Category Archives: Philatelic

Release of Classic Children’s TV Stamps

A new set of stamps issued today celebrates much-loved TV characters from the past 60 years. Each decade since the 1950s is represented in this issue including Postman Pat, Dougal from The Magic Roundabout and Postman Pat, among other beloved characters from the past.

2014 marks both the 40th anniversary of Bagpuss appearing on TV and the 50th anniversary of The Magic Roundabout. As the first stamps issued in 2014, they will attract audiences of all ages.

Peppa_Pig_Stamp

Peppa Pig, 1st class.

Paddington Bear, 1st class.

Paddington Bear, 1st class.

Mr Benn, 1st class.

Mr Benn, 1st class.

Dougal from The Magical Roundabout, 1st class.

Dougal from The Magical Roundabout, 1st class.

Ivor the Engine, 1st class.

Ivor the Engine, 1st class.

Windy Miller from Camberwick Green, 1st class.

Windy Miller from Camberwick Green, 1st class.

Bob the Builder, 1st class.

Bob the Builder, 1st class.

Bagpuss, 1st class.

Bagpuss, 1st class.

Andy Pandy, 1st class.

Andy Pandy, 1st class.

Great Uncle Bulgaria from The Wombles, 1st class.

Great Uncle Bulgaria from The Wombles, 1st class.

Shaun the Sheep, 1st class.

Shaun the Sheep, 1st class.

Postman_Pat_Stamp

Postman Pat, 1st class.

Postman Pat has been a popular children’s TV series since the first episode in 1981. Royal Mail were keen to use Pat as a publicity tool for Post Office services and the programme promoted the idea of the Postman as an essential community figure.

Plastic Postman Pat shape sorter van.

Plastic Postman Pat shape sorter van.

The BPMA collection has a variety of Postman Pat related objects, ranging from original Postman Pat artwork for the comic Buttons Special through to clothing and toys, such as the wind-up Postman Pat.

Postman Pat wind-up walking toy

Postman Pat wind-up walking toy.

The Classic Children’s TV stamps can be ordered through the royalmail.com/childrenstv and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Christmas Stamps 2013

Since Royal Mail first issued Christmas stamps in 1966, over 17 billion Christmas stamps have been printed in Britain. The Christmas 2013 stamp issue goes on sale today, signifying the start of a dramatic increase in social mail and the sale of the most popular stamp issue of the year.

Madonna and Child Christmas stamps available from 5th November.

Christmas 2013 Madonna and Child stamps available from 5th November.

The 2013 designs are of a religious nature, following a long standing tradition of alternating between religious and secular themes. Royal Mail’s objective was to create an issue reflecting different artistic representations of the Madonna and Child across the widest possible timespan, and emphasise diversity in Britain. To emphasise Britain’s diversity, Fadi Mikhail was commissioned to create a Neo-Coptic inspired design, which is featured on the £1.88 stamp.

Christmas 2013 presentation pack available from the Royal Mail shop.

Christmas 2013 presentation pack available from the Royal Mail shop.

The design brief is reminiscent of the 2005 Christmas stamp issue, which illustrated artistic interpretations of the Madonna and Child in different cultures. A striking image printed on the £1.12 stamp was created in coloured sand by Aboriginal Australian artist Dianne Tchumut.

Additional handstamps available with the 2013 Christmas stamps.

Additional handstamps available with the 2013 Christmas stamps.

This year, alongside the religious stamps, two stamp designs have been created by school children. 239,374 school children aged between four and eleven responded to the question “what does Christmas mean to you?” and their entries can be viewed in an online gallery at www.royalmailstampcompetition.com. One entry, by Charlie Miller; age five, depicts a pillar box in the snow, which is one of my personal favourites.

The two national winners, whose designs are printed on 1st and 2nd class stamps, were selected by a panel including The Prince of Wales and Tasveer Shemza. Shemza, when she was six years old, designed a winning stamp portraying King Wenceslas for the first Christmas stamp issue.

