For more than 1,000 years, the monarch’s name has been inscribed in Latin on the coins of the realm.
On Friday night, a Royal Mint spokesman told The Telegraph that it adopted the “more familiar ‘Charles’” on the coinage of the King to “ensure it was accessible to a modern audience”.
The decision came amid fears that the ancient language is being lost even among royal heritage, with the UK’s official coin maker insisting that it “continued the tradition of using Latin”.
The official coin effigy of King Charles III was unveiled by the Royal Mint last week as it announced that it will first appear on a £5 coin and a 50p commemorating the life and legacy of the late Queen Elizabeth.
Designed by Martin Jennings, the renowned British sculptor, and personally approved by the King, his effigy is surrounded with the Latin inscription: “CHARLES III DG REX FD”.
This translates to “King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith” and marks a break with a 1,000-year-old precedent.
Traditionally, the ruler has been expressed in the Latin nomenclature on British coins with only a few exceptions, such as the late Queen, because her name did not translate.
The change has taken British numismatists by “unpleasant surprise”, according to Gregory Edmund, the head of coin operations at Spink & Son, an auction house which specialises in the sales of coins, banknotes, stamps and medals.
He told The Telegraph: “It’s pretty seismic to just suddenly shift out to Charles III rather than Carolus. If the Royal Mint wants to have a discussion and say actually all coins need to be in English from now on, so be it. But don’t sort of hamfist [it] by putting the two and trying to fudge it.
“If Charles wants to be modern, fantastic, then just do the whole thing in English. Why have the sort of the vagaries of monarchy with the Latin inscription?”
The Royal Mint explained that “for over 70 years people have become used to seeing ‘Elizabeth’ on coins, which traditionally is spelt the same in Latin and English on coins”.
It said that the new effigy and inscription, both approved by the King, will start to appear on circulating and commemorative coins over the coming months.
Mr Edmund said: “The only reason that Elizabeth was Elizabeth was because it doesn’t translate. But you look at her father, it was Georgius even though he signed all of his documents George R.”
He said that the Latin inscription is a “recognition that the laws of this land, in some principle back to the earliest history, were written in Latin and enshrined in Latin”.
‘Blatantly glaring, obvious error’
Mr Edmund said: “Although law is now distributed in this land in English, the customs and the principles that the Royal family uphold have always been in Latin.
“To ignore the blatantly glaring, obvious error which is Charles III over Carolus III, simply because some people might not understand it – well, at the end of the day, how many people look at the coins? How many people understand what FD or DG means?” he added.
Other notable exceptions to the long-standing tradition include King Stephen who chose to write his name in a phonetic English spelling on coins in the 12th century, before reverting to the Latin Stefanus by the end of his reign.
Oliver Cromwell also released coins in English in the 1650s. However, Mr Edmund explained that these coins had “no effigy, no bust and no Royal association” on them as they were produced when he was Lord Protector.
Mr Edmund added that Spink & Son “want to make sure that standards are upheld because we’re proud of our heritage and we think that the Royal Mint and the coinage should be as well”.