Novelist Jane Austen may replace Charles Darwin on £10 note

Outgoing Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King has revealed novelist Jane Austen was the leading candidate to replace Charles Darwin on the £10 note.

Austen, who authored such literary classics as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility had been picked as a ''contingency candidate'' to appear on notes.

King was quoted as having told parliamentarians on the Treasury Select Committee that the author was "quietly waiting in the wings" and was in "pole position" to appear on the £10 note as and when the notes were changed.

His comments came after a row over the choice of Sir Winston Churchill to appear on £5 notes in place of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, one of only two women selected following the introduction of historical figures in 1970.

An online petition and threat of potential legal action under the Equality Act greeted the decision to use the wartime leader in April.

The bank earlier announced this month, that a mystery woman had been drawn up as a contingency without revealing her identity.

A decision on when the £10 note would be changed had not been made by the bank yet.

Austen's books, which depict the lives of early 19th century women of the English middle and upper classes, have earned for her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, thanks to her remarkable social observation and the wit and insights she brought to her work.

A group of 46 Labour MPs wrote a letter last week addressed to the bank's board of directors, "The fact that Florence Nightingale is the only other woman who has ever been represented alongside Elizabeth Fry also suggests there is a need for the Bank to show stronger leadership in honouring the role of women in our nation's history." The letter was copied to prime minister David Cameron.