1966 3d Christmas stamp designed by Tasveer Shemza

1966 3d Christmas stamp designed by Tasveer Shemza.

The winning designs also needed the approval of The Queen, as with all stamp issues.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7 from West Sussex is to be featured on the first class Christmas stamps from 5th November 2013.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10 from Devon, is to feature on the second class Christmas stamp from 5th November 2013.

Read more about the first British Christmas stamps here http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/page/christmas-stamps

Read more about the Christmas 2013 stamp competition here
https://postalheritage.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/2013-christmas-stamp-design-competition-winners-announced/

2013 marks only the third occasion that a British Christmas stamp has been selected from competition entrants. This stamp, designed by Samantha Brown; age five, was a winner in the second national competition, held in 1981, and depicts Santa Clause with a rather charming smile.

1981 11½p Christmas Stamp designed by Samantha Brown

1981 11½p Christmas Stamp designed by Samantha Brown.

Christmas stamps have featured the work of renowned artists including Axel Scheffler in 2012, Quentin Blake in 1993 and, memorably in 2010, the team behind Wallace and Gromit.

2012 Christmas stamps designed by Axel Scheffler

2012 Christmas stamps designed by Axel Scheffler.

Christmas stamps from 1993 designed by Quentin Blake

Christmas stamps from 1993 designed by Quentin Blake.

2010 Christmas Stamps featuring Wallace and Grommit

2010 Christmas Stamps featuring Wallace and Gromit.

While rehousing sheets of stamps from the 1960s, I came across the wonderful Christmas 1969 4d stamp, which features an angel in a floor length, colourfully patterned dress with contrasting patterned wings and headband. The style is highly evocative of late 1960s counter culture fashion, which drew influences from Eastern cultures. These fashions were championed by the hippie movement who, widely involved in anti-war protests, utilised the style to demonstrate a rejection of the establishment. The Christmas 1969 stamp is a window into this era and its aesthetics.

Christmas 1969 4d stamp - a window onto 1960s sensibilities.

Christmas 1969 4d stamp – a window on to 1960s sensibilities.

Christmas stamps symbolise the important role of communication in the festive period and map the national run up to Christmas. The build-up of excitement begins alongside the sale of the first Christmas stamps as people ponder Christmas card lists, invitations to parties are sent and letters to Santa composed. The post-before deadline marks the crescendo of preparations, as parcels are rushed to the Post Office and internet shopping cut off dates are frantically met. The distinctive, red pillar box, often capped in snow, is a common feature on all kinds of Christmas illustration including cards, stamps and wrapping paper; demonstrating the intrinsic connection between Christmas and the post in cultural memory.

Original artwork for the 12.5p 1983 Christmas stamp.

Original artwork for the 12.5p Christmas 1983 stamp.

The British Postal Museum and Archive is holding an exhibition at The Treasure House in Beverley from 7 December 2013 until the second week in February 2014 entitled Christmas through the Post; exploring the rise and importance of the post at Christmas time. An accompanying online exhibition, hosted by the Google Cultural Institute, is planned for the future. Keep checking our website for more details and for the final closing date of the exhibition.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

Following the issue of the new Christmas Robin stamp on 5th November 2013, the BPMA have produced official limited edition first day covers featuring the new stamp designs issued by the machine. These first day covers feature the new stamp design with the unique overprint for the BPMA machine (reads “The B.P.M.A.”) and have been produced on official BPMA covers and cancelled with the official British Postal Museum & Archive cancellation stamp dated for the first day of issue.

Visit www.postalheritage.org.uk/robin2013 to purchase a first day cover. Limited edition of 50 available.

2013 Christmas stamp design competition : Winners announced

The winners of the 2013 Christmas stamp design competition have been announced today.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7 from West Sussex is to be featured on the first class Christmas stamps from 5th November 2013.

