Helen of Britania




britania4(c) Monmouthshire Museums Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation





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It pained me to write this blog that will prove the most profound and prophetic works of art in history. What I saw in my dream was Rena’s dead daughter bidding me to rescue and take care of her mother. There was much at stake. She was speaking as Ian’s daughter. What may have alarmed Rena, is my implying her daughter took her naked form. and came into my bed in the shape of how I remember her best. Who wouldn’t? A hundred million men have longed to see an extremely beautiful woman – naked! This want is the great engine of all the battleships that have sailed around Britannia, just to keep her safe!

But, she take in a Trojan Horse, and, only a great love story……..will save Britannia, now!

Jon Presco

‘Capturing Beauty’ Copyright 2016



Brexit will go down in history as one of the most ugly, reactionary and regressive political campaigns ever conducted in an advanced and mature democracy. Strip away the embroidery and it is clear this was a referendum based on immigration and migrant workers, whom a large swathe of the white working class across England’s de-industrialized north have been persuaded are the source of their increasing alienation and inability to make ends meet.

In conditions of severe economic depression, compounded by austerity, along with the free movement of people that is a condition of the single market, the archetypal perfect storm was in place, one that proved political manna from heaven for the right and extreme right of the British political spectrum.

Placing Brexit in a wider context, it is the UK manifestation of the resurgence of the far right that has and is taking place across Europe – in western Ukraine, Scandinavia, Holland, Hungary, France and Germany – such as we haven’t since the 1930s, when similar conditions of economic depression and austerity were in place. Ultra nationalism, even neo-fascism, is the result, portending an alarming retreat into national particularisms, chauvinism, and in the last analysis the elevation of racism to mainstream prominence.

Meanwhile, back in the UK we now have a situation where the people of Scotland have voted for the future while the people of England have voted for the past. In response, as England prepares to sail back into the 19th century, a second referendum on Scottish independence has already been placed on the table by the leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon.

Unlike the first referendum on independence on Scotland in 2014, which was defeated, the stakes involved in the second will be even greater. For unlike in 2014 when the primary objective of its progressive wing was to break from the status quo of neoliberalism, the second will involve breaking from an even more grievous status quo of xenophobia and ugly British nationalism, erected as a monument to the country’s colonial past.

The spectre of fascism has loomed over Europe for several years, and it’s reached a fever pitch. In France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Greece, Denmark, and Sweden, right-wing nationalist movements are gaining steam with every election.

In 2014, when elections were held for the European Parliament, it was evident that the political winds were shifting rightward. Thane Rosenbaum summarized Europe’s “Weimar moment” well:



I am going to paint Rena Victoria Easton as Britannia. How perfect! When I’m done, I will see if any of my titled friends on facebook want to purchase it. I will make posters for the Brits to enjoy. Who knows, William Windsor may want it on his wall in order to honor his beautiful wife.

Rena has the most beautifully shaped almond eyes like we see on the Corinthian helmut – that would look great on her. Now we put a spear in her raised hand – and problem solved!

All the images of Britannia are of Cutsie-pie girls that you would chase through a garden after you had a cup of tea. The image of Rena looks like she wants to – tear your heart out. She is capable of this.

One reason Rena has not come forth, because she is now a wrinkly old sea hag, and wants me to be inspired by the young beauty she was. I do wish she would send me old photos via e-mail- for Art’s sake!

I like that poster of old Uncle Sam with Britannia. Perhaps I will make a Britannia doll with accessories.

Rena is going to love this painting because she considered what her life would be like if she born male. She saw how unfair it is to be born a woman. Shall we go back to the Museum now, where Rena posed as Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt?

Perhaps I am Neptune – the Old Man of the Sea?

Come to me my beautiful Muse. Be by my side as I render you to music. I love the Sea Symphony, and Ionathan Livingston Seagull.

