While you are in London, go to the post office and check out the many gorgeous stamps that are available. British postage is some of the most interesting in the world–often having a series of artists, monarchs, historic events, architecture, jubilees, coronations, and of course important weddings. Pick out your favorite postcard and then decorate the card with a fabulous British stamp which will really catch the receiver’s attention. For stamp collectors, visitors to the UK will be like children in the candy shop.
But, there is an interesting story behind each stamp. Since British stamps all carry the Queen’s profile somewhere on the stamp, the Sovereign is often consulted for a preference. Let me show you a few stamps and the designs which were rejected before the final stamp went into circulation. King George V was a great stamp collector, and his most complete stamp collection has been on-going since his death nearly seventy-five years ago. In that collection, the many designs behind the final edition are protected in volume after volume–all part of what is now the NATIONAL STAMP COLLECTION. Let’s look at a few these designs and compare to the final version.
In 1940, the wartime British postal service decided to publish a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the PENNY BLACK, Britain’s first stamp. Queen Victoria was Queen of England in 1840, and King George VI was King of England in 1940. So, it was decided that the two sovereigns’ profiles were to appear on the stamp. The first design had a black silhouette of Queen Victoria with a contemporary profile of the King superimposed; the King rejected the design. The second design had the two sovereigns’ profiles with a good deal of filigree down the sides; the King again sought another design. The third design was a much simpler design with the two sovereigns’ profiles but without a great deal of design to complicate the final stamp. Here are the three stamps including the final revision.
The Coronation of 12 May 1937 was a rather chaotic affair since the Heir Apparent Edward VIII decided he would get married to Wallis Simpson and abdicate. Everything was ready for the coronation, but now there was no King. George VI reluctantly was crowned on 12 May, and a new stamp had to be designed. The first design was rejected by the King and certainly by the Queen. The second design was accepted by the King, and the final version is one of the most beautiful stamps ever circulated by the British Postal Services. I am attaching the rejected design, the accepted tentative design, and the final version.
The Princess Elizabeth had married Prince Philip, and the Royal couple soon expected the King’s first grandchild. The King was eager to celebrate this event with a stamp suitable for the occasion. The first design was a silly proposal with the Princess Elizabeth surrounded with a leaf design and the King with his crown, and a cherub in the tree branches–ridiculous. Prince Philip was left out completely. That was rejected by Buckingham Palace. The second design had the King to one side and Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip holding a “stylized” baby–because no one knew if it was a girl or a boy. Finally, the postal services consulted with the King, and they both agreed that the situation was awkward so no stamp was ever circulated. I am posting both rejected versions. Very interesting.
Finally, I want to discuss two of the verions which were designed for the King and Queen’s up-coming Silver Wedding celebration in 1948. The first design was a complicated stamp with the King and the Queen facing each other with Windsor Castle between them. All kinds of filigree and dates complicate the design. The Queen said NO to that proposal. Finally, a simple design was presented to the Queen with the royal couple sitting together with their marriage dates on each side. The Queen is wearing Queen Victoria’s ORIENTAL CIRCLET TIARA and the massive Crown Rubies left to the Royal Family by Queen Victoria in 1901. It is a “family portrait” and something personal that delighted the Queen.
I have collected stamps since I was a very young child. I have always felt that STAMPS TEACH HISTORY. When you are in London, buy stamps from the post office so you have those special editions which are so beautiful. Forget the regular postage which you buy from the postcard shop or from the hotel desk. They are just regular stuff, not suitable for a real souvenir from London.
Don’t we live in a wonderful world where people are proud of their various cultures and want to celebrate their lives with beautiful stamps.