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7, from West Sussex, will be the 1st Class Christmas Stamp, and ‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10, from Devon, is to feature on the 2nd Class Christmas stamp. The winners will attend a prize-giving at Clarence House with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Royal Mail Chief Executive Officer, Moya Greene. The winning designs were chosen from over 240,000 entries received from children aged between four and eleven across the UK in response to the question ‘What does the Christmas season mean to you?’

This is only the third time in Royal Mail’s near 500-year history that children have designed the Christmas Stamps. The Prince of Wales led the judging panel that chose the winning designs. A new website has been launched for children, parents and teachers to view the entries submitted to the competition: www.royalmailstampcompetition.com.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10 from Devon, is to feature on the second class Christmas stamp from 5th November 2013.

You can also find out more about the first ever Christmas stamps (which were also designed by children) at our website.

Postmarketing: slogans from the seventies

Kim Noulton who has been volunteering with the BPMA blogs about what she has found among a series of Post Office registered files in the Royal Mail Archive which were created by the Marketing Department in the 1970s.

Since August I have been cataloguing second review material; this means that the files have undergone a decision-making process in which they have been selected for permanent preservation. Topics that I have catalogued so far, which are now available to search on the BPMA online catalogue, include files pertaining to strategies conceived by the BBC and GPO on broadcasting capabilities in the event of nuclear fallout from the 1950s; the creation of the postal minibus service, which includes photographs; and postmark slogans from the 1960s to 1980s. It is the last topic that I will be discussing in this post.

At first sight, postmark slogans seem an inoffensive form of marketing; a tool for the Post Office to promote its new postcode system to the public or advertising events on a wide scale. However, one such campaign led to worries about causing offence to the highest office in Britain; the Crown.

File POST 154/3 details how Chessington Zoo, an establishment housing exotic animals since the 1930s, commissioned designs for a postmark in 1972. The result was the slogan ‘Chessington Zoo Open Every Day of the Year’ and a rather harmless-looking monkey which however, when stamped over the Queen’s head, created an outrageously unflattering image. Such was the outcry that the Lord Chamberlain’s office became involved, to which the Post Office responded promptly by creating new designs for the Zoo. Disaster was thankfully averted with the help of an elephant.

The monkey slogan overprinted on a stamp. (POST 154/3)

The monkey slogan overprinted on a stamp. (POST 154/3)

The revised Chessington Zoo slogan featuring an elephant. (POST 154/3)

The revised Chessington Zoo slogan featuring an elephant. (POST 154/3)

The material in the file takes a different perspective when it is revealed that a woman made a complaint to the Post Office about the nature of the postmark. Her concern was that the postmark was forced upon her when receiving a letter, despite her dislike for zoos, circuses and any other institution keeping wild animals in captivity. This raises questions about advertisements in general being forced upon people in receipt of their post without their consent.

One other controversy revealed in this section of Marketing Department files (POST 154, the first part of this series to be available online) concerns the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland  in the early 1970s. The file (POST 154/1) documents the unlawful overprinting of stamps with politically motivated messages, including ‘Support Sinn Fein’ and ‘Dail Uladh 1971′. The file itself shows how something as simple as postmark slogans can create a political storm.

List of stamps on sale from the Irish Republican Philatelic Office, Dublin. (POST 154/1)

List of stamps on sale from the Irish Republican Philatelic Office, Dublin. (POST 154/1)

With the Irish Republican Army (IRA) upping the intensity of their attacks during 1971, such messages caused alarm and great offence, especially to those who had suffered fatal casualties at the hands of the IRA. One serving officer of the Queen’s Regiment explains his view in a letter, stating very clearly that he believes the Irish government knew about the overprinting and was therefore ‘wilfully supporting terrorism’.

An interesting feature of this particular file is that the Post Office’s policy, available to view within the files, was to reject all manner of political statements, with their standpoint to remain unbiased in its place as a public service.

Search for these files on our online catalogue.

Dinosaurs

Today Royal Mail has issued 10 new stamps featuring Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs have not appeared on stamps since 1991 but as they are a perennially popular subject, especially with children, an examination of how they may have looked was considered to be a good topic for stamps. The stamp designs in this issue are printed such that the creatures ‘break out’ of the self-adhesive stamp frame, so there is not a clean straight edge to the stamp.

