A new Royal Mint coin in honour of a 19th-century Jamaican nurse who cared for British soldiers is the first to feature a named black woman from outside the UK.
Her commemorative coin, released on Monday, comes seven years after a 12-year campaign which raised £500,000 to honour her with a statue at St Thomas’ Hospital London – the first statue of a named, black female in the UK.
Sculptor Martin Jennings, who designed the statue, also drew up the design for the coin’s reverse, which features King Charles.
The £5 coin, which is not for legal tender, has been produced to “commemorate and celebrate” the women of Britain, a spokeswoman for the Mary Seacole Trust said.
Trevor Sterling, chair of Mary Seacole Trust, said: “This is another significant historical moment and it pays tribute to Mary Seacole as a symbol of the NHS, diversity, social justice and also in understanding the diverse contributions that have been made to this country.
“This is a very proud moment, and I’m looking forward to travelling to Jamaica to honour Mary Seacole Day to present the coin to the new Jamaican high commissioner and gift a coin to the Institute of Jamaica.
“It’s our way of saying thank you, we know that you suffered a loss as a result, and we acknowledge what’s been given to us.”
Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica in 1805 to a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican woman.
She considered herself to be a Creole and faced civil rights limitations, including not being allowed to vote, hold public office or pursue a professional career.
In 1854, she travelled to England and requested to serve as an Army nurse in the Crimea, but her request was denied.
Undeterred, she went to the Crimea anyway and established the British Hotel near Balaclava, offering comfortable accommodation for sick and recovering officers.
The nurse also risked gunfire on the front line to help gravely wounded soldiers, earning herself the nickname “Mother Seacole”.
The coin is available in gold Proof, silver Proof, and silver Proof Piedfort.