Tag Archives: Edward VIII

Buckingham stamps released

A new stamp issue was released today celebrates 300 years of Buckingham Palace.

Six individual stamps explore the different appearance of this iconic
building over the centuries while a Miniature Sheet celebrates the opulence of its interior.

Miniature Sheet, 1st class.

Miniature Sheet, 1st class.

The Throne Room, 1st class.

The Throne Room, 1st class.

The Green Drawing Room, 1st class.

The Green Drawing Room, 1st class.

The Grand Staircase, 1st class.

The Grand Staircase, 1st class.

The Blue Drawing Room, 1st class.

The Blue Drawing Room, 1st class.

The history of Buckingham Palace can be traced back to the early 17th century, when a mulberry garden was established on the site to breed silk worms. George III purchased the building and site from the Duke of Buckingham and George IV converted it into a palace, his chief residence.

Buckingham Palace 1862.

Buckingham Palace 1862.

Buckingham Palace 2014.

Buckingham Palace 2014.

Buckingham Palace 1846.

Buckingham Palace 1846.

Buckingham Palace 1819.

Buckingham Palace 1819.

Buckingham Palace 1714.

Buckingham Palace 1714.

Buckingham Palace 1700.

Buckingham Palace 1700.

Buckingham Palace has appeared before on stamps and is one of the most iconic buildings in the UK. Below is photograph that was taken for use on the Coronation issue for Edward VII, but it was never used.

KEVIII projected Coronation issue: Photograph of a view of Buckingham Palace  Photograph taken by GPO film unit for pictorial essays (not used). (POST 150/KEVIII/4/004)

KEVIII projected Coronation issue: Photograph of a view of Buckingham Palace Photograph taken by GPO film unit for pictorial essays. (POST 150/KEVIII/4/004)

The Buckingham Palace stamps are available from 15 April online at royalmail.com/buckinghampalaceby phone on 08457 641 641 and and in 10,000 Post Offices throughout the UK.

Countdown to Sotheby’s: George VI stamps

On 11 July the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) will be selling 191 lots of surplus, duplicate philatelic material at Sotheby’s auction house. The proceeds of the sale will support the significant fundraising efforts currently being undertaken by the BPMA to deliver an important new postal museum and archive in Central London. In this blog Alison Bean, Web Officer at The British Postal Museum & Archive, chooses her favourite lots.

Most of the lots in The British Postal Museum & Archive auction are stamps from the reign of King George VI. All of this material comes from registration sheets, which were an official record (normally imperforate) taken from the beginning of the print run. Other than the fact that they are imperforate and have various manuscript or typescript markings they are exactly the same as the issued stamps. Some were registered at Somerset House, then the home of the Inland Revenue (the department of British government responsible for taxation), and the rest came to be held in the Royal Mail Archive. It is duplicates of the officially archived registration material that we are selling in this auction.

While this material is interesting from a philatelic perspective it’s the designs of the low value definitives that most excite me. Produced between 1937 and 1947 these stamps are a dazzling riot of colours and patterns displayed as a collage in Sotheby’s auction catalogue.

Pages from Sotheby’s auction catalogue, showing Lot 46 – 1937-47 ½d to 1s, set of 16 vertical marginal blocks, estimated at £120,000-£150,000.

Pages from Sotheby’s auction catalogue, showing Lot 46 – 1937-47 ½d to 1s, set of 16 vertical marginal blocks, estimated at £120,000-£150,000.

The stamps were designed by two artists, Edmund Dulac and Eric Gill. Dulac is responsible for the portrait of The King, and in the BPMA collection we hold his original plaster model.

Plaster model of King George VI’s head, by Edmund Dulac.

Plaster model of King George VI’s head, by Edmund Dulac.

King Edward VIII 2½d stamp.

King Edward VIII 2½d stamp.

