Edward VIII Accession Issue Artwork
Following the death of George V on 20 January 1936, questions quickly arose as to postage stamps bearing the head of Edward VIII. It was decided within the Post Office that there would be three possible issues.
The first, with values to 1s, would be a temporary “Accession” issue to be produced as soon as possible. This would be replaced by a special “Coronation” issue. On the withdrawal of these commemoratives the first denominations of a “Permanent” series would be released.
It was agreed very early on that there would be no invitation to artists to submit designs. In January and February, A.S. Willmot, Chief of the Engineering Department GPO Drawing Office, was asked to produce a number of designs. These rough drawings were sent to Harrisons the printers, who produced stamp-sized bromides of them.
Work concentrated on a portrait of Edward in the uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Seaforth Highlanders. However, these essays were rejected.
With the adoption of photogravure it was possible to produce a portrait more successfully; with this process specifically in mind, the first essential was an acceptable photographic portrait of the King. Profile pictures by Hugh Cecil were specifically taken for the stamp issue in March.
H.J. Brown, then only 17, submitted an unsolicited pencil drawing in April 1936.
Harrisons prepared four different essays based on the Brown design with the Cecil head. Three versions were submitted to the King on 26 June and he approved that one favoured by the Post Office – type 3 but with the improved crown.
Production Process and Issued stamps
Apart from the design changes, Harrisons had also been experimenting with various papers and inks prior to being asked to print the stamps. Trials with doubly fugitive gravure ink, involving the printing of 5 million stamps, all failed.
As issued in September 1936 the four stamps of King Edward VIII were very simple in format, quite different from anything that had gone before. The design reflected the new King’s desire for simplicity and change.