Over the past 200 years the fossilised remains of the skeletons of the dinosaurs featured in this issue have been found in the UK, mostly in southern Britain. The following dinosaurs feature on the stamps:

Polacanthus, 1st class.

Polacanthus, 1st class.

Ichthyosaurus, 1st class.

Ichthyosaurus, 1st class.

Iguanodon, 1st class.

Iguanodon, 1st class.

Ornithocheirus, 1st class.

Ornithocheirus, 1st class.

Baryonyx, 1st class.

Baryonyx, 1st class.

Dimorphodon, 1st class.

Dimorphodon, 1st class.

Hypsilophodon, 1st class.

Hypsilophodon, 1st class.

Cetiosaurus, 1st class.

Cetiosaurus, 1st class.

Megalosaurus, 1st class.

Megalosaurus, 1st class.

Plesiosaurus, 1st class.

Plesiosaurus, 1st class.

John Sibbick was the artist selected to produce the artwork for the Dinosaurs issue. He is one of the foremost illustrators of dinosaurs and has decades of experience. It was felt that Sibbick’s painterly approach gave a more detailed realisation of the animals than tests with computer generated imagery at stamp size.

Dr Angela Milner of the Natural History Museum, London, was the consultant for this issue, and advised on the species and the accuracy of the final images to be reproduced on stamps.

The Dinosaurs stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/dinosaurs and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers

Royal Mail’s Freshwater Life series of Post & Go Stamps for 2013 culminates with a set of six stamps featuring wildlife found in the habitat of UK rivers.

The stamps, available from today from Post & Go terminals in 146 Post Office branches and at Stampex, feature creatures including the Atlantic Salmon, the River Lamprey, the White-clawed Crayfish, the Blue-winged Olive Mayfly Larva and the Minnow. The salmon and crayfish in particular have suffered a decline in numbers.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Atlantic Salmon.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Atlantic Salmon.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: River Lamprey.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: River Lamprey.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: White-clawed Crayfish.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: White-clawed Crayfish.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Brown Trout.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Brown Trout.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Blue-winged Olive Mayfly Larva.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Blue-winged Olive Mayfly Larva.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Minnow.

Post & Go Freshwater Life – Rivers: Minnow.

Rivers follows Ponds and Lakes as the third and final Post & Go set to be issued in 2013 – all on the subject of the UK’s freshwater life. Once again, Royal Mail commissioned Kate Stephens to produce the designs for the new Post & Go stamps. These were illustrated by lino-cut artist Chris Wormell. The national charity Pond Conservation has advised on all the stamp sets. The charity works in all freshwater environments and runs the successful annual Big Pond Dip, where the public is invited to monitor local ponds for life.

The stamps are available from Stampex, Post & Go terminals in 146 Post Office branches, at www.royalmail.com/postandgo and by phone on 08457 641 641.

New Merchant Navy and Bertram Mackennal stamps

As always during Stampex Royal Mail are issuing several sets of new stamps. Today sees the launch of a commemorative issue on the Merchant Navy and commemorative sheets marking the 150thanniversary of the birth of Bertram Mackennal.

Merchant Navy

The Merchant Navy stamps salute the heritage of the UK’s trading fleet of ships, run by various companies. These export and import goods from around the world as well as carrying passengers, and historically have been intertwined with the fortunes of the nation.

Merchant Navy stamp - 1st Class – Atlas, 1813.

Merchant Navy stamp – 1st Class – Atlas, 1813.

Merchant Navy stamp - 1st Class – Britannia, 1840.

Merchant Navy stamp – 1st Class – Britannia, 1840.

Merchant Navy stamp -1st Class - Cutty Sark, 1870.

Merchant Navy stamp -1st Class – Cutty Sark, 1870.

Merchant Navy stamp - £1.28 - Clan Matheson, 1919.