As with the portrait on the stamps of King Edward VIII, King George VI’s portrait is simple and striking. Yet in Dulac’s portrait George VI is shown as benevolent, almost smiling, while in Hugh Cecil’s portrait of Edward VIII The King seems more severe, almost sad.

It’s questionable whether one portrait can portray a person’s character, but it’s difficult not draw a connection between the anger and sadness in Edward VIII’s face, and his difficult decision to abdicate to be with the woman he loved, American divorcee Wallis Simpson. By contrast, George VI, who is usually framed by history as a reluctant King, looks every bit the regal figure as rendered by Dulac.

King George VI, 1937-47, 8d bright carmine example from unique set of 17 horizontal marginal Registration blocks, estimated at £400,000-£500,000.

King George VI, 1937-47, 8d bright carmine example from unique set of 17 horizontal marginal Registration blocks, estimated at £400,000-£500,000.

Eric Gill, possibly better known for designing the Gill Sans typeface, designed one of the frames which surround the King’s head on the George VI definitive stamps. This incorporates the Crown and floral symbols of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and makes use of Gill’s Perpetua font for the words “POSTAGE REVENUE” and the denomination.

Lot 191 - 6d stamp from a collection of King George VI issues, estimated at £75,000-£100,000.

Lot 191 – 6d stamp from a collection of King George VI issues, estimated at £75,000-£100,000.

Dulac designed another frame, hexagonal in shape, which was used on the higher denominations. These stamps are printed in a number of vivid colours, including turquoise-blue, bright carmine and emerald-green.

Detail of Lot 47 - King George VI, 1937-47, 8d bright carmine example from unique set of 17 horizontal marginal Registration blocks, estimated at £400,000-£500,000.

Detail of Lot 47 – King George VI, 1937-47, 8d bright carmine example from unique set of 17 horizontal marginal Registration blocks, estimated at £400,000-£500,000.

While many of his subjects knew that George VI was a shy man with a severe stammer who loathed public speaking, the design of these stamps gives no clues to that. Dulac’s simple hexagonal border presents George VI as a strong leader, with the dark background and the thick border making him the focus of the design.

Please visit Sotheby’s sale page to find out more about the lots on offer.

Countdown to Sotheby’s: Rare and colourful – the King Edward VIII accession issue

On 11 July the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) will be selling 191 lots of surplus, duplicate philatelic material at Sotheby’s auction house. The proceeds of the sale will support the significant fundraising efforts currently being undertaken by the BPMA to deliver an important new postal museum and archive in Central London. In this blog Julia Lee, Assistant Editor at Stamp Magazine gives her thoughts on the auction.

I’m very excited about the Sotheby’s sale. It will be the first major sale I’ve been to since the Sir Gawaine Baillie sale, and I can’t wait to see what some of this material goes for. And, of course, to write screaming headlines about it.

The BPMA asked me to pick an item to talk about, and while the journalist in me wants to highlight the most expensive, it’s the King Edward VIII 2 1/2d registration sheet that I’d buy if I had the chance.

Lot 18: King Edward VIII registration block of 48 (2½d value, blue), estimated at £100,000-120,000.

Lot 18: King Edward VIII registration block of 48 (2½d value, blue), estimated at £100,000-120,000.

In fact, King Edward VIII helped me get the job as Assistant Editor on Stamp Magazine. ‘What happened with his stamps?’ I wondered in the interview.

Now I know the answer. A set of four stamps was issued in September 1936, at a time when, even though there was a voluntary press blackout on King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson‘s relationship, the General Post Office must have known a constitutional crisis was looming. In fact, three months later, in December, the GPO was asked by the Cabinet Office to bug the King’s phones.

The stamps’ simplicity and the very obvious break with the previous florid tradition appeals to me. They’re also very much of their time, with the clean styling of head, crown and value.

The 2½d bright blue registration sheet makes a real impact on the page. We didn’t have space to put it in our June issue, but I wish we had. It’s a great colour – far better than any bistre or olive-green!

