George VI Coronation

Following the abdication of King Edward VIII, the Post Office had just five months to prepare and issue coronation stamps for George VI.

Background

Plans for the Coronation of King Edward VIII on 12 May 1937, including a set of stamps, had to be aborted on news of the abdication on 11 December 1936. The Post Office was faced with two demands: new definitives for King George VI and an issue to celebrate his Coronation, still scheduled for 12 May. While unsure whether a Coronation issue was feasible, the Post Office invited Eric Gill to explore ideas, while Edmund Dulac submitted unsolicited designs.

Unsolicited design by Edmund Dulac

Unsolicited design by Edmund Dulac

The design process and issued stamp

Discussions with the stamp printers Harrison & Sons, revealed that a single stamp, 1½d, was possible. The King selected photographs by the Dorothy Wilding Studio, but these were not ideal for stamp reproduction, and Dulac was asked to prepare a design using hand-drawn interpretations of the photographs. Two designs were submitted, by Eric Gill, using portraits by court photographer Bertram Park, and by Dulac. Gill’s design was also essayed with Dulac’s drawn portraits.

1½d issued stamp
Accepted design by Edmund Dulac
Essay of submitted design by Eric Gill

The King preferred the Dulac design, but some minor alterations were needed, and the printers worked frantically to meet the deadline. The stamps were issued on 13 May, the day after Coronation, printed in brown with a tinge of violet. The first King George VI definitives were released the same day.

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