King Charles III Unveils His Royal Cypher (Here's What That Actually Is)

It's the latest indication that the Elizabethan era is over and the Caroline period has begun.
King Charles III has unveiled his new cypher
via Associated Press
King Charles III has unveiled his new cypher

King Charles III has just unveiled his new royal cypher – another, albeit smaller, indication that his reign has officially begun.

The sign, revealed shortly before the official royal mourning period for the Queen ends on Tuesday, includes the C for his first name and the letter R for Rex, the Latin name for King.

In between these two letters is the Roman numeral for three (III) indicating that he is the third monarch in British history to be known as Charles, so it reads Charles Rex III.

King Charles III's new cypher
Buckingham Palace via PA
King Charles III's new cypher

The monogram is Charles’ personal property but will appear on government buildings, traditional police helmets, state documents and any post boxes built after his reign began.

It is also used on government departments and the Royal Household for franking mail, although the decision to update the cypher from the Queen’s to the King’s will be at the discretion of individual organisations.

The monogram is not too dissimilar to the one used by his predecessor, his mother Queen Elizabeth II. As the Latin word for Queen is Regina, and she was the second English monarch to use the name Elizabeth, her monogram was ER II (sometimes known E II R).

However, when her cypher was used in Scotland, the II was not used because Scotland never recognised Elizabeth I as their monarch, only Mary Queen of Scots.

And, while kings tend to use the more rounded Tudor crown, queens typically use the St Edward’s crown on their cyphers, as seen below.

The official design, prepared at the College of Arms and approved by the Queen, for the Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II.
PA Images via Getty Images
The official design, prepared at the College of Arms and approved by the Queen, for the Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II.

The King chose his own design after the College of Arms presented him with a series of options. The Scottish version includes the Scottish Crown and was approved by Lord Lyon King of Arms.

The heralds who make up the College are members of the Royal Household.

The cypher could only be shared once Charles confirmed he wanted to reign under his first name, rather than any of his middle names – Philip, Arthur or George.

Don’t expect any huge changes overnight though, as it is traditionally a slow process to alter such symbols on a nationwide basis. The Queen did not experience many of the physical changes until more than a year after her accession to the throne, around 1953.

And, like his mother’s, the King’s coronation is also expected to be a little while off out of respect for his deceased predecessor. There’s speculation that the sovereign will try to have a more toned-down affair as well, in line with his plans for a slimmed down monarchy and amid a worsening cost of living crisis.

Currency, too, will gradually be updated to include Charles’ profile rather than his mother’s, although the new ones will show the King facing to the left. This is a continuation of a 17th Century tradition, which saw successive monarch facing alternative ways.

The Royal Mint confirmed on Tuesday that new currency with Charles’ portrait on will enter circulation in the UK in the near future.

But, money with the Queen’s effigy will remain legal tender and in active circulation at the same time as the new currency, for minimal environmental impact and cost. Right now, there are approximately 27 billion coins with the late monarch’s effigy currently in use, but they will be replaced over time.

New stamps, sculptures and portraits, are in the work as well, although they will all need approval from the King himself.

Still, the cypher shows that the new Caroline era is upon us, a name which stems from the Latin equivalent for Charles, Carolus.

This announcement also comes after the Palace released an image of the black ledger stone with the Queen’s name, birth and death dates etched onto it in St George’s Chapel, to mark the late monarch’s final resting place.

She shares the stone with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, along with her husband, Prince Philip.

The new monarch also released his first official portrait last week, where Charles is looking at the despatch box while a photo of his parents sits on the side.

King Charles III
Victoria Jones via PA Wire/PA Images
King Charles III