed by Emanuel Hahn, shows a map of Canada and the route followed by the royal couple during their visit (see detail below).
These medallions are very common: hundreds of examples of the small bronze variety can easily be found in coin dealer junk boxes. Rarity, however, is not always an indicator of historic value and these medallions remain an important part of Canadian history.
Example courtesy of Don Sucha