Detail of Lot 18: King Edward VIII registration block of 48 (2½d value, blue), estimated at £100,000-120,000.

Detail of Lot 18: King Edward VIII registration block of 48 (2½d value, blue), estimated at £100,000-120,000.

And while all postal history of any kind tells a story, Edward VIII’s references a very specific period in British history. Almost anyone you show the stamps to will grasp their significance immediately and ask you whether or not they were issued.

Like all the best stamps, it provides an easy way to suck people into the historical and social stories philatelists know are lying under the surface of our hobby.

Please visit Sotheby’s sale page to find out more about the lots on offer. And don’t forget to follow Stamp Magazine on Twitter!

First Class: A History of Britain Told Through 36 Postage Stamps

On Thursday 21 February Chris West, author of First Class – a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps, will give a talk at the BPMA in London. Chris’s book explores British history as illustrated by our most expressive, quirky, beautiful and sometimes baffling stamps.

Chris West

Chris West

Drawing on his book, Chris will tell the story of how the Penny Lilac united a nation in 1881 and examine the controversy surrounding the Edward VIII stamp of 1936. More recent history such as the punk era and the Prime Ministership of Margaret Thatcher will also be explored.

First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps by Chris West (cover)

Tickets to the talk First Class: A History of Britain Told Through 36 Postage Stamps can be purchased through our website at the cost of £3 per head, £2.50 for concessions.

Read Chris West’s blog A Cup of Tea and its consequences, or purchase First Class – a History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps through our online shop.

Pillar box gold

Team GB’s gold medal winning athletes are not only finding themselves appearing on stamps within 24 hours of their victory, they are also being honoured with a gold letter box in their hometown.

One of the gold letter boxes (image from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables Facebook page)

One of the gold letter boxes (image from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables Facebook page)

As with the Gold Medal Winner stamps Royal Mail are dispatching staff to re-paint the letter boxes within a day of each athlete’s victory. There are now gold letter boxes from Penzance to Lossiemouth, with (hopefully) lots more to come.

The gold letter boxes are getting a lot of attention in the media and many people have asked us whether it is unusual to see letter boxes in colours other than the traditional red. In fact it isn’t. When letter boxes first appeared in the British Isles they were painted green so as not to intrude on the landscape.

One of the first pillar boxes to be used in the British Isles, introduced in the Channel Islands circa 1852-1853 (OB1996.653)

One of the first pillar boxes to be used in the British Isles, introduced in the Channel Islands circa 1852-1853 (OB1996.653)

Unfortunately the colour green proved too unobtrusive and people were unable to find them. After experimenting with a chocolate brown colour, the Post Office finally settled on the bright red we know today.

The familiar red pillar box, a rare example of one produced during the reign of Edward VIII, 1936 (OB1994.45)

The familiar red pillar box, a rare example of one produced during the reign of Edward VIII, 1936 (OB1994.45)

In the 1930s some boxes were also painted bright blue to promote the new Air Mail service. Our curator Julian Stray restored one of these rare blue boxes several years ago and you can read all about that on this blog.

A rare blue Air Mail pillar box

A rare blue Air Mail pillar box

Visit http://www.goldpostboxes.com/ to see the locations of all the gold boxes, or read our article on Letter Boxes to find out more about their history.

The House of Windsor

Today Royal Mail has launched the first of three special Royal stamp issues celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The House of Windsor stamps feature the five monarchs from the start of the 20th century.

Edward VII who reigned from 1901 to 1910 is featured on the 1st Class Stamp. He was the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which was renamed the House of Windsor by his son, George V.

The 69p stamp bears the image of George V who became king after his father’s death in 1910 whom he succeeded as King-Emperor of the British Empire.

Edward VIII is featured on the 72p stamp. With a reign of just 325 days, Edward VIII is one of the shortest reigning monarchs in British History. He abdicated after causing a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to Wallis Simpson. His coronation never took place and he was created Duke of Windsor.