You can make me a cup of tea, come to me from the kitchen in your walker and old ladies shawl as I thrash about the studio throwing color and hunks of clay around! You can wipe my creative brow, and pop crumpets in my mouth. Your life with a true artist – true to you – could be so grand!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013







From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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For the province of the Roman Empire, see Roman Britain.

For other uses, see Britannia (disambiguation).

The National Armada memorial in Plymouth depicting Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Roman Britain and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain; however, by the 1st century BC Britannia came to be used for Great Britain specifically. In AD 43 the Roman Empire began its conquest of the island, establishing a province they called Britannia, which came to encompass the parts of the island south of Caledonia (roughly Scotland). The native Celtic inhabitants of the province are known as the Britons. In the 2nd century, Roman Britannia came to be personified as a goddess, armed with a trident and shield and wearing a Corinthian helmet.

The Latin name Britannia long survived the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and yielded the name for the island in most European and various other languages, including the English Britain and the modern Welsh Prydain. After centuries of declining use, the Latin form was revived during the English Renaissance as a rhetorical evocation of a British national identity. Especially following the Acts of Union in 1707, which joined the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, the personification of the martial Britannia was used as an emblem of British imperial power and unity. She featured on all modern British coinage series until the redesign in 2008.

[hide] 1 Roman period
2 British revival 2.1 Medieval use
2.2 British Empire
2.3 Modern associations
2.4 Depiction on British currency and postage stamps 2.4.1 Coinage
2.4.2 Banknotes
2.4.3 Postage stamps

2.5 Britannia watermark in paper

3 Namesakes
4 See also
5 References
6 Notes
7 External links

Roman period[edit]

Main articles: Roman Britain and Britain (name)

The first writer to use a form of the name was the Greek explorer and geographer Pytheas 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 referred to Pretannia,[1] a rendering of the indigenous name for the Pretani people whom the Greeks believed to inhabit the British Isles.[2][3] Following the Greek usage, the Romans referred to the Insulae Britannicae in the plural, consisting of Albion (Great Britain), Hibernia (Ireland), Thule (possibly Iceland) and many smaller islands. Over time, Albion specifically came to be known as Britannia, and the name for the group was subsequently dropped.[1] That island was first invaded by Julius Caesar in 55 BC, and the Roman conquest of the island began in AD 43, leading to the establishment of the Roman province known as Britannia. The Romans never successfully conquered the whole island, building Hadrian’s Wall as a boundary with Caledonia, which covered roughly the territory of modern Scotland, although in fact the whole of the boundary marked by Hadrian’s Wall lies within modern-day 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 to the north of the Antonine Wall. People living in the Roman province of Britannia were called Britanni, or Britons. Ireland, inhabited by the Scoti, was never invaded and was called Hibernia. Thule, an island “six days’ sail north of Britain, and […] near the frozen sea”, possibly Iceland, was also never invaded by the Romans.

An As coin from the reign of Antoninus Pius struck in 154 AD showing Britannia on the reverse
The Emperor Claudius paid a visit while Britain was being conquered and was honoured with the agnomen Britannicus as if he were the conqueror; a frieze discovered at Aphrodisias in 1980 shows a bare breasted and helmeted female warrior labelled BRITANNIA, writhing in agony under the heel of the emperor.[4] She appeared on coins issued under Hadrian, as a more regal-looking female figure.[5] Britannia was soon personified as a goddess, looking fairly similar to the goddess Minerva. Early portraits of the goddess depict Britannia as a beautiful young woman, wearing the helmet of a centurion, and wrapped in a white garment with her right breast exposed. She is usually shown seated on a rock, holding a spear, and with a spiked shield propped beside her. Sometimes she holds a standard 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.

