Tag Archives: Charles I

House of Stuart

In March Royal Mail released the House of Stewart stamps, celebrating the Scottish monarchs who reigned from 1406 to 1625. Today a follow-up set is released, the House of Stuart. 

When Elizabeth I of England, the last of the Tudor monarchs, died childless in 1603, the Stewarts inherited the English throne. Later that year came The Union of the Crowns between England and Scotland, with King James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England. This signalled the start of the House of Stuart’s turbulent reign which would last until the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

The six Stuart monarchs: James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II and Anne

The six Stuart monarchs: James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II and Anne

Accompanying this stamp issue is a miniature sheet, The Age of the Stuarts, featuring the physician William Harvey, poet John Milton, architect and dramatist John Vanbrugh and the Battle of Naseby.

The Age of the Stuarts miniature sheet

The Age of the Stuarts miniature sheet

William Harvey was the first person to accurately describe the circulation of the blood. His description was published in the book De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart and Blood) in 1628. Harvey was also Physician to James I, and later to Charles I. He continued in this post until around the time of the Battle of Naseby, one of the most decisive battles of the English Civil Wars, which saw the Royalists all but destroyed by the Parliamentarians.

The English Civil Wars were previously commemorated on stamps in 1992

The English Civil Wars were previously commemorated on stamps in 1992

One of the beneficiaries of the Royalists eventual defeat was John Milton, a poet and polemicist. He believed passionately in the Parliamentarian cause and played several roles within the Commonwealth government, including composing foreign correspondence in Latin and producing propaganda. Following the Restoration of the monarchy he wrote his most famous work, Paradise Lost, an epic poem reflecting on the failure of the revolution. Milton’s work has not previously been represented on a British stamp.

Also making his debut on British stamps is architect and dramatist John Vanburgh, represented by one of his most famous buildings, Castle Howard. Built for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, it is perhaps best known for its use in the TV series and film Brideshead Revisited.

Stamps showing Blenheim Palace, British Gardens (1983) and World Heritage Sites (2005)

Stamps showing Blenheim Palace, British Gardens (1983) and World Heritage Sites (2005)

Another of Vanburgh’s buildings, Blenheim Palace, has appeared on stamps twice before as part of the British Gardens (1983) and World Heritage Sites (2005) issues. Blenheim, among other things, is the birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill, a man who is no stranger to British stamps. The Palace was built in the early 18th Century for John Churchill, a soldier and statesman who served the last four of the Stuart monarchs, and the first of the Hanover monarchs, George I.

Accompanying this stamp issue are two First Day of Issue postmarks. One bears a quote from John Milton’s Areopagitica, a speech given to parliament against censorship. The other features the House of Stuart coat of arms.

House of Stuart first day of issue postmarks

House of Stuart first day of issue postmarks

The House of Stuart stamps are available from Royal Mail.

40th Anniversary of the Post Office Act 1969

On Tuesday 13th October we will be welcoming author and historian Duncan Campbell-Smith to the BPMA to deliver a talk on the Post Office Act 1969. Duncan Campbell-Smith is well placed to speak on this topic as he is currently researching an authorised history of the British Post Office, due to be published in 2011.

The logo of the General Post Office

The logo of the General Post Office

The Post Office Act 1969 brought about one of the most momentous changes to the Post Office since Charles I allowed his subjects to use the postal service (or Royal Mail) in 1635. The 1969 Act meant that the General Post Office ceased to be a government department and became a statutory corporation. The office of Postmaster General was replaced by a Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and the word “General” was dropped from the organisation’s name. At the same time telecommunications were split from postal services, resulting in two separate entities with two separate budgets – Post Office Telecommunications and the Post Office – allowing each organisation to focus on its area of specialty.

Over the next four decades there were further structural and names changes, one of the most significant being that in 1981 postal and telecommunications services were separated entirely, resulting in British Telecommunications and Royal Mail (responsible for post and parcels, Post Office counters and National Giro). This complicated business history and the reasons behind it will no doubt be fully examined in both Duncan Campbell-Smith’s talk on the Post Office Act 1969 and his upcoming book.

To book for the talk 40th Anniversary of the Post Office Act 1969 please see our website.

Walking Tours of GPO London

Anyone walking through the City of London will note weird and wonderful street names such as Cheapside, Poultry and Undershaft, or the more mundane Milk Street, Bread Street and Oat Lane, and get a sense of the Square Mile’s past history as part over-crowded slum, part burgeoning centre of trade. But the history of postal communication can also be seen in the City, with Postman’s Park and Post Office Court being merely the most obvious examples. These and other sites will be explored as part of the BPMA’s programme of GPO London walking tours.

In 1643 the first General Post Office was established in the City, with the site most likely to have been in Cloak Lane, near Dowgate Hill. This came just eight years after Charles I made the Royal Mail available to his subjects, although it was Oliver Cromwell who formally established the Post Office in 1657.

At this time Coffee Houses were considered more reliable mail providers than the newly formalised Post Office. Many Coffee House owners collected letters and made arrangements with ship masters for their delivery overseas. This practice was illegal for it infringed the Post Office monopoly, but the service continued to be popular. It is not coincidental that so many early Post Offices were also established in the City of London.

The site of the Garraways Coffee House (rebuilt 1874) and Lloyds Coffee House (1691-1785) will be visited on the tour, along with the sites of the former GPO Headquarters at Lombard Street and St Martin’s-le-Grand.

Other notable sites visited on the tour are King Edward Building (the former Chief Post Office now occupied by Merrill Lynch), and GPO North. Also in the vicinity was the Central Telegraph Office where Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated wireless telegraphy to William Preece, Engineer to the GPO.

There will also be an opportunity to explore a range of operational GPO street furniture from many eras, including manhole covers, telephone kiosks and letter boxes.

The tours last around 3 hours and are conducted by BPMA Curators. For more information and booking details please see our website.

BPMA Walking Tours, 2009
GPO London – Tuesday 30th June 2009, 1.00-4.00pm
GPO London – Saturday 19th July 2009, 2.00-5.00pm
GPO London – Tuesday 26th September 2009, 1.00-4.00pm