George VI who reigned from 1936 to 1952 appears on the £1.00 stamp. George VI was the second son of King George V and had not expected to inherit the thrown. He served in the Royal Navy during World War I, and after the war took on the usual round of public engagements. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret.

The set is completed by £1.10 stamp featuring a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth by Pietro Annigoni. The elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, she was born in 1926 and became the Queen at the age of 25, and has reigned through more than five decades of enormous social change and development.

In addition to the five stamps featuring the five Kings and Queens of the House of Windsor a miniature sheet of four stamps highlighting events that have taken place during the Windsor reign has also been issued.

The four miniature sheet stamps feature:

  • Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912
  • The Queen Mother’s a tour of bomb-damaged London during WWII
  • England’s famous World Cup win in 1966
  • The 1994 opening of the Channel Tunnel linking France and the UK

The House of Windsor completes Royal Mail’s epic four-year journey through the six Royal Houses. Titled ‘Kings and Queens’, the series has charted more than 600 years of British history beginning with the House of Lancaster and York in February 2008. We have previously featured The House of Stuart and the House of Stewarts on this blog.

The Miniature Sheet and the new House of Windsor stamps as well as additional philatelic products are available at all Post Office branches, from Royal Mail website, the Royal Mail eBay shop and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

Stamps from the reigns of the Windsor monarchs can be viewed on our website.

Stamp Registration or “Imprimatur” sheets in the BPMA Collections

One of the most important parts of the philatelic collections of the BPMA is the series of registration sheets of stamps from the Penny Black to the present day. All are public records and part of the Royal Mail Archive. These sheets are in the process of being catalogued and made available online. However, the size of the sheets is such that they cannot at the moment be scanned so images available are rather restricted. Anyone wishing to view the original sheets must make an appointment with the Curator, Philately. The following is a summary of what is
available to customers at present.

Queen Victoria (1840-c.1870)

All Victorian registration sheets (sometimes called “imprimatur” sheets by collectors) are imperforate, are catalogued and details can be seen on our online catalogue. There are no scans of any part of the original sheets. Included in this are, of course, all sheets of Penny Blacks in the collection (10 in total, though not every plate is represented) and all sheets of Twopenny Blues from the 1841 and 1858 types. No registration sheets exist for plates 1 and 2 of the original Twopenny Blue. Also included are those Penny Red sheets from 1841 onwards which exist (from plate 12 onwards – 206 in total) and the new series of Penny Reds from 1855 (a total of 106, but excluding plate 77) There are also a very small number of other values.

During the 19th century examples were officially cut from these sheets by the Inland Revenue for official purposes, so none of them is complete. Details of which stamps are missing are given in the catalogue.

Although none of these sheets is scanned we do have high quality, same-size, black and white photographs of all of the above which are available for purchase for private study. Each photograph costs £31.50 (including VAT). A “Request for Reprographic Services” form needs to be completed and signed by the applicant. As external developing studios are used and a minimum batch for processing is required, if the photograph requested is not in stock then there may be a delay of three or four weeks before completion of the order. However, payment is not required until the order is sent for processing.

If you would be interested in this service please contact the Administrator on paul.stevenson@postalheritage.org.uk or telephone 020 7239 2577.

Queen Victoria (1870-1901)

All other Victorian registration sheets are catalogued and
details can be seen in the online catalogue. However, none have been photographed and the illustrations in the catalogue are not taken from the actual sheets. Rather they come from the Phillips Collection, as with the earlier sheets. These sheets are also imperforate. There are also a few sheets of overprints on Victorian GB stamps for use by some British government departments (termed “Departmental Overprints”). All such overprinted sheets were already perforated.

King Edward VII (1901-1910)

With the registration sheets of King Edward VII the online catalogue shows a small scanned section or part of the actual sheets. These include special formats for booklets for the first time as well as Departmental overprints, and overprints on British stamps for use in the Levant, Bechuanaland and Morocco Agencies. None of the sheets is available photographed or scanned.