Merchant Navy stamp – £1.28 – Clan Matheson, 1919.

Merchant Navy stamp - £1.28 - Queen Elizabeth, 1940.

Merchant Navy stamp – £1.28 – Queen Elizabeth, 1940.

Merchant Navy stamp - £1.28 - Lord Hinton, 1986.

Merchant Navy stamp – £1.28 – Lord Hinton, 1986.

The accompanying miniature sheet honours the contribution of the Merchant Navy in times of war, when its ships assisted in the war effort. 2013 will mark the 70th anniversary of the turning point of what is called the Battle of the Atlantic, after which losses reduced considerably.

Merchant Navy: Miniature Sheet - The Atlantic and Arctic Convoys.

Merchant Navy: Miniature Sheet – The Atlantic and Arctic Convoys.

Bertram Mackennal

Bertram Mackennal was born on 12th June 1863 in Melbourne, Australia, to parents of Scottish descent. After initial training in design and sculpture at the National Gallery in Melbourne, Mackennal travelled to Europe. Having completed further studies in London and Paris he began to receive commissions in Australia and the United Kingdom, and eventually came to the attention of King George V.

In 1910 Mackennal began work on the effigy of King George V for new British and imperial coins and medals, and from this he developed the designs for the King’s head on British postage stamps and also worked on Indian and colonial stamps. Through this work, he began a lifelong friendship with the king helping to establish his philatelic legacy. In 1921, Mackennal was knighted by King George V.

The Mackennal stamps available from today feature ten definitive sized 1st Class Royal Seal stamps alongside images showing key works from Mackennal. These include the halfpenny green and one penny red stamps from 1912-1913, the George V five shilling Seahorses stamp from 1913 and a commemorative Olympic Games medal from 1908.

Bertram Mackennal commemorative sheet.

Bertram Mackennal commemorative sheet.

Royal Mail has also produced a facsimile pack of the Seahorses stamps. The ‘Seahorses’ were high value definitive postage stamps issued during the reign of King George V and designed by Mackennal. These stamps were notable for the quality of the engraving and the design, featuring Britannia on her chariot behind three writhing horses on a stormy sea.

Bertram Mackennal facsimile pack.

Bertram Mackennal facsimile pack.

The Merchant Navy stamps are available online via www.royalmail.com/merchantnavy. The Bertram Mackennel stamps are available online via www.royalmail.com/mackennal.

Both issues are also available from the Royal Mail stand at Stampex, in Post Office branches or by phone on 08457 641 641.

BPMA at Autumn Stampex 2013

On Wednesday, 18 September, the fantastic British National Stamp Exhibition, Stampex, will open its doors once more. Stampex is free of charge and open to the philatelic community and indeed anyone at all interested in stamps, postal history and other related items. Stampex runs from Wednesday 18 September right through to Saturday 21 September.

Stampex at the Business Design Centre, Islington.

Stampex at the Business Design Centre, Islington.

The show is located at the Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0QH. Stampex will be open as follows:

Wednesday 18 September, 11.30am – 7.00pm
Thursday 19 and Friday 20 September, 10.00am – 6.00pm
Saturday 21 September, 10.00am – 5.00pm

The Friends of the BPMA will have an area at Stampex once more, to share news about BPMA exhibitions, events and activities and offer a great opportunity for visitors to buy a selection of products from the BPMA Shop.

Come along and find out more about our fundraising plans for the new museum and archive. Visitors will also have the opportunity to buy tickets for our forthcoming evening talk being given by BPMA Senior Curator Julian Stray- entitled Mr Poppleton’s Horse: The History of horse-drawn mails. The talk is taking place on Thursday 19 September at 7pm, at the Phoenix Centre, next door to our Archive in Clerkenwell, only a 20 minute walk from the Business Design Centre.

