We’ll fork out some £3.5bn over Black Friday weekend and though most of that spending is online or on cards, hard cash still accounts for 40% of high street transactions. But have you ever stopped to think whose likeness is featured on the banknotes that slip through our fingers so easily – and why?
The Bank of England goes for historical figures – Jane Austen is next up for the tenner, to address the under-representation of women. But should historical heroes make it onto banknotes solely for their fame – shouldn’t they also have been good with money too?
Barclays has been investigating how our National Treasures fared when it came to managing their own personal fortunes – with mixed results. Jane Austen herself, despite her stellar reputation as a novelist, was more sensibility than sense, only being worth £668 when she died (£43,000 in today’s money) and even Shakespeare did little better. His 37 plays mark him out as one of our greatest writers – yet he only left around £363 (£62,000) today.
In the 20th century suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst helped win the vote for women, but ended up with only £86 in the bank, while legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton was a total frost when it came to business, leaving just £556. Clearly fame was no guarantee of fortune in the past – but at least you could always end up on a banknote one day.
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