Sunday 15 March 2015

514. Royal Mail Fails To Commemorate The 750th Anniversary OfParliament.

  Today, Tuesday 20 January 2015, marks the 750th anniversary of the English parliament. Television and radio media are commemorating the anniversary with various programmes and Radio 4 is having a day of "Democracy Day" broadcasting. On the other hand, Royal Mail is commemorating this exceptionally significant event in British, even world, history with a set of stamps which depict .... er, greetings stamps designs! From the sublime to the banal:-

 Of course, you could put a spin on these new designs so that the wobbly birthday cake design commemorates Parliament's birthday (democracy is looking very wobbly in many parts of the world), the "Mummy" stamp might represent Westminster's claim to be "the Mother of Parlaments", the candles are the flames of freedom, the "1st" represents the British Parliament being the first Parliament (though the Manx might disagree with that) and so on. It's astonishing how easy it is to put a spin on symbols to suit one's needs or prejudices. It may be that the 1265 parliament will get a mention in Royal Mail's Magna Carta set due in June 2015 but it seems to me that the main producer of British collectable stamps has missed the opportunity, the necessity almost, to commemorate one of Britain's most important anniversaries and substituted the commemoration with something altogether less memorable.
  Of course, in more serious times, the British Post Office did recognise an important anniversary when it saw one - two stamps were issued on 19 July 1965 to commemorate Parliament's 700th anniversary. The 6d value depicted the seal of Simon de Montfort who at the time, having led a rebellion against King Henry III, was a sort of military dictator in England but who nevertheless summoned the Parliament at Westminster. The 2/6d value depicted the Parliament building as it appeared in an engraving of 1647 by Hollar. The stamps were designed by S. Black and R. Guyatt respectively and printed in photogravure by Harrison.

  Simon de Montfort was killed soon after at the Battle of Evesham but he remains another one of those great British figures who have never been commemorated on a Royal Mail stamp unlike less worthy subjects such as Peppa Pig and Troy Tempest and Andy Pandy. Still at least Royal Mail will be commemorating a bunch of comedians in a couple of months - though some people might think that meant that Royal Mail was planning to depict politicians in the set - I believe that is not the case.

Simon de Montfort

  Gibraltar Stamps will issue a modest pair of stamps on 30 January 2015 to commemorate the lunar new year - the Year of The Goat. The total face value is an acceptable £1.50p (compared with Isle Of Man - £4.70p and Guernsey - £7.46p)  though it is hard to understand why any of these 3 territories would need to issue stamps to commemorate the festival since none of them are known for having a large East Asian resident population). The pair of stamps was designed by Stephen Perera and lithographed by Cartor.
  In Blog 510 I illustrated the miniature sheet from Sri Lanka Post which was issued on 13 January 2015 to commemorate the visit of Pope Francis to the island and I now depict below vertical pairs of the basic stamps from ordinary sheets:-

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  1. I think there are probably enough commemorations this year - Magna Carta, Battle of Waterloo, Battle of Britain and that a Parliament anniversary is not a priority.

    The Greetings stamps represent a refreshing of the range available for personalisation in the Smilers programme (, so offering more opportunities to sell to a wider customer base than collectors. I think they are awful!

  2. Dear Ian, thanks for your comment. I usually find I agree with almost everything you write but on this occasion I just have to disagree - it seems to me that there can be very little more worthy of commemoration than the start of English parliamentary democracy - I can't believe that any other free country in the world would pass up the opportunity to commemorate a significant anniversary in the founding of their free government on their postage stamps. Of course I fully understand that a post office needs to produce stamps which it can actually sell but I'm old fashioned enough to think that even then an issue should have real meaning - after all being featured on a national stamp is a great honour and the featured subject should be worthy of that honour (though I admit that worthiness, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder). I do agree with you however that the new Smilers stamps are, shall we say, not all that impressive!