King George V (1910-1936) & King Edward VIII (1936)

Again, all registration sheets are catalogued and details can be found in the online catalogue together with a scan of a small part of each sheet (click here for King George V and here for King Edward VIII). Included are sheets for booklets, rolls, commemoratives and all overprints for overseas territories including Morocco Agencies, Nauru and the Levant. The last are all perforated while the former are imperforate.

George V registration sheet

George V registration sheet

Also catalogued, with a small part illustrated, are a large number of black plate proof sheets from the Royal Mint, as well as the registration sheets for postage due labels.

The gravure sheets of King Edward VIII, together with all varieties of sheet format for booklets and rolls, and all overseas overprints are also available online, again with a small part of each sheet illustrated.

Later Sheets

Work is continuing on the cataloguing of later registration sheets of the reigns of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. These will appear progressively in the online catalogue.

Find out more about our collection of Stamps and Postal History on our website.

New records available on the online catalogue

Further records were added to our online catalogue last Friday, bringing the amount of searchable records available to over 90,000.

Records added to the catalogue include:

KEVIII 3d postage due labels, registration sheet, imperforate, 1937

KEVIII 3d postage due labels, registration sheet, imperforate, 1937 (POST 150/KEVIII/PL/1160)

A fleet of commercial vans in the yard at King Edward Building, 1931

A fleet of commercial vans in the yard at King Edward Building, 1931 (POST 118/5089)

A Scammell mail van, 1956 (POST 118/5239)

A Scammell mail van, 1956 (POST 118/5239)

Search the catalogue at http://catalogue.postalheritage.org.uk/

William Shakespeare on stamps

In February we marked International Darwin Day by taking a look at stamps commemorating the achievements of naturalist Charles Darwin. Today we celebrate the work of another notable Briton who has been commemorated on stamps multiple times, playwright and poet William Shakespeare, who died on this day in 1616.

Surprisingly, given the importance of Shakespeare’s contribution to world culture, requests to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his birth on stamps were not immediately approved. At the time the Post Office would only mark Royal or postal anniversaries, and current events of national or international significance. Lobbying followed, and eventually the stamps were approved as a commemoration of the national Shakespeare Festival of 1964, held to mark Shakespeare’s quatercentenary.

Hamlet contemplating Yorick's Skull, designed by C and R Ironside (issued 1964)

Hamlet contemplating Yorick's Skull, designed by C and R Ironside (issued 1964)

Reynolds Stone and Edward Bawden were amongst those who submitted designs for the stamps, but it was four designs by David Gentleman and a further design by C and R Ironside  which were chosen. The artists had been asked to ensure that if an image of Shakespeare was included in their design that it was not larger than the Queen’s head.

While the Ironside design showed Hamlet rather than Shakespeare, Gentleman’s designs complied with the instructions, but still proved to be controversial. This was partly because Shakespeare’s head was the same size as the Queen’s, giving it equal importance, but mainly because the image of a commoner had never appeared on a stamp before. “This caused a fuss that would be unimaginable now,” Gentleman later noted in his book Artwork. “…And there were jokes in Parliament about the proximity of the Queen’s head to Shakespeare’s Bottom.”

Shakespeare Festival stamps, 1964

Shakespeare Festival stamps, 1964

Shakespeare on a stamp celebrating the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement, 1988

Shakespeare on a stamp celebrating the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement, 1988

The rules were much more relaxed by 1988 when Royal Mail and Australia Post released a joint issue to celebrate the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement. Shakespeare joins John Lennon, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a stamp reflecting the continuing links between Australia and Britain through the performing arts. The Bicentenary of Australian Settlement stamps were designed by Melbourne-based designer Garry Emery, who was chosen from a number of British and Australian designers by the Stamp Advisory Committees from both countries. The Australian Bicentenary stamps were the first British stamps to be designed outside of the British Isles.