British revival[edit]

Britannia from a 19th-century engraving, unknown source

In James Gillray’s Britannia between Scylla and Charybdis (1793), Britannia is shown without the weapons which would invariably characterise her in the 19th century
Medieval use[edit]

Britannia remained the Latin name for Great Britain. After the fall of the western Roman Empire, variations on the term appear in the titles of the 9th-century Historia Britonum (History of the Britons) and the 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kingdoms of Britain), which became tremendously popular during the High Middle Ages. The term Britannia also came (from at least the late 6th century[6]) to refer to the Armorican peninsula in France, because of the large-scale migration to the area by Celtic-speaking Britons. The modern French name for the area, Bretagne (“Brittany” in English) is a variant of Britannia. The term Grande Bretagne (Great Britannia, or Great Britain) has served to distinguish the island of Britain from the continental peninsula.

British Empire[edit]

In the Medieval period it had still been common to refer only to the Brythonic Celtic inhabitants of Britain as the “Britons”, as opposed to the “English”. However, increasingly the English were included within the category of the Britons. This gained new symbolic meaning with the rise of British influence, and later the British Empire, which at its height ruled over a third of the world’s population and landmass.

In the Renaissance tradition, Britannia came to be viewed as the personification of Britain, in imagery that was developed during the reign of Elizabeth I. 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 (and the dominion of Wales), Ireland and Scotland. On 20 October 1604, 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.[7] 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’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…

During the reign of Charles II, 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.

A later Gillray cartoon, on the 1803 Peace of Amiens, features a fat and non-martial Britannia kissing “Citizen François”

Britannia Triumphant, poster celebrating the Battle of Trafalgar.
British power, which depended on a liberal political system and the supremacy of the navy, lent these attributes to the image of Britannia. By the time of 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 Poseidon’s three-pronged 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 shield, which sported the British 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 is shown symbolically passing his trident to Britannia in the 1847 fresco “Neptune Resigning to Britannia the Empire of the Sea” by William Dyce, a painting Victoria commissioned for her Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

New Zealanders adopted a similar personification of their country in Zealandia, Britannia’s daughter, who appeared on postage stamps at the turn of the 20th century[8] and still features in the New Zealand Coat of Arms.[9]

1914 Russian poster depicting the Triple Entente – Britannia (right) and Marianne (left) in the company of Mother Russia. In this depiction, Britannia’s association with the sea is provided by her holding an anchor, an attribute usually represented by Poseidon’s Trident.
Perhaps the best analogy is that Britannia is to the United Kingdom and the British Empire what Marianne is to France or perhaps what Columbia is to the United States. Like Columbia, Britannia became a very potent and more common figure in times of war, and represented British liberties and democracy.

Modern associations[edit]

During the 1990s the term Cool Britannia (drawn from a humorous version by the Bonzo Dog Band of the song “Rule Britannia”,[citation needed] with words by James Thomson [1700–1748], 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.

In the song Waiting for the Worms Pink Floyd makes reference to Britannia in the lyric “Would you like to see Britannia rule again? My friend.”

Depiction on British currency and postage stamps[edit]


Britannia depicted on a half penny of 1936
Although the archetypical image of Britannia seated on a shield first appeared on Roman bronze coins of the 1st century AD struck under 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 later the same year. The figure of Britannia was said by Samuel Pepys to have been modelled on Frances Teresa Stuart, the future Duchess of Richmond,[5] 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 Queen Anne have Britannia closely resembling the queen herself.[10] 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 penny coin between 1797 and 1970, occasional issues such as the fourpence under William IV between 1836 and 1837, and on the 50 pence coin between 1969 and 2008.[11] See “External Links” below for examples of all these coins and others.

A stamp featuring Britannia (with Irish Free State overstamp)
In the spring of 2008, the Royal Mint unveiled new coin designs “reflecting a more modern twenty-first century Britain”[12] which nowhere featured the image of Britannia. This decision courted some controversy, with tabloid press campaigns, in particular that of the Daily Mail, launched to “save Britannia”. The government has pointed out, however, that earlier-design 50p coins will remain in circulation for the foreseeable future.[13]

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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