At the Friends’ stand you will be able to view some of our exhibition panels from our brand new exhibition on The Great Train Robbery, shortly to leave on a national tour around the UK and marking 50 years since the robbery took place. The exhibition explores and uncovers the role of the Post Office Investigation Department following the robbery, and their instrumental role alongside the Police in elucidating the events of the robbery and apprehending those involved. Exhibition highlights include images taken on the night of the robbery, suspect lists, and an early Wanted poster, plus details from the GPO files held at the archive. The robbery changed the way the GPO tackled security- on its Travelling Post Offices and more widely in UK post offices, and more information on this will be available for visitors to view.

Travelling Post Office (POST 118/5745)

Travelling Post Office (POST 118/5745)

Also available from the Friends of the BPMA will be a great selection of BPMA shop stock to purchase. Brand new items that will be available include the postcards featuring images from the new BPMA exhibition on Mail Rail- all images taken by Jonathan Bradley Photography.

Descent to the Mount - Twin tunnel. Image ©Bradley Photography, Northumberland.

Descent to the Mount – Twin tunnel. Image ©Bradley Photography, Northumberland.

The Mail Rail exhibition brochure will also be available to purchase, featuring text and images from the exhibition and unique insights into the Mail Rail network by BPMA Head of Collections, Chris Taft, and Jonathan Bradley, the photographer who first conceived the idea of photographing the Mail Rail network. We are also pleased to offer for sale the paperback version of Masters of the Post by Duncan Campbell-Smith. Duncan Campbell-Smith will soon be giving a talk on our behalf entitled The Royal Mail Past and Present, at the Guildhall Library, London, on 24 October, 7pm- 8pm.

There will be lots to see at Stampex and in the area where the Friends will be- please do come and find us!

- Dominique Gardner, Exhibitions Officer

Philatelic stocktake

Regular readers of the BPMA blog will know that we undertake a yearly stock take. Stock take, a concerted burst of ‘collections housekeeping’, has recently been utilised to prepare for our move to the new museum at Calthorpe House. Our last stock take was earlier this year, but the ever keen Philatelic team scheduled two additional stock taking sessions; the first of which took place last week.

The week was extremely beneficial as we made significant progress in a number of important areas: 537 boxes were reorganised into numerical order and re-listed, 348 shelves and 167 albums were relabelled, oversize registers were prepared for housing, and duplicate material was identified and removed.

Philatelic material during the stock take.

Philatelic material during the stock take.

These tasks are an essential part of the move planning process: we must know exactly what is in each box, where each box is and where each box is going to be housed in the new museum in order for the collection to be transported safely and stored efficiently.

Our next Philatelic stock take, scheduled for November 2013, will focus on rationalising more essays and regional postcards.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

Visit our website for information on accessing our philatelic collection for research.

Kings and Queens: Constructing a Legacy

The Kings and Queens series of stamps chronicles a 600 year history of British monarchy, from Henry VI in 1339 to Elizabeth II, and depicts portraits of each ruler in the houses of Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stewart, Stuart, Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Windsor; an epic issue which was released over four years. This blog examines the legacy of two monarchs: Richard III and Lady Jane Grey. Evidence in the stamp issue reveals the construction of a history which legitimised the successive victor’s rule and propaganda which consolidated their power. This reconstructed past is still popularly bought into, highlighting the success of the original spin doctors.

The Houses of Lancaster and York stamps, issued 28 February 2008.

The Houses of Lancaster and York stamps, issued 28 February 2008.

Richard III: villain or victim? Opinion is split where this monarch is concerned due, in part, to successful Tudor propaganda. I ought to make clear that I do not wish to determine who was responsible for the infamous deaths of ‘the Princes in the Tower’ nor establish which monarch was most ‘wicked’ but to identify activities following Richard’s death which constructed an evil identity, actions which may have been orchestrated by the Tudors in order to legitimise their rule.

