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