Wednesday 14 March 2012

The Diamond Jubilee

In a big year for stamps being issued by the countries of The Commonwealth, what with the Olympic Games, the Charles Dickens bicentenary and, in my opinion a rather strange event to commemorate - the centenary of the sinking of The Titanic - by far the most important commemorative issue by many of the territories will be the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II who has the title of Head Of The Commonwealth. She succeeded to the thrones of The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon and all their dependent territories on 6 February 1952 and her coronation was held on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. She was born on 21 April 1926 and her succession at the age of 25 followed the death of her father, George VI, who had had an operation for lung cancer in September 1951. At the time of the king's death she was famously in Timbertops Hotel in Kenya as part of a Commonwealth tour which she was carrying out with Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, her husband whom she had married on 20 November 1947. At present Elizabeth II is Queen of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts Nevis, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands and Tuvalu as well as the dependent territories of these states including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and The South Sandwich Islands, The British Antarctic Territory, Gibraltar, St. Helena with Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha, The British Indian Ocean Territory, Bermuda, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, The Pitcairn Islands, The Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, as well as the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and The Isle Of Man. We may expect stamp issues from all of these territories to appear over the coming months although the recently elected prime minister of Jamaica has said that she wishes to turn the country into a republic and the Turks and Caicos islands have not issued any stamps for several years (surely this is too important an event for them to miss). We have already seen stamp issues from Royal Mail, Canada, Belize*, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Bermuda*, the Cook Islands*, The British Indian Ocean Territory*, St. Helena*, Gibraltar*, Saint Lucia*, The Isle Of Man*, Ascension*, Tristan Da Cunha*, Jersey and Guernsey. All the issues marked with * are part of a huge omnibus set designed by CASCO but not restricted only to those countries which it normally serves. Each country taking part in the omnibus is issuing 6 diamond-shaped stamps and 2 miniature sheets. Guernsey has issued 6 stamps and a miniature sheet, St. Vincent has released a surprisingly tasteful sheetlet of 3 stamps and 1 miniature sheet and Jersey has, exploitatively, produced 2 x £2 stamps in sheetlets of four with the same stamps produced as a miniature sheet as well as the same miniature sheet notoriously being issued with a tiny diamond stuck on it and sold for £125 plus VAT to British customers (face value £4!).
The Guernsey issue is of particular interest since one of the values depicts the Queen with the American President, Obama, no doubt to make this issue particularly of interest in The United States in the hope of boosting sales there. I think this must be the first case of an island of the British Isles featuring a living foreign head of state on one of its postage stamps (in fact I don't think that a dead former head of state of a foreign country has ever been depicted before). It is true that Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II have featured on miniature sheets from The Isle Of Man but always on valueless labels or borders, never on the stamps themselves. Queen Elizabeth's reign has already broken many records. Now that she has completed sixty years on the throne, she has become the second longest reigning English and British monarch (King George III had achieved 59 years 3 months and 5 days on the throne) but still has a little way to go to surpass Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years 7 months and 3 days. Queen Elizabeth has already beaten Queen Victoria as the oldest reigning monarch - she will be 86 in April while Victoria only lived to the age of 81 years, 7 months and 29 days. Having also celebrated her diamond wedding anniversary as long ago as 2007, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have also achieved the longest ever royal marriage, their nearest rivals being King George III and Queen Charlotte who were married for 57 years 2 months and 10 days, King George surviving his wife for another fourteen and a half months after her death.
The Diamond Jubilee therefore should give us some quite memorable issues from the countries of which Elizabeth II is the queen and no doubt we will be able to add to them with stamps issued by other Commonwealth countries which honour the queen for her devoted service to The Commonwealth. The stamps really do commemorate a historic event and apart from the ridiculously exploitative items which may appear, and have already done so, are very collectable.

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