The animalisation of Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard III describes him as “spider”, “toad” and “hedgehog” in order to brutalise and dehumanise him; Richard’s “deformed” and “unfinished” physicality purportedly representing the monster within. Richard III was published during the reign of Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Richard’s conqueror. The play reinforced the Tudor lore that Henry VII swept away evil and brought justice to the land. Interestingly, a powerful patron of Shakespeare’s was Ferdinando Stanley; heir to the throne, following his mother, if Elizabeth died without issue. Ferdinando Stanley was a descendent of the brothers Thomas and William Stanley who had a reputation of playing for both sides in the Wars of the Roses and waited until the decisive victor of the Battle of Bosworth was clear until joining the Tudor forces. One might consider the plausibility of Stanley’s involvement in Shakespeare’s creation of monster-Richard in order to immortalize the role his family played in ensuring Tudor victory and retell their past Yorkist involvement in a more sympathetic light.

Richard III (1483-1485) stamp, issued 28 February 2008.

Richard III (1483-1485) stamp, issued 28 February 2008.

The portrait of Richard III used in the stamp issue was painted in around 1520, there is no surviving contemporary portrait of Richard, and has been the inspiration for most subsequent likenesses. X-ray analysis of the portrait reveals that the unevenness of the shoulders was a later addition. The painting was completed around four years after the birth of Henry VIII’s only child to that point: a daughter, Mary. This was a challenging time for the Tudors as stability was dependent on a line of male heirs. The negative portrayal of Richard III in this context is important as it reaffirmed the greatness of Tudor rule. One may imagine that the portrait was sent back to be made more hideous in order to further bolster the juxtaposition between the monstrous old rulers and virtuous Tudors.

Adding weight to the argument of Tudor propaganda is the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton; confirmed to be that of the monarch in 2013. The skeleton showed evidence of scoliosis and infers that Richard would have been quite stooped. This characteristic was exploited and enlarged in the Tudor period and Richard’s body transformed into a symbol of malignity, perhaps because successful lies are built on shreds of truth. Unfortunately the skeleton cannot prove or disprove John Rous’s assertion, made shortly after Richard’s death, that Richard was born with fully grown teeth and hair, but I am confident that this can be apportioned to Tudor monster making.

House of Tudor stamps, issued 21 April 2009.

House of Tudor stamps, issued 21 April 2009.

The Royal Mail press release for The House of Tudor issue describes the era as “marking the end of the Middle Ages [and]… the introduction of the Renaissance into England.” This simplistic statement is dependent on value judgements which reduce vast periods into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Popular history buys into these sweeping judgements by maintaining the use of monarch’s nicknames such as Richard the Lionheart which denotes bravery and superiority. William I’s competing nicknames demonstrate the importance of victory to the construction of positive legacy as the nickname ‘William the Bastard’ vied with, and ultimately lost to, ‘William the Conqueror.’

Lady Jane Grey (1553) stamp, issued 21 April 2009.

Lady Jane Grey (1553) stamp, issued 21 April 2009.

Jane Grey, great granddaughter of Henry VII, was Queen for nine days in July 1553. On the stamp issue, and every website I found in a rudimental internet search, she is referred to as Lady Jane Grey; never Queen Jane. Regardless of how she became Queen, Queen she was. Regardless of the length of her reign, reign she did. That she is not remembered as Queen Jane reinforces the legacy of illegitimate rule. The ‘Lady’ title happily suits both historical identities constructed around Jane: either she was never the legitimate Queen hence she was only ever a Lady, or, the queenship was foisted upon the unsuspecting Jane hence she only ever wanted to be a Lady. Jane Grey is the only monarch in the series without the appropriate title. The maintenance of the ‘Lady’ title in the stamp issue compounds the identities most commonly attached to her: a pretender, seizing the position unjustly or a puppet, forced into power. The way that we refer to Jane Grey reveals perceptions regarding her personality which subsequently become accepted as fact.

Public memory of monarchs’ personalities is often constructed by their vanquishers through title, nickname, plays and portraits. This version of history belies complex events and their subsequent reconstruction. The Kings and Queens series is most interesting in the presentation of historical constructs which are accepted as fact but were carefully constructed historical fiction.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant