The 11th Maynard Sundman Lecture

October 25, 2013

Chris West: A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps

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Hi everybody. Good afternoon. No, one minute after. Good afternoon.

We just about made it. Pretty good. Anyway, welcome to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

I'm the director, Allen Kane.

September was an interesting month for us.

September was a exciting month. We opened up the new William H. Gross Gallery upstairs.

And how many have seen it so far? Did you like it? Pretty incredible isn't it? Seven years of work. It's amazing. Seven years for Cheryl and Daniel and others to put the content together. Four years to do the conservation. Big job.

Three years to put all the material on the boards and the pullout frames.

And interestingly enough, if you take the boards and those pull out frames and put them end to end, 3 1/2 times the size of the Washington Monument. A lot of stuff up there.

A lot of stuff. So anyway. So, we opened up the Gross Gallery and we had four big events celebrating the opening. And all of a sudden, the government shut down.

What a downer after we got done. What a downer. But the government's back open now.

I'm not sure that's good or bad. But it's open and we're now in October and October now starts with us, with the Sundman lecture series.

And it's the 11th one. I can't believe 11 already. Isn't it unbelievable? And I'd like to thank Daniel Piazza for coordinating all this and setting this all up for us and we have a real treat today in Chris West being here all the way from across the pond, making his rounds in the States.

So we have a real treat for you.

But I have to thank Don and David. David raise your hand, and Don's over here.

They're phenomenal. They give amazing support to the museum and the lecture that they set up was in honor of their father and he'd be proud of their sons right now quite frankly and what they've accomplished.

So it's my pleasure at this point to introduce Don Sundman.

[Applause] Allen Kane is my favorite museum director.

He's just amazing that he came into the Postal Museum and just made at this vibrant exciting place for our hobby and then spearheaded this Gross Gallery opening which is unbelievable for collectors, I think. And actually my brother and I were approached by a previous director about starting this lecture series and it didn't happen until Allen came because he knows how to get things done. So he's added so much to our hobby. So welcome. I'm happy that you'd be here today. I want to tell you a little bit about my father Maynard Sunman.

He loved stamps and collecting and also business. And he really lived the American dream. And millions of collectors over many decades have benefited from his two businesses. My father also loved books. And he was a good customer at his local bookstore and really was involved in lifelong learning, always trying to improve himself. And he would, I know, be very excited about this new book and would enjoy this lecture very much. He was a nice man he had a nice warm smile and he liked people. So as a child he sold stamps to his classmates and after high school became a stamp dealer but that business failed. He closed it when he entered the Army for World War II.

During the war he saved his money and supplemented it with winnings from gambling he played craps over in Europe and then send that money home to my mother who would save it for when the war ended.

And he really wanted to start another stamp company which he did.

So he analyzed his mistakes in business and developed a new business model.

He and my mother moved to Littleton, New Hampshire from Connecticut and started the Littleton Stamp Company in 1945. So his dream was to bring the fun of collecting to a wide audience and it worked. His company is now called Littleton Coin Company.

And it has introduced millions of people to the world of collecting over the past 68 years. My brother David expanded my father's business and now they have like 350 employees and it's called Littleton Coin Company.

In 1974 my father bought Mystic Stamp Company and changed that business model to match Littleton's. And so I run Mystic. I moved there in 1974 and we've served customers for 90 years and again millions and millions of collectors.

So it's really exciting. The hobby's been great to us and we're so thrilled to be able to be part of the Postal Museum and be involved in this lecture.

I also want to thank Pam Gibson who's the Sales Director of Politics and Prose. Pam? Ah, right, here, okay. That's the Politics and Prose bookstore, for her help and arranging the speaker, Casey Mamoni Publisher, Picador Press, also my brother David, President of Littleton Coin Company and his beautiful daughter, Elise, for sponsoring the lecture. And I want to introduce Daniel Piazza, Curator of Philately here at the Postal Museum. Thank you.


Well good morning and thank you all for coming out this morning.

Welcome to the National Postal Museum. All of us, as we came into this gallery this morning passed the wall that proclaims every stamp tells a story. It's sort of the unofficial motto of the philately division here at the Postal Museum.

It's certainly the spirit behind all of our exhibits and and publications and it was certainly something that Maynard Sundman believed, as Dave and Don tell us on the back of the program, that he was fascinated by stamps and the doors they opened to history and culture. We often speak of postage stamps as in that metaphor as being doors or windows into history in the past. But what does that really mean? How does that how does that work mechanically? And that's really what we're going to see this morning. This book, A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps really is a series of 36 meditations, if you will. Each one of them inspired by a particular postage stamp and showing us how it is a lens, or a window, or a door into its particular period in time, the ethos of the period that produced it. And so when this book was going to be published and and we learned that Chris was going to be in the United States on a book tour, and that really just seemed to mesh so nicely with our own concept of every stamp tells a story, that we couldn't resist the invitation.

And we're so pleased that he took us up on it. And so now, I'd like you to introduce, or I'd like to introduce, I'd like you to welcome Chris West who is going to speak to us on a History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps. The book was published on Tuesday, and after the talk it will be available in the gift shop and Chris will be willing to sign copies as well. Chris West [applause ] Well, thank you very much for that lovely introduction. And thank you two, for Don for sponsoring and his brother. That's fantastic, thank you very much.

I'm very grateful. And thank you for turning up. I hope you're going to have a good time.

I hope you, it's a corny thing to say, but I hope you enjoy the lecture as much as I enjoyed writing this book which has been a labor of love for many many years.

I collected stamps. Normally when I give a reading in the book shop I say, who collected stamps? I don't think I get to bother here, I think.

