I ♥ Stamps

19 February 2016

With February being the month of love, here are some of the most romantic stamps Royal Mail has produced over the years.

Smiler stamp depicting love, value first class.

Smilers Refresh, Love, 1st NVI, 2015

The 14th of February, Valentine’s Day, commemorates the martyrdom of St Valentine of Rome who was beheaded for secretly marrying Christian couples. Since then he has become the patron saint of lovers and happy marriages. However it may have been down to Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400) that the day became associated with the celebration of love in his poem ‘The Parliament of Fowls’ (1381-1382). 

Valentine's Stamp depicting cherubs and birds with a value of 14 pence.

Folklore, Saint Valentine’s Day, 14p, 1981

There are many traditions and tokens that we associate with Valentines Day, including; red roses, confectionery and Valentines cards. The language of flowers was introduced to England in the 18th century, where each flower has it’s own meaning so a bouquet could convey a message. The red rose is most commonly used as it represents romantic love.

Red rose stamp with a value of 8 and a half pence.

Roses, Elizabeth of Glamis, 8½p, 1976

Red rose stamp with a value of 22 pence.

‘Silver Jubilee’ Ninth World Congress of Roses, Belfast, 22p, 1991

Stamps have also featured many romantic novels and their authors, such as the 12p stamp below with a portrait of Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), the eldest of the famous Brontë sisters. Her novel Jane Eyre was celebrated in 2005 with a stamp issue illustrated by Paula Rego. The tale documents the love story of Mr. Rochester of Thornfield Hall and the governess he hires for his ward.

Stamp depicting Charlotte Brontë with an illustration of the novel Jane Eyre in the background. Stamp value of 12 pence.

Famous Authoresses, Charlotte Brontë, 12p, 1980

Miniature sheet with 6 stamps depicting characters from the novel Jane Eyre.

150th Anniversary of Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, Miniature Sheet, 2005

Jane Austen (1775-1817), one of my favorite authors, has been celebrated twice with a stamp issue in both 1975 and 2013. Her romantic novels of high society are full of humor and strong leading ladies, with many being produced into feature-length films. I myself prefer her novel ‘Persuasion’ (1818), which is set in part by the seaside at Lyme, as you can see in the stamp below.

Stamp depicting characters from the novel Persuasion with a value of £1.28.

Jane Austen, Persuasion, £1.28, 2013

Stamp of Mr Darcy from Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, value 11 pence.

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, 11p, 1975

Love stories have been portrayed in numerous plays and poetry, like William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, which tells the tragic love story of its leading characters, here portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Scottish poet Robert Burns in his poem ‘My love is like a red red rose’ refers again to the language or flowers and the timelessness of love.

Stamp depicting actors performing Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Company with a value of £1.10.

Royal Shakespeare Company, Romeo and Juliet, £1.10, 2011

Stamp containing text from Robert Burns poem 'O my Luve's like a red red rose' with a value of 25 pence.

‘O my Luve’s like a red red rose’, Death Bicentenary of Robert Burns, 25p, 1996

Art has a great capacity to document love, as seen here in Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture ‘The Kiss’ (1882). The sculpture depicts the romance between an Italian noblewoman and her husband’s brother. The woman is originally from Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ where, after reading the Arthurian legend of Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, the couple kiss. It is this moment which is captured – before the couple are discovered and murdered by her husband.

Stamp depicting the marble sculpture of the Kiss by Rodin with a first class value.

‘The Kiss’ (Rodin) Greeting Stamps ‘Greetings in Art’, 1st NVI, 1995

Stamp depicting Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot on a horse, with a value of 31 pence.

Arthurian Legend, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, 31p, 1985

Royal weddings have featured in many stamp issues throughout the years. The Queen herself has celebrated many milestones, as we can see in the miniature sheet below from 2007 for her Diamond wedding anniversary. The newest Royals to have their wedding celebrated in a stamp issue were Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

Miniature sheet with images from the life of Queen Elizabeth II and her family.

The Diamond Wedding Anniversary, Miniature Sheet, 2007

Miniature sheet with images of the royal couple Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The Royal Wedding, Miniature Sheet, 2011

Looking through these examples its seems that romance is prominent in many of our stamp issues, not just in the month of St Valentine. Stamps have celebrated love stories in novels and the marriages of Royals; they are the commemoration of the coming together of those in love.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant