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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Why the Jane Austen Banknote is Unfortunate | guest post & giveaway from Eliza Shearer!

Many Janeites rejoiced when the Bank of England launched a banknote featuring Jane Austen in 2017. But if you look closely, it's a bit of a shambles... Eliza Shearer tells us about the unfortunate choices of the Bank of England when it comes to the Austen note.
But don't worry! She's gonna turn it around and put a smile on your faces with a giveaway at the bottom of this post! 

Why the £10 Jane Austen banknote is unfortunate

Being featured on the back of a banknote is no easy feat, and many Janeites rejoiced when a £10 banknote featuring Jane Austen entered circulation in September 2017. What better way to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s death?

My problem with the note is that the Bank of England didn’t do their homework. Buckle up, because there are some seriously unfortunate choices when it comes to the Austen note.

First of all, the portrait of the author is the famous likeness commissioned by Austen’s nephew more than 50 years after her death. Although based on Cassandra Austen’s portrait of her sister, the portrait is a perfect example of Victorian Photoshop. The gentle and beautiful creature it features had little to do with the real Jane! Not a great start. 

Then there’s the hologram that appears alongside the Queen’s portrait. Does it feature a happy place for Austen, such as Chawton Cottage? Nope. It’s a picture of Winchester Cathedral, where Austen is buried. She only moved to Winchester to receive medical treatment when she was very unwell, and died after a few sad weeks. Gloomy? You bet. 

But is it a stately home that I see at the back of the note? Pemberley, perhaps? Nope. It’s Godmersham Park House, owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward - the one that was adopted by the rich Knight relatives. Jane visited often, not so much as a guest but as a poor relation, and thus provider of free childcare. Fancy being reminded of that!

And do I see a portrait of Elizabeth Bennet, the spirited heroine of Pride and Prejudice? She is... quietly and demurely writing a letter. Very out of character, if you ask me. Why not show her on a bracing walk with her sister Jane, or enjoying some verbal sparring with Mr Darcy? I think you will agree that would be much more appropriate. But that’s not it! 

Austen is quotable in the extreme. There must be dozens of famous Austen quotes out there - so why pick one that everyone knows it’s a dud? “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading”, says Caroline Bingley* in Pride and Prejudice, without meaning it one bit. I don’t think Austen would have liked the honour to go to one of her Mean Girls...

As for the amount, ten may be a nice, round number, but for Jane it had bittersweet associations. Publisher Crosby & Co paid exactly £10 for “Susan”, an early version of “Northanger Abbey”. The manuscript remained unpublished for 13 years, until Austen bought it back, 13 heart-wrenching years later. Honestly, what were they thinking?

And finally, the signature. Austen was a prolific letter writer and many of her letters have survived to our day. But out of all the possible Jane Austen signatures, the Bank of England picked the one in her will. 

My only explanation for this string of poor choices is that a Jane Austen hater managed to have some influence on the project - and single-handedly sabotaged the Austen banknote.

(I find it more believable than thinking that the Bank of England never bothered to consult with anyone on the matter, but I could be wrong…) 

In any case, even if the Bank of England doesn’t celebrate Austen the way it deserves, we’re certainly here to do it in style. Happy Austen in August!


*Caroline Bingley is one of my favourite Austen characters, so much so that I give her a second chance in Miss Price’s Decision, now available on KU  :)

Eliza has offered up a chance to win a prize pack containing e-copies of her books Miss Darcy's Beaux and Miss Price's Decision to one lucky Austen in August reader! Full terms can be found in the Rafflecopter; PLEASE do not leave email addresses or sensitive info in the comments.
To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below. And make sure to leave Eliza some love in the comments!

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. I admit there are some interesting choices you pointed out. Maybe there were contests and hidden sponsors for some of that. I still want to score one of those bank notes eventually.

  2. Those are some unfortunate decisions and I wish they would have consulted us as we surely could have made better choices:) Despite it not being perfect, I am so glad they chose her for this honor and hope to someday come across one of those bank notes.

  3. I had no idea! Wow, that *is* a lot of unfortunate choices. Poor Jane deserves better.

  4. While It's not a bank note, I am a stamp lover. I say let's get Jane Austen on a US Stamp.

  5. This is a great piece. I knew about the portrait being inauthentic and the quote not being very aptly chosen, but not about the rest. That being said, as a UK resident I love having Janes in my purse, as the £10 note is probably the most used one, it's really the best even if it might have had bad connotations for Jane :)

  6. Interesting observations, I agree they could have done better.


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