I think I know the answer that. However, again, when I'm in a bookshop very often my next question is, who then stopped collecting stamps? And again I'm not even going to bother here asking that question. But in the bookshops very often a lot of hands go up and I would be one of them. I have to hold my hand up.

16 years old I had a not-very-good stamp collection and I did rather sort of, have a hand in the hobby at that time because other things leapt into consciousness.

However, many years later I rediscovered this beautiful album in an attic.

Come have a look at it afterwards there is a lovely story behind this I mean I had a really rubbish collection as a boy. It was really bad. But um one day I went to have tea with my dear uncle Frank. Lovely old boy. He'd fought in the First World War in the trenches. I'd go to have tea with him sometimes and we'd sit and chat and as you do when you're sort of 10 or something, I just piped up, I'm collecting stamps. And he said, oh that's very interesting. I used to do that when I was a boy. I got my album somewhere. And he wandered off and came back with this lovely album. And I looked through it. It was full of Victorian and Edwardian stamps.

And there's nothing from beyond about 1906 in here. The album actually is dedicated February the 6th, 1901 when it was given. And I think he probably filled it in for a few years then again drifted away from the hobby.

I gave it back to him and said that's fantastic. And he said, oh, I don't really look at it any longer, why don't you have it? So I was blown away, and said, well, thank you. That's marvelous. And I still do have it, and it's a real treasure.

It's a lovely. lovely album. It's slightly less lovely because I took it to school when I was still collecting and some, word, I shall not say in front for mixed audience, nicked half the stamps from it. That was not good news.

However, as is often in life, many years later that turned out to be quite a good thing because when I, my father died in 2005, and I had to go and clear the the attic out at home. So I was going through all this stuff upstairs and I found a little canvas bag, opened it, inside was a stamp album. And I started looking through it, and oh, this is lovely then I got to the Great Britain bit. Those empty spaces there, oh god, yes, I remember somebody pinched them. And then I thought well, how about, the best revenge is to have a happy life.

I shall build a collection up again. And so that's what I did. And I started collecting just the Victorian and the Edwardian ones, to start with. And then sort of got hooked and collected more, and more, and more. I'm still doing it.

Excuse me.

As I started collecting I became fascinated in the kinds of thing Dan was talking about, these links between the stamps and history.

That to me, as I was getting these stamps, they just intrigued me about what was Britain like at the time this stamp came out? What was happening historically? One of the interesting things about stamps is they have a kind of double life.

They are very public.

There's usually, especially more recently but even in the old Victorian days, there's a kind of political imperative behind them.

Stamps represent the way a nation would like to see itself or, let's say the way in which perhaps an elite within the nation would like to see itself.

They are public. They are political statements.

They're also artistic statements because they naturally reflect the design, theories, the popular design ideas of the time.

And yet of course because they are also wonderfully private because most stamps were on a letter and there was a declaration of love inside that letter or, a declaration from the front of the First World War about what's been happening or, perhaps deeply, deeply personal stories inside the letter, inside the envelope on which the stamp was.

Of course it might have been on a gas bill or something, I didn't know.

I can't guarantee it's going to be a wonderful personal story.

But I can always imagine.

So I started building this. As I started, as I filled the album, I got a new album.

I left this one as it was.

In the end, because I thought it's, just leave it, get a new, get a modern one.

Put the stamps in there.

And actually there's more space taken up with stuff about history in the album then there are stamps.

Because I just became so intrigued about the stories that each stamp tells.

And then it turned into this book. And here we are, History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps.

Choosing 36 was rather hard going because there's been an awful lot of them.

But I managed in the end.

Obviously I had to start with this one.

Needs no introduction.

Wonderful penny black.

And I think still one of the most beautiful stamps ever produced.

It's amazing how the designers got it absolutely right first time around.

You know the story of Roland Hill.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this story but, just a comment and what an amazing man he was.

And we've heard from Don about the entrepreneurial traits that your dad had, which just sounds as such a lovely man.

Um, and a great businessman.

And Roland Hill had these characteristics.

He was like an entrepreneur. He didn't take no for an answer.

And he had a vision, and he worked towards it.

And he had a lot of people standing in his way.

There was a an old boy who worked at the British Post Office called Colonel W. L. Maberly.

And his comment when Roland Hill suggested penny post was, this is an utterly preposterous idea! And he spent the rest of his life annoying Roland Hill, trying to sort of frustrate his plans for postal reform.

But of course failed. Glad to say.

Um, 1840 that the damp actually came out.

The system beforehand was a complete shambles. As you know.

You had to, you went to the post office and said, I want to send a letter to Aberystwyth.

And they looked the great list. So, that'll be 7 pence. Oh, it weighs more than an ounce, so it'll be 11 pence.

Send it off, and then the recipient paid for it.

You didn't pay for it, like you do nowadays.

A recipient paid, which of course was hopelessly inefficient because sometimes there was nobody in and then it never got delivered.

Sometimes people would have it as a simple code, just to write something that would say they're alive. I'm okay.

You send the letter just to go through the post and the postman turns up, here's a letter.

Oh, and I don't want it because it doesn't matter, because they've got the message, I'm still alive.

And Hill actually started. He got into postal reform because one day the postman turned up at his family home with some letters and they were so expensive that, the money they wanted, he was sent into Birmingham to sell some clothes to pay for the receipt of the letters.

It was badly in need of reform and along came Roland Hill, great man, made this happen.

So that's the story the Penny Black. It starts off with an entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur.

He didn't do it, he wasn't founding a business.

