Thursday 23 April 2020

1644. 🇸🇭 Tristan Da Cunha To Commemorate Its Female Ancestors.

 🇸🇭 I suspect that if you need to be socially isolated, which most of us still do, then Tristan Da Cunha is one of the best places to do it. In fact if you want to be isolated full stop there can be few better geographical locations in which to find yourself. Nevertheless the island’s postal administration intends to issue a set of 4 new stamps on 7 May 2020 to commemorate some of the islanders’ female ancestors. It’s a wonderful and worthwhile set designed by Andrew Robinson and lithographed by Cartor and perforated 13.5. I like the set very much but just wonder if the ‘St Patrick’s flag’ truly represents the whole of Ireland as the accompanying publicity literature puts it. The depiction of flags on stamps is fraught with danger, none more so than the flags associated with island of Ireland.
  It’s lovely to have news of some new stamps at this time especially from the Creative Direction/Pobjoy Stamps stable. Rating:- *****.
  Thanks to Juliet Warner of Pobjoy Stamps for information about this issue.

🇬🇧 In Blog 1643 I moaned about the choice of subjects to be featured on Royal Mail new stamp issues and managed to tie it all into a literary theme and contrived to bring in the subject which is at the front of everyone’s minds at the moment - the wretched virus that is a threat to everyone. From the philatelic point of view this has resulted in there being only infrequent news of new stamp issues from Commonwealth postal services and really means that other activities should be indulged in - perhaps catching up on some great books.

  Still on the literary theme, quite coincidentally a major new book release took place in The United Kingdom just as the pandemic was preparing to let rip and the government began to tell people to stay at home  - this was not another Harry Potter or The Gruffalo but a real, exceptionally well-written adult book - the landmark publication of the long-awaited final part of double Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, the 904 page The Mirror and the Light. If anything was designed to help us keep our sanity and see us through the lockdown it is this magnificent book. The only real problem with it is that it is so readable that one can not help but race through the pages and so shorten the time that one has it available to help pass the days. It is unputdownable except at times to rest the hand that’s holding it as it’s sheer physical weight takes its effect.

  If ever there were a modern British author and series of books which should be commemorated contemporaneously on new stamps then it is Hilary Mantel and the Wolf Hall books. Which brings me back to stamps. The books tell the story of Thomas Cromwell, hero or anti-hero, Mantel may change your mind, who was one of the most accomplished politicians in English history. Naturally the public does not like politicians and so, though there have been a number of stamps featuring his master, the tyrannical Henry VIII, Cromwell has never featured on a British stamp though his influence in bringing about the profound changes to English society by masterminding the English Reformation was enormous. His portrait by Hans Holbein makes it clear that he was not very, er, photogenic but he remains a key English historical character who has been ignored by those who choose subjects to be featured on postage stamps. This despite there having been a number of stamps issued by Royal Mail featuring the Tudors.

  The Tudors may currently be on my mind because of my current choice of reading but I have also noticed that the thread on Stamp Boards about stamps featuring artist’s errors is currently quite active and a Tudor-themed Royal Mail stamp came to mind. I do not think that the Stamp Boards thread features a stamp issued in 2009 as part of a set of 7 stamps commemorating the 500th anniversary of the succession of Henry VIII though it is true that the error is not so much an artist’s error as an error of attribution. 
  The stamp in question is that which is stated to show a portrait of Catherine Howard, Henry’s fifth and penultimate wife, which is housed in the National Portrait Gallery  which itself now titles the painting ‘Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard after Hans Holbein the Younger, late 17th century’. It appears that no contemporary portrait of the unfortunate 5th wife is known to exist. At the age of about 17 she was married to the 59 year old king on the day that poor old Cromwell was beheaded but did not last long herself suffering the same fate as Cromwell 2 years later after having been accused of adultery which was naturally something that Henry VIII felt rather aggrieved about. 
  I have to say that the portrait on the stamp certainly does not look like that of a young woman in her late teens or early twenties. Presently another painting is suggested to be one of Catherine Howard and the sitter certainly looks as though she is in the right age group. This portrait by Hans Holbein The Younger, in the Royal Collection, is described as, ‘Portrait of a Lady, perhaps Katherine Howard (1520-1540) c.1540’. Perhaps if future stamps featuring the queen are planned the designers will use this alternative portrait instead of the traditional picture which has been used on stamps from other postal administrations some of which are shown below and were released in 2009.

  As for the king himself he has been depicted on a large number of Commonwealth stamps some rather better than others. Indeed I suppose he has been depicted on more stamps than any other English/British monarch apart from those who have reigned since 1840 since when all British stamps have depicted a portrait in some form or the other of the reigning monarch.

Royal Mail:-


Isle Of Man:-



Grenadines Of St Vincent:-

Solomon Islands:-

St Helena:-


Now, let’s get back to reading a few more pages of The Mirror and the Light ..... I will just mention that the third wife, Jane Seymour, is waiting for her coronation but a plague running through London has led to a postponement, “But now there are rumours of plague and sweating sickness. It is not wise to allow crowds in the street, or pack bodies into indoor space ....”. Some things never change.

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