Pounds and Prejudice: Bank of England puts Jane Austen on banknote

Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:49pm EDT
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By Christina Fincher

LONDON (Reuters) - British 19th century novelist Jane Austen will become the face of the new 10 pound note, the Bank of England said on Wednesday, defusing criticism that women are under-represented on the country's currency.

The writer of classics such as "Pride and Prejudice", "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma" will replace naturalist Charles Darwin on the reverse of Britain's most popular banknote.

Britain's central bank sparked an outcry in April when it announced former prime minister Winston Churchill would replace social reformer Elizabeth Fry on the reverse side of the five pound note, depriving the currency of its only female historical figure.

Mark Carney, the first foreigner to head the bank in its 319-year history, praised Austen as "one of the greatest writers in English literature" and said the choice of future banknote characters would be reviewed to ensure a row of this sort did not erupt again.

"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields," he told a gathering at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, the 17th century house where the author wrote some of her best-known novels.

"We want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity. That is why I am today announcing a review of the selection process for future banknote characters."

The Austen notes are likely to come into circulation in 2017 and will feature a portrait adapted from an original sketch by Jane's sister together with the quote 'I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!' from Pride and Prejudice.

REFORMIST ZEAL   Continued...

An illustration of a British ten pound Sterling banknote bearing the likeness of author Jane Austen, is seen in a picture released by the Bank of England in London July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Bank of England/Handout via Reuters