But he was, he was creating a vibrant social institution which is what I think what entrepreneurs do.

It's just a subset of it. They do a business side, he did something in government.

Interestingly, the modern debate about the value of the post office is still carrying on.

Where in Britain, Royal Mail has been privatized.

There's a question about what's going to happen to the USPS.

Roland Hill understood very clearly that there are hidden, non-monetary values to having a good postal system.

That they bind the community together. They help people. They increase literacy.

They did in the Victorian days anyway because people were encouraged to learn to read and write so they could communicate.

It made life more pleasant in lots ways that weren't reflected in the monetary values of the stamps.

And this is still a live issue today, I think.

Excuse me, I have a slight sore throat. It keeps me swigging away at this water. My apologies for the interruption in delivery.

Let's move on to the next stamp.

I've kind of cheated here because, um, I've got one of these embossed stamps in my collection, but it's not the greatest example in the world so I just nicked this Olympian 1970.

Which is actually quite an interesting stamp. It is the last pre-decimal stamp to come out.

So it's not without interest but it's here at this point in the talk because it's from 1847 which was a very significant year in your philately over here in America.

The first stamps came out.

And it's also a link with America and Britain because this is the, the shilling embossed was a stamp you'd put on your letter to send to the States.

That was the rate. It was a shilling and the stamp was especially made in order to put on letters going to the USA.

And for me, this stamp always makes me think about entrepreneurship again with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great engineer, with his steamships.

And he had this vision of an iron road from London to New York.

He gave you train, you'd get the train from Paddington Station. Take his wonderful Great Western Railway to Avonmouth.

You get on an ocean liner which he'd built, and you go to New York. What a vision, amazing man, quite fantastic.

And this is the stamp of that vision.

It's also connected with Henry Bessemer, the man who invented the steel converter which really was something which do you then took on in America and really got the best out of.

Andrew Carnegie did much more with it than we did in Britain.

Afraid we were too busy empire building by that time.

But, um, Bessemer developed the system of embossing that was used to make this stamp.

So he's connected with that as well.

So this shilling embossed has a wonderful resonance connecting in with the entrepreneurial history of the Victorian era.

And boy, was it entrepreneurial.

I mean, it was a time of great, great economic advance.

Okay, let's let's move on.

Here's the, um, lovely, the penny lilac. Thank you.

The penny lilac. This is, I think, this is a very pleasant stamp.

One of its joys is its ordinariness.

Because it's a symbol of how successful Roland Hill's idea was.

The colonel said this would be a failure.

All that could happen is the post office will lose money because the latter rates are lower.

Of course it was a massive success because more, and more, and more people wrote and it changed the way people think.

People became more reflective.

They became, they got into the habit of putting their thoughts down on paper.

Much more ordinary people did.

And this stamp is a symbol of that success.

33 billion of these stamps were produced.

It's an extraordinary number.

I don't know if you pile them on top of each other, I don't how many Washington Monuments, you get loads of them actually.

I mean it's, 33 billion is an enormous number.

And this is a wonderful symbol of the success of the post office. What a fabulous idea it was.

The post office did a lot of all things. It introduced a telegram. It introduced the post office savings bank.

It was a marvelous, progressive institution that really cared about the quality of life of ordinary people and did its best to bring about communication.

Um, very wonderful, wonderful images of success.

Next stamp please. Thank you.

Now here we are. this is the Jubilee issue.

Now this isn't actually the Queen's Jubilee at all.

The stamp just happened to come out the same year.

We didn't do commemorative stamps in Britain until 1924.

They were considered to be un-English.

It's alright for Americans. You can do that with a Columbus issue and your Trans-Mississippi and things.

But no, no, no. In Britain we don't do that sort of thing.

We have definitive stamps with monochrome. Nothing else.

However, this actually came out in the Jubilee year and so became known as the Jubilees.

And I must say, if I have my sort of one stamp issue, I had to take with me to a deserted island, it'll be this one.

It's such fun. It's colorful. It's bright.

All the stamps are different and absolutely marvelous.

And it's so redolent of Victorian society, late Victorian society.

They replaced an issue which is called the Lailoken green issue, which came out in 1883, which was trumpeted as being a wonderful unified issue.

It's got a very simple, with nice clear lines, and elegant, and all that sort of stuff.

And out they came and everybody hated them. They were boring.

The postal staff couldn't tell which stamp was which.

If you tried to soak them off an envelope the ink ran.

Everybody hated them and so they got rid of them.

And they went back to these ones, which all the critics and the experts, and they said, oh it's terribly cluttered.

We don't like it.

But the Victorians loved clutter.

Go to a Victorian house, you know, go to Osborne House or something.

It's full of clutter. They love it.

If this was Victorian, there'd be a potted plant here, there'd be a dead stag up there, there'd be an elephant's foot there with umbrellas.

There'd be a great big sort of velour thing over this and there'd be a plate, there'd be stuff everywhere.

The Victorians loved stuff and they'd cram their houses full of stuff.

And here they are. They've crammed their stamp full of stuff as well.

And they've got these wonderful curtains that are also very Victorian because the Victorians, although they were in many ways terribly, terribly stiff upper lip, they secretly loved a bit of melodrama.

And they'd all go to the theater and they'd see things like East Lynne where the heroine said, dead but never called me mother.

And this sort of thing.

You know, they love this sort of stuff.

And there was a wonderful man, Francis Leveson, twirling his moustache as he's trying to seduce the ladies.

They love this thing, the Victorians.

And here are the curtains which would peel back to reveal wonderful soap operas which they all enjoyed, hugely.

There was more to the Victorians than meets the eye.

I think it's all part of the fun of the Victorians.

And it is in this stamp so, but in, in a quiet sort of way. We have to kind of dig in there and find it and it's all there.

Wonderful. Love the Victorians.

However it came to the end. Dear Lady passed away in 1901.

I haven't got an Edward VII stamp.

I've talked about it in the book. But I think probably need to whiz on to our next stamp please, Adam.

The Seahorse.

What a beautiful stamp. I think again, artistically, this is absolutely gorgeous.

Politically, it's a shameless piece of propaganda for Britannia ruling the waves.

Which of course we did do. I mean it's no doubt about it.

The British Navy, in 1913 when the stamp came out, was not only the biggest in the world, it was bigger than the next two navies put together.

That was Germany and the USA.

So, this beautiful, marvelous stamp is shameless, shameless political propaganda, really.

Interestingly enough, the naval superiority that Britain had with all these battleships we built was virtually useless and we nearly lost the First World War because of the submarines.

Because that's that they became the most important naval vessel in the First World War.

Not these battleships at all.

Certainly not horses, never worked. They experimented, the horses kept sinking. Don't know why.

There is, there is something, I mean there's something, right, you can imagine a little periscope emerging in the corner then firing a torpedo and sinking this thing, that's, in Britain we say that's not cricket.

But it's war and we nearly lost. In 1917 Britain nearly starved which would have made all the sacrifice but worthless because nobody had any food back home because of the submarine.

So I'm afraid the glory of the British battleship was not a huge amount of use.

We did, we did sort of half won the Battle of Jutland.

and which was a battleship encounter but that wasn't, it wasn't crucial.

It was the war at sea with the u-boats that was the thing in the First World War.

But of course also it was fought on land.

One more please. And this stamp has a very tragic side to it. It's a King George V definitive.

It's an ordinary stamp, pennies down letter rate.

If you are an officer, or, if your son or your husband was an officer, and they got killed in the war, you'd get a telegram.

If your son or husband was an ordinary soldier we just got a letter, with one of these stamps on.

So one of these comes puffing through your letterbox with War Office written on it, not over printed.

They'd stop doing over prints by then.

And inside you get one of these.

Can you just click it on please for a second? You got this. And I've got copies of this here.

This was a form, Army form B104-82.

And in line, Madam it is my painful duty to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying the death of number, rank, and then finally, neither less important, name, regiment with which occurred, on the, report is the effect that he was, and then even, killed in action.

And they just a stamp for it.

What a terrible thing, when you think about it. That's how people got the news of a loved one's death.

And maybe it had to be that way.

I mean after the first Battle of the Somme, 1st of July in 1916, umm, 20,000 people killed in one day.

Well you couldn't write letter to everybody. Suppose they had to use these things.

But it's something, sort of terrifyingly evocative about this.

And if, let's just take the thing back please, and back, this stamp, because that was the stamp that would be on the envelope that would have brought that terrible news.

I've got these, so everyone have a look at afterwards please, please do so.

Okay let's march on to a couple of ones. Lovely. Thank you very much.

Now we're getting into the 1920s and this fine stamp, Harold Nelson's British Empire Exhibition from 1924.

Before I started collecting I didn't even know this exhibition had ever happened.

It was something I knew nothing about at all. But it was an amazing event.

It had 25 million visitors which doesn't mean 25 million people went to it.

But, 25 million visits should I say, because lots of people went a number of times.

It was held in Wembley on what was then sort of empty ground.

There's a rather bizarre story behind this ground.

Some people had decided, and it's very reasonable thing to want to do, is try and beat the French and build an Eiffel Tower in London. It was bigger of course.

And they got about a hundred feet and then ran out of money.

And the ground, it just sat there for about 30 years.

And the Empire Arts business was actually built on the ground where this failed Eiffel Tower was.

The stamp says an awful lot about the era, some of it very ironic.

There was a competition launched to have a stamp for this.

The King finally, he was a great philatelist.

George V was a great philatelist and built on the Royal Collection which is already quite big because Prince Albert had been, not Prince Albert, oh Prince Alfred, one of the Queen Victoria's sons had been a great collector.

But George really built the collection up to massive proportions and was very keen on the nation stamps and it was he who really frowned on these commemorative stamps.

But he was a rich, shrewd man, not hugely likeable man.

But he was very sharp and he understood the value of stamps as propaganda.

And he was very much like Roosevelt here in the states who both loved stamps and understood that they do speak to people.

And I think when the Empire Exhibition stamp was mooted he saw the point and though they, although it was a little bit, a little bit un-British to have commemorative stamps, um, just in this case you'd make an exception.

So we had, the competition was launched and he was won by Eric Gill who was a great designer, somewhat flawed human being but a great designer.

Very modernist.

The King looked at this and said, ah, not having this. Get somebody else.

And they got Harold Nelson's bid. And this is good old-fashioned Emperor, tub-thumping, chest-beating, lion-roaring stuff.

And it's very beautiful it's a lovely stamp.

Family stamp. And again, a bit like the seahorse, it's a shameless propaganda.

But of course there's the Sun in the background by the postage, by the lion.

Now what's that Sun doing? Is it rising on a glorious empire? Mm-mmm. It's setting on an empire that was, days were numbered.

It was numbered after the First World War.

Britain's debt-to-gdp ratios went through the roof.

We couldn't afford to run the empire any longer after the First World War.

And then we had the Massacre of Amritsar in 1919 when General Dyer went and shot about a thousand people for, something, standing around, sort of not doing as they were told.

A terrible, terrible, terrible piece of imperial arrogance.

What's so fascinating. This is why history is so strange and how things change over time.

Dyer, who massacred these people, his last words were, did I do the right thing? Isn't that extraordinary? Anyway. So that didn't help the empire either. So he got people like Gandhi and, saying go quit India.

And so this stamp was one wonderful ironic story because, while it was coming out and the lion was roaring away, what was really happening was the empire was sort of, well beginning to crumble.

It was beginning to fall apart.

I think people still had fun at the exhibition.

The style is very quite old, old school isn't it? These are letters and things. It did look, and engraved stamps, old-fashioned piece of technology making it.

It looks old. If we move on to the next one please.

Suddenly we're in a new era.

We're in the 1930s now, mid-30s modernism.

It's a photogravure technology so it's a different way of producing stamps.

All the Imperial flag-waving and things are gone. Okay, there's a crown in it.

But I mean it's, it's not, it's not the same.

It's, a new vision is behind this. And this was behind a lot of the public art in Britain in the 1930s.

A bit like that the New Deal art you had here.

It's the same idea that it is a job of public bodies to make life beautiful, and attractive, and pleasant, and to produce beautiful objects.

And there were a lot of the post boxes and phone boxes designed by George Gilbert Scott.

The tube stations, the tube map, all sorts of things were suddenly done beautifully by the powers that be.

A new idea really, and this stamp is a lovely example of it, I think.

It's a very beautiful stamp and a very powerful image because it's a very, very sinister stamp coming up next which is not a real one.

This is a parody of it done by the Nazis. And there's another one actually the Nazis did of the Coronation Stamp.

There were are.

But, these parodies horrible as they are, do show the power of this postage stamp.

No, this isn't just a silly little bit of paper you stick on a letter and forget about.

This is a very important statement.

It is a historical object.

[unintelligible question from the audience] I assume it must have been.Yes, I assume it was. It was a sort of a comment on the conference.

Yeah, and which of course itself, was a sad event.

These conferences during the war were very sad events for Britain because it was a time when, you got the impression that Roosevelt and Stalin was sort of basically dividing the world that between themselves and Britain was being left out because we weren't big enough any longer.

That's the way it was.

Anyway, the war came along when these conferences happening. If you could us along please.

Thank you very much.

There we all know we had him first of all, sort of going back in time suddenly.

It's Edward VIII.

There's a great story about this stamp. I find it slightly irrelevant to history but this was designed by 17 year old.

Designed by young Michael Hubert Brown.

And as you do when you're 17, you just think, oh I'll do this.

I'll design it. I'll send it off to the post office. They send it off to Harrisons, the stamp printers actually. And then forgot about.

He's a 17 year old with too many other things to think about.

And then the stamp appeared.

And he said to his dad, that is my stamp.

And his dad said, was it? Yeah, I sent the design off.

So his dad contacted the post office and said, you know, can you give us some credit for this please? And the post office said, no, we designed it.

It says quite a lot about the arrogance of power that was still around in those days.

And bless his dad who fought a really long battle to get Hubert Brown credited as a designer which has been won and he is now, if you get the Stanley Gibbons catalogue it says designer H. Brown.

I think it says something like, adapted by Harrisons and Co.

So, so he hasn't completely got the credit.

But people who know, know that he designed it, 17 years old.

And this was going to be a new era with a new monarch and a beautiful modern stamp.

What a lovely, clear modern design. Fabulous piece of design.

Absolute disastrous King.

Not the right man for the job, had a big, big ego.

Monarchs, monarchs are much better at being rather quiet, just listening, getting the other point of view.

George V was good that as well.

He was an odd man and objectionable in lots of ways but, he listened and thought about things.

And Stanley Baldwin once said, we ought to go out and shoot these people for going on strike.

And the king said, try living on their wages for a week, Mr. Baldwin.

But that was his dad. He was a difficult man.

So he abdicated.

Interestingly, it's still, people people are very divided about Edward VIII, you know.

Was he this rather dodgy sort of egotistical narcissistic man who flirted with fascism.

Or was he somebody who gave it all up for love, rejecting the frippery of public office for love? Which one? And people still debate about that.

Maybe he was both.

That's interesting.

On we move, to the war. It started.

And George, lovely stamps, the George VI definitives.

Bright colors, lovely bright colors, a lot of the low values were.

However the war soon started eating away at Britain's resources and we ended up, come back one please, with that. They took all the color out because they were short of ink.

And we were short of everything else as well, including money.

And I think by about mid-nineteen forty-one basically Britain was bankrupt.

Fortunately you guys came and helped us out with lend-lease which is very fortunate, otherwise, I don't know what would have happened.

We'd have lost war, basically. That's what would've happened.

Umm. So thank you, very much.

And, let's let's move on to the Victory stamp from 1946.

And this is a very interesting stamp.

This tells, it has a lot of history bundled up in this one because this is a stamp celebrating victory.

We'd beaten the, whatever, you know, we won! But it's not very exciting is it? It's not very triumphal because this is, it isn't even a victory stamp. It's a first anniversary of victory stamp.

It came out in 1946.

It's all about reconstruction. It's rather sort of earnest and worthy.

And that's partially because, in 1945 we had the big general election when Winston Churchill was booted out of office.

He'd saved the nation, everybody liked him, but they didn't think much of his party, the Conservatives.

They wanted political change. They wanted the Labour Party, the Socialist Party, Clement Attlee, a man Churchill once said, an empty cab drew outside number ten Downing Street and Clement Attlee got out.


I don't know. That's politics.

So it was a very different, very different mindsets, more egalitarian, quite worthy, striving, but this need to reconstruct the country and whatever one's politics, what comes out of this stamp is reconstruction.

