Revealed: Royal Mint dropped National Trust coin after charity judged ‘troubled and political’

Exclusive: Official papers obtained by The Independent reveal idea for 125th anniversary coin was ditched

Simon Murphy
Chief Reporter
Sunday 05 December 2021 09:25
<p>Commemorative coin idea was dropped following rows over volunteers at the Trust being asked to wear gay pride badges and the word “Easter” being removed from its annual egg hunt </p>

Commemorative coin idea was dropped following rows over volunteers at the Trust being asked to wear gay pride badges and the word “Easter” being removed from its annual egg hunt

A plan to issue a commemorative coin marking the 125th anniversary of the National Trust was dropped by the Royal Mint after the conservation charity was judged to be a “troubled and political organisation”, it can be revealed.

Official papers obtained by The Independent using Freedom of Information laws disclose that the Royal Mint ditched the idea in early 2018 following rows over volunteers at the Trust being asked to wear gay pride badges and the word “Easter” being removed from its annual egg hunt.

The decision is set out in the minutes of a meeting held by the Royal Mint’s sub-committee, chaired by a Conservative peer, with the document also recording that 125 was not considered “a good anniversary”.

Under the heading, “125th anniversary of the National Trust”, the minutes state: “The theme was not approved. 125th was not a good anniversary. Judged to be a somewhat troubled and political organisation.”

The move pre-dates a more recent row when the National Trust found itself at the centre of controversy over the publication of a report it commissioned which found links to slavery and colonialism at 93 of its properties – including Winston Churchill’s former country estate.

The Trust – which has more than 5 million members – defended commissioning the research, published in September 2020, after criticism, including Conservative MPs, that the conservation charity was straying from its remit.

But the Charity Commission watchdog found in March that the trust did not breach charity law by publishing the report, concluding that the work “was carefully considered” and “fitted within its charitable objects”.

Though neither row over the LGBT+ pride badges or the renaming of the egg hunts is mentioned in the Royal Mint papers – which offer no further explanation of the judgement – the timing indicates it could have played a factor in the committee’s decision.

In August 2017, the National Trust U-turned over a move to bar volunteers from public-facing duties at  Felbrigg Hall, in Norfolk, if they refused to wear rainbow badges and lanyards.

They were intended to form part of a campaign marking the 50th anniversary of homosexuality being decriminalised. As part of the “prejudice and pride” campaign, the National Trust held an exhibition at the stately home which featured a film revealing that Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the hall’s last owner, who bequeathed it to the nation, was gay.

It followed an earlier controversy in April 2017 when the Trust defended itself from criticism after the word “Easter” was dropped from the name of its annual egg hunts at its properties, run in partnership with Cadbury. The charity denied at the time it was downplaying the significance of Easter.

The National Trust coin idea was listed among a group of proposals that had been recommended by the Royal Mint and put before its sub-committee on the selection of coin themes, which makes recommendations before plans are submitted to the chancellor for sign off.

The sub-committee was chaired at the time by Lord Waldegrave, a former Conservative cabinet minister who is now Provost at Eton College. Some members of the sub-committee are Royal Mint employees.

The sub-committee’s decision not to approve the idea came after the Royal Mail issued stamps commemorating the centenary of the charity in 1995. The Royal Mint has honoured other charities by issuing commemorative coins, including marking the 150th anniversary of the British Red Cross in 2020, as well as the same anniversary for the Salvation Army in 2015.

A Royal Mint spokesperson said: “As the theme was speculative, the National Trust was one of many themes considered and would not have been informed before or after this decision was made.  The Royal Mint advisory committee sits outside of the Royal Mint and they consider a wide range of themes every year, not all of which are successful.”

Asked for the National Trust’s view on the Royal Mint sub-committee’s judgement, a spokesperson for the charity said: “This relates to a matter three years ago which is no longer relevant.”

Lord Waldegrave did not respond to a request for comment.

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