Royal Mail has issued a set of five new stamps marking Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becoming our Longest Reigning Monarch.
Each stamp features a different regal design highlighting a key Royal motif, and there is a new 1st Class definitive for use on everyday letters too.
I’ve managed to get hold of some of the stamps fresh off the press so I can show them to you here on the blog…
In a nod to the historical precedent for the occasion this stamp features William Wyon’s ‘City Medal’. Depicting the head of Queen Victoria – the UK’s previous longest reigning monarch – the medal was struck to commemorate her first visit to London. The image on the Penny Black was based on this portrait, which in turn was based on a sketch of Princess Victoria when she was 15 years old.
Dorothy Wilding’s three-quarter profile photograph of Queen Elizabeth II was one of a series taken in April 1952 and appeared on British postage stamps from 1952 until 1967.
It is reprised here, an unprecedented pairing of the two most important images of the Queen in British postal history.
The House of Windsor came into being in 1917, when ‘Windsor’ was adopted as the British Royal Family’s official name by a proclamation of King George V, replacing the historic name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Badge of the House of Windsor shown on this stamp – featuring the Round Tower of Windsor – has been in use since 1938.
The second high-value stamp bears the Personal Flag of Queen Elizabeth II. This is a standard that can be used on any building, ship, car or aircraft in which the Queen is staying or travelling. It is often used to represent her role as Head of the Commonwealth.
1st Class Definitive
In 1966 the HM The Queen approved Arnold Machin’s design for an effigy of her to be used on what came to be known as the “Machin series” of British definitive postage stamps. This latest edition is printed in a new mauve colour and the text in iridescent ink repeats the phrase, ‘Long to Reign Over Us.’
There is also a new commemorative postmark featuring the opening lines from the national anthem – ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’ – which complements the stamps superbly. Any commemoratives using this postmark are sure to be sought after in the future – it is a true one-of-a-kind.
Suffice to say, these five new stamps are an intelligent, subtle and dignified tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s remarkable reign. As it is extremely unlikely her record will be broken in our lifetime, these could well become some of the most sought after QEII stamps ever issued.
You can own all five of these stamps now, postmarked with the first day of issue date 9/9/2015, and affixed to a commemorative Double Coin Cover. Featuring the new UK £5 Coin, you can read more about it by clicking here…
50 years ago in 1964 Her Majesty the Queen approved a new portrait for her coinage, and set in motion a chain of events that led to the creation of the most reproduced image in the world.
The portrait in question was designed by Arnold Machin RA – and if you look in your pocket now you’re still likely to find a coin bearing the distinctive profile.
But even though millions of coins are struck every year – it was when the design was adapted for use on our stamps that it really took off…
300 billion and counting
Best estimates suggest that the Arnold Machin RA effigy of Queen Elizabeth II has now been reproduced on our stamps over 300 billion times – a staggering number.
In fact, amongst collectors, UK definitive stamps are now simply referred to as ‘Machins’ because the image is so ubiquitous.
But who is Arnold Machin RA, and how did he come to design this instantly recognisable image?
From pottery to sculpting the Queen’s portrait
Arnold Machin was born in 1911 in Stoke-on-Trent. Modelling and sculpture was in the family, but his father struggled to make ends meet with his freelance modelling job. Consequently Machin started work aged 14 at the Minton China Factory, as an apprentice china painter.
But he could not keep away from sculpture, and after a working for many years in the arts was appointed an associate member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1947.
As if this wasn’t enough of an honour, in 1964 Machin was approached to design an effigy of the Queen for the new decimal coinage to be introduced in 1971. So, despite never having designed a coin before, Machin was granted four sittings with the Queen.
Cleverly using the bas-relief technique, which creates a raised sculpture from a plaster base, Machin came up with a design the Queen appreciated so much she has insisted it be used unchanged on our stamps for the past 40 years.
An £18,000 plaster cast
Perhaps testament to the enduring popularity of the image, and the design process behind it, one of Machin’s original plaster casts recently sold at auction for the princely sum of £18,000.
And I don’t think this will be the last we’ll hear of record breaking Machin sales – as time goes by the power of the image will not diminish, yet the availability of collectables will.
And now we are due to see a new portrait of the Queen on our coinage in 2015, this is bound to be an area to watch.
You may be interested in…
The Westminster Collection is proud to present the first ever officially licensed silver philatelic set featuring Arnold Machin’s famous effigy of the Queen.
NOW SOLD OUT
On 14th October Royal Mail issued the first ever set of special stamps to honour eight former British Prime Ministers of the past 200 years.
Together they create an intriguing snapshot of Britain’s political history over the last 250 years.
Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, 1st Class Stamp:
Nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’, Thatcher was Britain’s first female Prime Minister. She was elected MP for Finchley in 1959 and entered Downing Street in 1979. As Prime Minister she won three elections and implemented policies that became known as Thatcherism.
Harold Wilson, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, 1st Class Stamp:
He first became Prime Minister 50 years ago and went on to win three further general elections, making him the only Prime Minister in the modern era to have won four general elections. As Prime Minister he implemented social reforms in many areas including education, health, housing and child poverty.
Clement Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, 1st Class Stamp:
As the winner of the 1945 landslide election Attlee was the first head of a majority Labour government. Under his leadership Labour launched the National Health Service, extended unemployment insurance, and nationalised the railways.
Sir Winston Churchill, 1st Class Stamp:
Churchill famously led Britain to victory during the Second World War. He served as Conservative Prime Minister twice – from 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. He was known for his rousing speeches and quotations, including the iconic ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’ in 1940. Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.
William Ewart Gladstone, 97p Stamp:
Dubbed the ‘Grand Old Man’ of Victorian politics, Gladstone was Prime Minister for four separate periods – more than any other Prime Minister. During this time he reformed the army and civil service, extended voting rights and introduced the first national system of primary education.
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, 97p Stamp:
During his time as Prime Minister Peel founded the Metropolitan Police Force and put through legislation allowing Catholics to become MPs. Other landmark legislation included the Mines Act of 1842 that banned the employment of women and children underground, and The Factory Act of 1844 that limited working hours for children and women in factories.
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, 97p Stamp:
Grey led the Whigs for almost 30 years, and was Prime Minister for just 4. During this time he passed the the ‘Great’ Reform Act of 1832 to reform the electoral system and abolished slavery throughout the British Empire with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
William Pitt the Younger, 97p Stamp:
William Pitt was an MP at 21, Chancellor at 23 and Prime Minister at 24 – making him Britain’s youngest ever Prime Minister. During his time as Prime Minister he led Britain into the Napoleonic Wars, reformed the government of India, and passed the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland.
Alongside each stamp you’ll find informative narrative about each Prime Minister. Each stamp is postmarked 14th October 2014 – the first day of issue.
Royal Mail will issue many thousands of stamps but only 495 sets have been earmarked for this unique presentation book.