We've got to get the agriculture sorted out.

We've got to build more houses for people, get our industry back, which has been damaged by the war, get our trade going again.

We had virtually no cargo ships. They'd all been sunk.

So we had to, had to resurrect.

We also had the National Health Service which is of course something of a hot issue here in the States these days.

You've got Obamacare, we had Attleecare. And Attleecare, in truth is, I think it's been very successful.

But it's not been what they thought it was going to be because when Attleecare was introduced, people were told, it's going to be a bit expensive to start with, but as people get healthier, the costs are going to come down.

This has not happened.

They have gone up, and up, and up, and up, and up. But you know, it's still, it's a model copied in most of Western Europe, so.

It's not a uniquely eccentric idea.

But it's kind of in this, I'd have taken the liner off and put the stethoscope on but they can't even get around to that.

But that's a victory stamp, anyway. It's, it's very, of its era, as they all are.

Let's move on. Anyway. This is, I think, my desert island postage stamp.

If I had to take one stamp with me to a desert island, it would be this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Edmund Dulac Coronation from 1953.

Dulac, one of our best stamp designers, has never lived to see the stamp produced.

He died before it actually appeared in post offices.

Terribly sad.

Very interesting, the Queen is looking at us straight in the eye.

That didn't happen before. If you get so, can you just click it back for a second, back to oh, King George, the profile side. They experimented in 1913 when King George V came to the throne.

The King turned a little bit about three-quarter profile to the audience on the stamp and nobody liked it.

And there were so many complaints that they got rid of it.

And he went back to sort of, being, and sort of side on.

And then this said, oh no, can we go back to, thank you, back to Her Majesty looking at us straight in the eye.

So that's that's a very radical gesture. That's very radical. That's a big change.

So it says, you know, they're going to be new things happening in this reign.

And what a beautiful stamp and she looks lovely on it. It's just fantastic. It's an absolute masterpiece.

But it is a stamp of changes afoot.

Can we move on please? The, um, this is a funny one.

The nice definitive stamps came out at the same time.

This one is Michael Pharaoh Bells, a fourpence with the Dorothy Wilding portrait of the Queen.

Most people, and it's got this writing, if you just ignore the writing for a minute, the parliamentary conference, there's a good story behind that.

The stamp, it looks a little bit, it's fussier than the King George.

If you compare that with the Edward VIII, for example. It's become much fussier and frillier, and things like that.

And again critics tend to say, oh we didn't like this. It's fussy and stamps ought to be simple.

But actually people liked it. People wanted a bit of fuss and frills.

After the austerity of the war, and the cruelty the war.

So many people came back from the war with horrible memories of things they'd seen and done, they wanted the cottage with the roses round the door and this is a kind of philatelic equivalent of that.

This actual stamp itself is a wonderfully botched up job.

To me, this stamp is the Suez Fiasco in a stamp. It's a complete mess and it happened.

I mean, like Suez, it happened because of official incompetence.

Quite extraordinary.

There was a thing called the Parliamentary Conference. It's a kind of roving conference.

It takes place every year, and supposedly in democracies though it has taken place in Pyongyang before, now, so they don't always choose very good places.

But, um, it was in London in 1957.

And there it happened that the man in charge of it was a chap named Malcolm Sherlock Scott.

And he knew that the Postmaster General said, look, yah we need a stamp designed for this thing.

And Donaldson said, um now we don't, nobody's ever heard of this thing.

Oh yes, we do. No we don't. Yes, we do. No, we don't. Yes, we do. No we...

Finally, very shortly before the conference is due to start, it was agreed.

Okay, we'll do a stamp. But it was too late to get a designer in.

And the head of design at the post office had to go home one evening with his letraset and put parliamentary conference down the side.

That's how much of a hurry it was done in.

It was sent off to the printers. And the printers phoned him up and said, you've left out the 46.

And he said, oh, "dot", "dot", "dot", and, well put it in somewhere. And so they did.


And that's stamp design, the Suez version of stamp design.

It is actually very interesting.

Talking about Suez, Eisenhower and Eden, they communicated by post through most of the build-up to the Suez crisis.

It was all done by post.

They didn't even phone each other until the whole thing had started.

Extraordinary. Amazing how things were done in those days.

Forget emails and things, they actually wrote each other letters and even still didn't understand.

Now it was very clear, we are not going to support you if you do this.

He didn't. He just sort of didn't take any notice.

It's all goes to show how the written word can be ignored if you that's what you want to do. Next slide please.

Anyway, we're getting on into the 1960s now.

And in 1964 another big political change. Labour government again.

Harold Wilson, Prime Minister, with his pipe and his raincoat.

And he once stuffed his pipe in his pocket and left it there, and his raincoat caught fire.

All this stuff, but fundamentally a decent man, I think.

And his um, his, um, Postmaster General was a guy called the Viscount Stansgate.

Although, actually his name is Antony Wedgwood Benn. He doesn't like that either.

Tony Benn, we gotta call him.

Cause that's sort of that working class sort of thing. Though he was posh as anybody in fact.

Anyway Tony Benn wanted to get the Queen's head off the stamps.

This was the new Labor Britain, get rid of the Queen's head.

And he got in touch with David Gentleman who's a very fine British stamp designer.

And David Gentleman produced a little portfolio of stamps with no Queen's heads on them.

And took them to the Queen, and Benn took them to the Queen.

And he thought I'll do set with racehorses on because the Queen's nuts about horse racing.

Went to Buckingham Palace and started, he had to put them on the floor. It's quite comical scene.

