Who should be on Britain's banknotes?
Written by Robert Bester, Consumer Finance Expert Robert has been a writer for six years, specialising in consumer finance and the UK lending market. Concentrating on consumer credit products, Robert writes informative articles that help customers manage their personal finances efficiently.
11th October 2021
5 minute read
Revealed: The famous faces Brits want on their banknotes
In 2019, the total value of Britain’s banknotes in circulation reached a staggering £69 billion (which is the equivalent of Bill Gates’ estimated net worth).
But, while cash accounts for over a third (34%) of all UK payments, a staggering 61% of the British public don’t know who is featured on the UK’s banknotes, or even why they are chosen.
With the new polymer £20 note set to be released in 2020 and Alan Turing recently announced as the face of the latest £50 note, Money Guru has questioned the British public on who they believe should be immortalised on Britain’s banknotes.
1 in 4 would like to see Prince William replace the Queen on our notes
Prince Charles may be next in line for the throne, but the British public surveyed by Money Guru would like to see his firstborn, Prince William, take the crown on the UK’s banknotes. Almost a quarter (23%) of Brits voted for William to feature over his father.
Prince Charles, however, did closely tie with his youngest son, Prince Harry, with both gaining 22% of the votes. Those aged between 55-65+ were more likely to choose Charles, while people aged 18-35 opted for Harry.
Notably, while overall, Catherine was a more popular choice for the banknote, 13% of men said they would prefer to see Meghan on our cash, compared to just 8% for Catherine.
The top five Royals Brits chose to feature on the UK banknotes – replacing the Queen - are:
- Prince William: 23%
- Prince Harry and Prince Charles: 22% (Joint)
- Prince Phillip: 15%
- Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: 10%
- Meghan, Duchess of Sussex: 8%
The ‘Iron Lady’ is Britain’s top choice for the £5 note
Margaret Thatcher led the polls for featuring on the £5 note, replacing Winston Churchill. Almost half of the Brits surveyed (45%) would like to see the UK’s first female prime minister on the £5 note.
In office for 11 years, Thatcher was the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 20th century. Very surprisingly, almost a quarter (23%) of those aged between 25-34 voted for Thatcher, the second largest age group to opt for the ‘Iron Lady’, along with 23% aged 65+. Of the Brits surveyed, however, it seems she had more of an impact on men with 45% opting for Thatcher over all other politicians, as opposed to 43% of women.
Boris Johnson, the UK’s current Prime Minister, only came in fourth with 11% of the votes. Nigel Farage, however, appears to be more popular, coming in second with 16%. Delving deeper in the results, a staggering 35% who voted for Farage were aged 45-54. Farage also appears more popular with men, with 69% of those choosing Farage men, as opposed to 31% of women.
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, third with 15% of the votes. Additionally, over half (56%) of those aged 18-24 opted for Corbyn above any other.
The top six politicians Britons surveyed would like to see on the £5 note are:
- Margaret Thatcher: 45%
- Nigel Farage: 16%
- Jeremy Corbyn: 15%
- Boris Johnson: 11%
- Tony Blair: 10%
- Jeremy Hunt: 3%
1 in 4 would like to see J.K Rowling on the £10 note
Best known for the Harry Potter series, over a quarter of Brits (28%) surveyed by Money Guru would like to see J.K Rowling featured on our £10 note, taking the place of the current author featured, Jane Austen.
The world’s first billionaire author - before losing the title due to charitable donations - received more votes than Enid Blyton and J.R.R Tolkien, and also surpassed Agatha Christie; one of the world’s best-selling novelists, with 2.4 billion copies of her books sold globally.
Enid Blyton - the author of Noddy and Famous Five - came in second place with 23% of the vote while, J.R.R. Tolkien - the name behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit - received 21%.
The top six authors Brits surveyed would like to feature on the £10 note are as follows:
- J.K Rowling: 28%
- Enid Blyton: 23%
- J.R.R Tolkien: 21%
- Agatha Christie: 18%
- Jackie Collins: 6%
- Barbara Cartland: 4%
Banksy is the UK’s favourite for the £20 note
We might not know who Banksy is or even what he looks like, but that hasn’t stopped an overwhelming 52% of Brits surveyed choosing Banksy for the £20 note. J.M.W Turner has recently been announced as the new face of the polymer £20 note - set to be released in 2020 - but it’s Banksy that is taking our title as ‘favourite artist’.
Famous for his satirical street art, Banksy beat stiff competition, receiving 52% of the votes compared to 16% for the likes of David Hockney - considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.
Other notable choices for Brits included figurative painter Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst, famous for his series of works including a tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde.
The top six UK artists Brits voted to feature on the £20 note are:
- Banksy: 52%
- David Hockney: 16%
- Francis Bacon: 11%
- Damien Hirst: 8%
- Tracy Emin: 7%
- Lucian Freud: 6%
31% of Brits would like to see Richard Branson on the £50 note
Celebrated code breaker Alan Turing has recently been announced as the new face of the £50 note to huge fanfare, replacing scientist, James Watt, and entrepreneur, Matthew Boulton. However, there are some other faces Brits would also like to see on the note.
Almost one third (31%) of those surveyed by Money Guru would like to see Sir Richard Branson staring back at them on the UK’s highest value banknote. The British business magnate founded Virgin group in the 1970s and has amassed a reported net worth of £4.05 billion, becoming one of the Time 100 Most Influential People In The World, in 2007.
Alan Sugar was the second choice for Brits surveyed, with 21% opting for Sugar to feature on the £50 note, over the likes of British inventor, James Dyson, and former Dragon on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, Duncan Bannatyne. Surprisingly, however, Simon Cowell was the joint third choice for the Brits surveyed, amassing a large following due to his numerous TV shows, including The X Factor and American Idol.
The five top entrepreneurs that Brits surveyed would like to see on the £50 note are:
- Richard Branson: 31%
- Alan Sugar: 21%
- Simon Cowell and James Dyson: 15% (Joint)
- Duncan Bannatyne: 13%
- Denise Coates: 5%
1 in 3 would like Stephen Hawking also featured on the £50 note
In addition to Branson, Professor Stephen Hawking was a popular choice for the Brits surveyed by Money Guru, with 31% stating they would like him to also feature on the £50 note. Widely regarded as one of the world’s most brilliant minds, he is recognised for his significant contributions to science.
1 in 4 (23%) Brits surveyed would also like to see Sir Alexander Fleming - best known for his discovery of Penicillin - placed on the £50 note. Somewhat unexpectedly, 14% would like to see former rockstar turned physicist, Brian Cox, on the note, with only 12% voting for Sir Isaac Newton (previously featured on the £1 banknotes, first issued in 1978).
Other choices for Brits surveyed included Tim Berners-Lee - father of the world wide web - and Ada Lovelace, considered to be one of the world’s first computer programmers.
The UK’s top five scientists to feature on the £50 note are as follows:
- Professor Stephen Hawking: 31%
- Sir Alexander Fleming: 23%
- Brian Cox: 14%
- Sir Isaac Newton: 12%
- Tim Berners-Lee and Ada Lovelace: 10% (Joint)
Britain’s banknotes have always featured our most distinguished forebearers, but it’s interesting to see that the Brits surveyed would like to move away from tradition and opt for more modern names. Who would you like to see featured?