Jane Austen: the face of the new £10 note

18 July 2017

Over the next few months you might starting noticing a new face on your tenners.

To mark the 200th anniversary of her death, today, Jane Austen becomes the only woman – aside from the Queen of course, to currently feature on bank notes.

The new ten pound note as released by the Bank of England

The new £10 note with a picture of Jane Austen

The new polymer £10 note launched today by Bank of England governor Mark Carney will also feature a quote from one of her most popular novels – Pride and Prejudice. “There is no enjoyment but reading!” The new note will be issued this September.

This well reflects the attitudes of Austen herself. As her family were unable to afford costly school fees, she was pretty much educated at home, reading, and writing poems and stories to keep her siblings entertained.

Putting aside comments that her portrait – which was commissioned after she died – has been 'airbrushed' to make her look more attractive than she apparently was, Jane Austen’s face is deserving of its new posthumous position.

As the Bennetts strive to get their five daughters married off to suitable men in Pride and Prejudice and Emma strives to find love for everyone in her life other than herself in the novel of the same name, it’s not unreasonable to think that romance is at the heart of her novels.

Indeed her novels remain hugely popular with teenage girls and have inspired a raft of 21st century ‘chick-lit’ and ‘rom coms’ from Bridget Jones to Clueless and The Jane Austen Book Club.

However, Jane Austen also had a lot to say about money and economics. In the early 1800s the only way for a woman, after all, to have financial security, was to marry well and find a man that could supply it.

As Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park says: “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”

Love need not always come into it as Emma declares.  “It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her.”

Striking the right match in Georgian society was therefore something of a sport. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” declares the narrator in the opening line of Pride and Prejudice.

Mr and Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice are hardly the advert for a happy union and we wonder whether orphan Jane Fairfax’s desire to marry Frank Churchill in Emma is more about a desire for social standing than love.

Yet that doesn’t stop some of Austen’s heroines holding out for something a little more meaningful.

Emma, stood her ground and the novel ends with a marriage based on love. “ I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.” Thankfully for her at least, Austen gives her the perfect rom com ending. Her husband, Mr Knightley, is a man of means and so she gets the best of both worlds: love and wealth.

A good job too as in 1815 when the novel was written she would not have inherited her own wealthy father’s estate when he died.