And the Queen stood there with a certain amount of froideur on her face, I imagine.

To see sort of, put out all these stands without her face on them.

And said, what do you think of that? And Her Majesty said, um, interesting.

And then communicated her displeasure to Harold Wilson the next day.

However, they did take off the... Sorry, can you just run it back just one stamp? You see the Dorothy Wilding portrait of the Queen? That was also on all the commemorative stamps.

And aesthetically it was a bit of, a sort of, kind of overwhelmed the stamp a bit.

From an artistic point of view, I can see the reason why they changed it.

And there was a compromise whereby the Queen's head was replaced by a cameo which I think is rather nice. Artistically that worked well.

This is the first set of stamps to come out with the cameo on, a lovely landscape set.

And then shortly after that, the next one, please.

The cameo got even smaller and we won the World Cup! Yes, yeah, wonderful! And we haven't won it since. Never mind.

What a great time that was 1966.

I said, I was a little bit young for the fun but I mean you know, if there was a summer of love in Britain it was then.

It wasn't 1967. He was 1966.

We had very whether, the Beatles produced Revolver, the Kinks produced Sunny Afternoon. What an era. Fantastic And everybody was into it. This is not...

One of the criticisms people say, oh well, swinging London it was just a bunch of metropolitan trendies.

But it wasn't, because people had radios, they had gramophones.

I had a little gramophone I used to listen to these records on.

People had, people could join in. Youngsters could join in.

He may have been, when you read endless, rather boring biographies of people who were swinging London types, you kind of get slightly nauseated by their own kind of self-importance.

But this was happening for everybody. It wasn't just swinging London, it was everywhere.

There was a new vibrancy. And a nice colorful stamp. And we won the World Cup.

I think I was hiding behind the sofa over the last few minutes of the game, it was so exciting.

If you'd like to move on please.

'cuz here, in the museum here, though apparently might be out on loan, is John Lennon's stamp collection.

Because I mean what was the '60s without the Beatles? And John Lennon, like every young lad in the '50s, collected stamps.

He had a little stamp collection. So did Paul McCartney.

Paul McCartney didn't deface his stamp collection.

John Lennon did, which sort of says a lot about the difference between the two of them.

And he's provided Queen Victoria with a splendid beard and I think a cigar or something.

And King George VI has got a beard and the kind of spy outfit as well.

And I'd love to see the original.

That's great. So that was a Beatles.

I mean, what a fantastic band. Never equaled in my view. I'm showing my age here.

On we went.

Decimal currency, 1971. We've got rid of the old pounds shillings and pence and had these beautiful Arnold Machin stamps. Aren't they lovely.

They're right back to simplicity because it was time to move on.

We've had, I like the '50s stamps. I like the Wildings and they're very nice but things moved on.

And designers like David Gentlemen and Arnold Machin who did the picture of the Queen on there wanted to simplify things, clear sharp images for the new age, and absolutely right.

15th of February you could get yourself a first day cover except you couldn't because the post office is on strike.

Welcome to the 1970s in Britain.

Strikes. This, that, and the other.

God knows, we had a, British cars used to be the best cars in Europe.

In the '70s, they were not the best cars in Europe, they were rust buckets.

I know, I drove around in one.

British Leyland, it was a kind of a conglomeration of British car companies and it was an absolute disaster.

Lost money, produced rubbish cars. They wee on strike all the time and ended up going bankrupt.

The post office lost money. The post office never lost money.

It lost, I think, in 1975 300 million pounds or something.

Everything was going completely bonkers.

And, I think, under the stock market collapse, it was as it was much worse than the British stock market during the Depression age.

Forget that. It fell about 80% something like that, almost as bad as Wall Street in the 1930s.

There was a sudden sense, oh my god, we've lost the plot.

What is happening? Where are we going? Who's in charge of this country round here? Oh dear. Things did not look good. In 1976 we had to go to the International Monetary Fund to borrow money.

So then, and now the real sort of payday lenders with completely screwed up countries and we had to go cap in hand to them, can I have some money please? We can't run our country properly.

Bad, very bad. Very bad.

So, Queen's Jubilee, 1977, oh, who cares.

Country hasn't got any money anyhow. We got some nice stamps. Richard Guyot.

There's a nice, nice stamp echoing, intelligently echoing the Jubilee stamp we've seen earlier.

The Jubilee came along. Nobody really bothered very much.

The Queen, Prince Philip went around shook a few hands.

And then they had these street parties. And people thought, well okay, we'll go to the street party. Why not? They had rather a good time and people started enjoying themselves.

And they got the Union Jacks out and hung them on the streets. And the Queen was on the television.

Suddenly, I remember this. It was extraordinary.

The nation suddenly thought, yeah, okay.

We're all right. We're okay. We haven't got an empire any longer. So what. We're, we're not as big as America.

Well you know, tough. We're okay. We can do things. We're all right.

We're good people. We've got something. We got a history. We've got energy.

We're not going to give up. It was amazing. The Jubilee was an extraordinary event.

Extraordinary event. It kind of saved the nation in a way. It really was very, very strange.

I remember it. Very strange.

So, kind of, the birth of modern Britain just got a couple of stamps on modern Britain.

Here's this nice Brian Sanders stamp. Good friend of mine. Lives in a village next to where I live.

And here's the first black British person to feature on a stamp, no, to headline on a stamp because he had actually done one before with a little guy in the background.

But here this young lad is right at the foreground, Boy Scout Celebration Youth Organizations 1981.

Britain's becoming diverse.

This guy's dad probably came over on a boat called 'Windrush' in 1948 or maybe his granddad even.

