Sunday, 20 June 2010
Stamps in Time
The Royal Mail, the government agency responsible for providing a general postal service in Britain, recently issued a new set of stamps commemorating the Stuart monarchs from James I to Queen Anne. Each stamp comes with the date of the reigns of the individual kings and queens in question. But there is one small problem: an organisation with the word Royal in its title seemingly approves of rebellion!
I was hugely amused by a letter in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph from one Edward Windham-Bellord pointing out that the stamp for Charles II gives the date of his reign as 1660-1685. The reign of his royal father and predecessor is rightly given as 1625-1649. So, what happened in between, what happened between 1649 and 1660? After all, this is a question that might very well be put by any perceptive individual who does not have a detailed knowledge of English history. The answer, as I’m sure most of you will know, is that rebellion happened, civil war happened, the republic happened, Oliver Cromwell happened!
Mr Windham-Bellord’s point is one accepted by all good royalists: Charles II may not have been king de facto until 1660 but he was king de jure since 1649, “whatever Cromwell and his henchmen got up to in the interim.” Yes, this is something royals and royalists have always felt strongly about. Last century George V even refused to give his permission when Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, wanted to name one of the new dreadnaughts HMS Oliver Cromwell.
Still, much as I would like to, it’s not really possible to airbrush the old ogre out of our history, not really possible to issue a Charles II stamp dated 1649-1660, or indeed to include a Cromwell stamp within the Stuart gallery. After all this may very well have unleashed a new civil war!