Coronation 1937

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Watermark as seen from the front       Coronation stamp       Watermark as seen from the back

Designed by Edmund Dulac
Printed by Harrison & Sons.
Perforation 15 x 14
Issued 13 May, 1937 (Pre official release covers are known)
Numbers sold - 388,731,000

General information

View the video of the Coronation - special edition - 1st broadcast 18 May 1937

      The abdication of Edward VIII created an urgent need to prepare designs for stamps to be ready for the coronation of the new King and Queen. The date set for the coronation was the same as had originally been set for Edward - 12th May 1937. Usually this process would take a great many months - in this case the Post Office had just over 4 months - a very short period indeed.The initial idea was to prepare four low value definitives for the most highly used denominations and one or two higher value (9d, 10d or 1s) special coronation stamps. The decision for the coronation commemorative to show both the King and Queen was not reached until March 1937 with Royal approval.

      Photographs of the King were available from a series taken by Bertram Park in preparation for the new coinage, and a picture of the Queen was made available from the Royal Mint. However these photographs, and especially those of the Queen were rejected as they would not copy well in photogravure. A decision was therefore made to take new photographs of the King and Queen.

      The delay caused in getting the new photographs led to a decision in March that there would only be sufficient time to produce enough quantities of just one value for the special stamp. It was agreed that if the value of 1d was issued, then this would decrease the printing demand being placed on Harrison and Sons for this 'rush job'. The hope was that the Coronation stamp would be available on the 10th May along with the three new definitives.

      By mid March, Eric Gill had prepared two designs using the unaccepted photographs of the King and Queen. He redesigned the stamp with a lower value and new photographs taken by Dorothy Wilding. (Illustrated below)

March 1937 Bromide      March 1937 Bromide      Redesigned with new photographs

Edmund Dulac, (Gill's co-designer on the definitive stamps), was asked to produce an alternative design. He produced drawings of the King and Queen based on the Wilding photographs.

  Photograph by Dorothy Wilding used by Edmund Dulac

from British Philatelic Bulletin, November 1988

      The essays produced by Dulac were accepted, but were subject to several alterations. The Post Master General made the announcement of the new Coronation stamp on 22 March.

      Two colours for the stamp were considered - red brown (similar to King Edward VIII 1d value) and, the colour selected - a violet and brown mix. By this time, it was not possible to proceed with the planned 10th May issue date for all four stamps due to pressure of work on the printers to produce and deliver sufficient quantities of all the stamps. It was decided to go ahead with the definitives on this date and to issue the Commemorative stamp on 13 May, the day after the event (12th May was a Bank Holiday).

      The Postmaster General made a press release on 5th May : 'The design is intended to convey a feeling of rejoicing, the intertwined white lines on the sides suggesting garlands and the device in the shape of Maltese crosses in the top corners suggesting Union Jacks. The artist has laid particular emphasis on the Crown.' However, the design was criticised by many; '...with the best will in the world it is not possible to see in it any singleness of design. The crown and monogram divide, not join, the two heads. The patterns in the margins are meagre, and the whole too closely suggests the sort of thing a hospital issues for the charitable to stick on the backs of their letters.' - The Times

      The new 1d definitive was issued on 30th July, however the Coronation stamp was not withdrawn from sale and continued to be sold for some time until stocks ran out.

On the issued stamp - King George 6 is shown wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, (see the section on reference material / pictures). Queen Elizabeth is dressed in a formal gown and tiara. On the left hand side is a lace pattern with the coronation orb representing the temporal power of the monarch. Within the lacing on the right hand side is the coronation ampulla which is used in the anointing ceremony. With representative crown and royal monogram in centre.