The National Portrait Gallery: William Shakespeare stamp, 2006

The National Portrait Gallery: William Shakespeare stamp, 2006

Shakespeare’s portrait is one of 10 portraits of well known Britons to appear on the stamps marking the 150th Anniversary of the National Portrait Gallery in 2006. The portrait is attributed to John Taylor and the original can be viewed on the National Portrait Gallery website.

British Theatre stamp depicting Hamlet, 1982

British Theatre stamp depicting Hamlet, 1982

Apart from images of Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s work as a playwright and poet has also been commemorated on stamps. The 1982 set on British Theatre included another stamp depicting Hamlet contemplating the skull of Yorick.

Greetings in Arts: All the Love Poems of Shakespeare, 1995

Greetings in Arts: All the Love Poems of Shakespeare, 1995

In 1947 Sylvan Press published the book All the Love Poems of Shakespeare, with illustrations by Eric Gill. One of Gill’s illustrations was included on a stamp released in 1995 as part of the Greetings In Arts issue. This was not the first British stamp to feature a Gill design. The Coronation stamps for George VI were designed by Gill with Edmund Dulac, and Gill also worked on the Proposed Coronation stamps for Edward VIII.

Also issued in 1995 was a set of stamps to mark the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank. The stamps show not only the original Globe Theatre, but many other Elizabethan theatres in which Shakespeare and his plays were performed.

Reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre stamp issue, 1995

Reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre stamp issue, 1995

The Accession Stamp issue of Edward VIII

by Adam Reynolds, Project Archivist (Stamp Artwork)

Recent months have seen the online publication of all philatelic artwork relating to the reign of King Edward VIII, as part of the ongoing Stamp Artwork Project at the BPMA. Despite the brevity of Edward VIII’s reign, there was a substantial amount of stamp artwork produced, for both the unreleased Coronation issue, and the Accession issue.

The stamps for the Accession issue are particularly striking in their break from the ornamentation characterising the stamps of George V. It was agreed at an early stage that there would be no invitation to artists to submit designs. With the adoption of the photogravure production process, it was possible to produce a portrait more successfully; with this process specifically in mind, the first essential was an acceptable photographic portrait of the King.

H J Brown's pencil drawing

H J Brown's pencil drawing

Profile pictures by Hugh Cecil were specifically taken for the stamp issue in March 1936. H.J. Brown, then only 17, submitted an unsolicited pencil drawing in April; this formed the basis of the design, along with the Cecil head.

The decision to use a photographic portrait was a cause of controversy to some, with one member of the public commenting that “the Post Office is content to produce these highly important exports without calling in the advice on the real expert – in other words, the artist. As well rebuild Whitehall without an architect!”

As issued in September 1936 the four stamps of King Edward VIII were very simple in format, quite different from anything that had gone before. The design reflected the new King’s desire for simplicity and change. Public reaction to the stamps was generally very positive, in particular praising their simplicity.

Edward VIII Accession issue, 1d

Edward VIII Accession issue, 1d

Despite this there were still reactionary grumbles to the issue; as one member of the public writing to the Daily Express exclaimed:

“Can anything be done to prevent the new stamp? The crown appears to have nothing to do with the head of the King (which looks as though he has been beheaded). As for the word ‘postage’ – words fail me. In short, it is a horrible production.”

The criticism took on a more apocalyptic tone from James Marchant of Poole, in his letter to The Times on 4th September 1936:

“It so happened that soon after I purchased one of the new stamps I walked into a typical Protestant Church of the Reformation period, with its shivering bareness of brick and whitewash. The new stamp expresses the same spirit which erected that stark abomination. It is the same spirit which is covering the land with iron and concrete barrack-flats in the design of which the artist has been forthright cast out”.

Readers can judge for themselves in viewing all the material related to the design process of the Accession issue on the BPMA’s online catalogue, and can also read more about other stamp issues from the reigns of Edward VIII and George V, at the home of the Stamp Artwork Project.