The reigning British monarch has appeared on stamps since their introduction in 1840, but over the past couple of years Royal Mail has ensured that some of those monarchs who ruled before postal reform have also been commemorated. Following last year’s House of Tudor commemoratives and the Houses of Lancaster and York stamps of 2008 comes today’s new release, the House of Stewarts.
The House of Stewart was founded in the late 14th Century by Robert II of Scotland. The Stewarts were monarchs of Scotland from 1371 to 1603, and Monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland from 1603 to 1714.
The House of Stewarts stamps commemorate the seven Stewart monarchs who reigned from 1406 to 1625. This period was significant in Scottish history and saw Scotland transformed from a poor, feudal country into a wealthy modern state which would eventually unite with the rest of the nations of the British Isles.
This era of progress is marked by the four commemoratives which appear in The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet, marking the foundation of Scotland’s first university, St Andrews, in 1413; the granting of a Royal Charter to the College of Surgeons in 1505; the formalisation of the Court of Session in 1532; and the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (also known as the Presbyterian Church) in 1559.
Among the other key events of the House of Stewart period was the translation of the Bible into English. This became known as the King James Bible, and was commemorated on a stamp in 1999. The translation is named after the reigning monarch of the time James I of England and Ireland. James I succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne upon her death in 1603, but from 1567 had been James VI of Scotland. As the first of the Stuart Kings of England, James I will also be included in the House of Stuarts stamps to be released on 15th June.
James I of England/James VI of Scotland is not the only monarch to have caused confusion to someone exploring the complex regal history of Britain. While the current Queen is Elizabeth II of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in Scotland she is technically Elizabeth I. As a result letter boxes and postal vehicles in Scotland do not bear her cipher, ERII, but the Scottish crown.
The House of Stewart stamps area available from the Royal Mail website.