Wednesday 22 June 2016

780. Brexit Special - Britain Votes "Leave".

  6.10AM - 24 June 2016 - The United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union.

  Written yesterday - After what seems like a never-ending series of skirmishing, Brexiteers and Remainians alike have had to sit back for the final day of a new British civil war, fought through the ballot box, as the ordinary citizens of the 4 nations have decided the fate of The United Kingdom and its relations with its European neighbours. Whether or not, the scene of King Henry V praying before the Battle of Agincourt (depicted on 1 of the Shakespeare Quatercentenary stamps of 1964 as shown above) was replicated in the home of leading Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, overnight we shall not know but he will no doubt hope that the campaign in which he has been involved will be as successful as Henry was at Agincourt.
  The first Britons crossed to Britain in prehistoric times from Europe when the land was still joined to the continent. The Roman emperor, Claudius, finally gained a foothold in Britannia in 43AD and, with the early acquiesence of British rulers in the south-east of what is now England, Roman forces spread out to take the rest of southern Britain and thus force the Britain's to join the first pan-European empire. Even then, the inhabitants of the far south-east were more sympathetic to ties with Europe than was the rest of the country.

  The early inhabitants of what is now Scotland put a halt to Roman expansion into northern Britain and eventually the emperor Hadrian, himself probably a Spaniard, built a wall to keep the inhabitants of Scotland out of southern Britain - as the Historia Augusta put it - "to separate Romans from barbarians". 

  The Romans abandoned Britain in 410AD and Angles and Saxons began to migrate to southern Britain from northern Germany and gradually displaced the native Britons westerly so that eventually the territory became known as England. The Italian monk, Augustine, brought Christianity to the court of one of the early English kingdoms, Kent, in 597AD although Christianity had been present elsewhere in the islands a long time before Augustine's mission.

  In the following centuries various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms at times were conquered by (and liberated from) the Danes and then from 1066 the English aristocracy was replaced by Normans who had been supporters of William The Bastard, the Duke of Normandy. After the end of the dynasty of Norman rulers, a new French dynasty took over control of the English throne. The first of the Angevins was Henry II and it was he who first sought to ensure the domination of Ireland by English monarchs. 

  His descendant, Edward I, conquered Wales and interfered in Scotland, gaining temporary mastership of the kingdom but the defeat of his son, Edward II, by Robert Bruce ensured Scotland's independence and frequent enmity towards England so that subsequent Scottish kings often supported England's enemies - usually the French - at times of armed conflict in what came to be called the Auld Alliance.

  Usually, the Scottish kings came to grief when they supported the French against the English - James IV for instance was killed at the disastrous (for the Scots) Battle of Flodden in 1513 when he took France's side against King Henry VIII.

  Henry VIII and his precocious adolescent son, Edward VI, took England a long distance from much of Europe by embracing Protestantism and England became divorced from the Church of Rome - Edward and his avid Councillors were true Brexiteers - but eventually the son of Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, became James I of England as well as Scotland and England and Scotland were more closely connected. But it continued to be a time of religious upheaval - the British kingdoms had a period of civil war and eventually a Dutchman, William of Orange, was invited to take the English throne. 

  To ensure a Protestant royal house, the German Hanovers later became the monarchs of Britain and the royal house had a German name until Britain fought the First World War against Germany and the family name was changed to the much more English-sounding "Windsor" by George V. 
  Again, in 1939, Great Britain found itself at war with Nazi Germany and the nation's darkest hour came in 1940 with the Battle of Britain. Britain survived the monstrous assault and Europe began to recover after the war ended and felt the need for unity of the European nations to prevent future conflict. To this end, the French and Germans and 4 other territories took the first steps to forming a European Economic Community in 1956 and a postal and telecommunications organisation for the European states was founded in 1959 - the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations - which determined that each member territory participate in a joint omnibus stamp issue on an annual basis, the stamps usually being inscribed Europa.

  The British Post Office commemorated the 1st anniversary of the CEPT in 1960 with a pair of stamps and then an issue was released in 1961 using a motif featured on the stamps of the other participating territories. 

  A single stamp was released as part of an "Anniversaries" set in 1969 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the CEPT. 
  Meanwhile the British government had been attempting to join the European Economic Community in the 1960's but the French, under the veteran President Charles De Gaulle , had humiliated the British government by vetoing British membership. In 1973, however, the Conservative prime minister Edward Heath, finally persuaded the Community to accept British membership and the British Post Office commemorated the event by the issue of 3 stamps depicting the Union Jack as a piece in a European jigsaw. The stamps were priced 3p with 2 se-tenant 5p values.

  The Post Office also issued 4 stamps in 1979 to commemorate the first European Assembly elections and then in 1984, 2 se-tenant pairs to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the CEPT and the 2nd holding of elections to the European Parliament. Thereafter, from 1980 annual British "Europa" stamps were released - usually as parts of larger thematic sets. The 1980 issue depicted British authoresses - Charlotte Bronte and George Elliot - the Charlotte Bronte stamp featured one of my favourite modern British stamps - the erroneous missing 'p' value as depicted below.

  From the 1950s onward Britain has been changed considerably by inward migration - firstly, in the 1950s from the West Indies, in the 1960s by Asians from South Asia and East Africa and more recently by European Union citizens from eastern, central and southern Europe who have free movement into Britain. This has become a bone of contention with the indigenous British inhabitants of The British Isles and the principal weapon of the Brexiteers to persuade the British electorate to vote to leave the European Union. 

 Royal Mail has not issued a "Europa" stamp during 2016 and does not intend to. Perhaps this reflects a new twist in the continuing relations of the British with the rest of Europe. If the majority vote to leave the EU then the question will again arise about Scotland, likely to revive the Auld Alliance and vote against leaving the EU, pressing for another independence referendum to depart The United Kingdom (see Blogs 406 and 466). There are so many possible philatelic consequences if the majority of British vote for Brexit. 

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