And so, we've got, and there have been, I kinda don't want to present a kind of an over glorified picture.

There been problems.

The original arrivals on the 'Windrush' met considerable prejudice which I feel very embarrassed.

But unfortunately that happened.

But things are moving on and there's a nice symbol of it. The next stamp, please.

Europe, Britain is supposed to be part of Europe but we can't make up our mind whether we want to be or not.

The post office insists that Europe is a wonderful thing.

We turned out endless stamps about any European event.

The second election for the European Parliament. Got this stamp.

We don't have a stamp for our own election. Just the Europe one.

And you get turnouts about some free presenters. Now I'm being facetious.

But it's Lowes 20% or something, people are not interested.

I love this stamp because it sums up the British attitude to Europe absolutely perfectly.

There's a bull charging in one direction and the rider is looking in the completely opposite direction.

So we really don't know what we're doing.

In the long run of course, we've got to be part of Europe. That's the way things are.

But it's kind of, we're slightly being dragged, screaming and kicking into it.

And I think this stamp sums it up very nicely.

And then of course here's poor Diana.

What a sad stamp, we see her face on there. She does not look happy, She's glamorous, she's incredibly beautiful.

They bought out after she died.

They had a set five stamps of very beautiful pictures of her and she's alone on every one of them.

There's nobody else on them.

And this is another issue. A bit like Edward VIII, divides everybody in Britain.

Well, who was Diana? Was she a simple girl who was sucked up into this corrupt system and chewed up and spat out by it? Or will she of publicity-seeking, narcissistic, manipulative whatever? You know and there's this big argument still in Britain.

The people will get quite hot under the collar about Diana, whether she was good or bad.

Either way, her death was an extraordinary event which again changed British life in a very profound way.

I remember going to Hyde Park and seeing all these flowers thousands, millions of them.

Bunches of flowers left in the park outside the palace, outside Kensington Gardens.

Everywhere, flowers, and notes, a lot of them saying, you were too good for them.

Whoa! So, but it's the British suddenly got emotional at that time.

Because normally it's a stiff upper lip, Old Chatham, natives just stuck a spear in your leg, well think of England! Stop complaining! You've got one leg.

Well there is a wonderful story about some general at the Battle of Waterloo.

Um, General Picton and he was standing next to Duke of Wellington sitting on a horse, next to Duke of Wellington and a cannon blew his leg off.

And he said to Wellington, oh my god, my leg's been blown off! And Wellington said, oh gosh, so it has.

That was the end of the conversation.

So that was, kind of, the old British way of doing things.

And that all changed. That all change.

With 1997 there was a much more emotionally literate country emerged from it.

Also at the same time there was the Labor government. The New Labor with Tony Blair came into power.

And that changed things a lot as well.

The old conservative government had been very good in a lot of ways but it's sort of, it was rather sort of, rather cold.

And I think Blair introduced a more sort of touchy-feely emotionally literate, to come back to that term, kind of government.

A lot of things wrong but that was a good change.

He understood the Diana thing immediately.

He penned his very famous speech about the People's Princess on the back of an envelope on the train on the way down to London.

And whereas Hague who's British, um, Conservative Party leader just sort of harrumphed and fluffed around and didn't know what to make of it.

Blair understood. Got it absolutely right.

So we're nearing the end of our journey through Britain.

Here's, um, we're now part of the World Wide Web, it's a nice stamp by Peter Till.

And showing the Web being weaved.

And of course it also sort of reflects Britain's globalized position.

Now we're all part of the global economy.

We can't just, sort of, be in our little enclave any longer.

It's nicely celebrated on this stamp.

I just put that in because I think that's kind of fun.

It's a nicely designed stamp from 2006.

Sounds of Britain. It's some diverse society that knows how to enjoy itself a bit which I think is attractive.

And finally, last but not least, that one.

Very nice. It was splendid, splendid. A nice stamp. Mario Testino.

Good photographs, great event. We're terribly British about this.

Before it happened people weren't that, well, that enthusiastic.

And some people were saying, the left wingers were saying, oh monarchy, all this money spent on it.

Even the right wing people were saying the same, taxpayer's money being spent on this event.

And, and there was a general lack of interest until about three days beforehand and everybody suddenly got incredibly excited, and we all watched it on television.

And it was wonderful, absolutely brilliant, fantastic event and just magical.

And of course, I mean it is very nice.

They do actually love each other which is unfortunately not the case with Charles and Diana.

So you know it's a lovely and ugly way to conclude the story.

I think that, um, it is Britain carrying on with its traditions.

But actually, if you flick back please, just to the sounds Britain.

There's also a new start, a new aspect to the country as well.

So it does kind of have, there's a continuity and change which is what history is all about anyway.

And it's been, I think very well reflected in our stamps.

First to make a concluding comment, if you could just go to the Royal Cup again.

A wonderful book. Go out and buy it.

Can you just go back to, back one more? There we go, back to the Royal Couple.

This subject does get touched on. What is the future of stamps themselves? Because you couldn't go into a post office, buy one of these and stick it on a letter.

You had to buy a special commemorative sheet to collect and there's something slightly strange about that.

There's a kind of postmodern artificiality to it.

Because all the other stamps we've seen in this show and all the stamps in this book, they were all designed to be used.

You'd buy them. You'd put them on a letter. You'd send them through the post.

This issue, okay, they're stamps and you could use them.

They would be honored by the post office but there was a sense in which they were being issued to be collected.

And I think that happens more and more with stamps.

And has been happening for a while which is okay, for a while but it, it's a bit like watering down a brand or something.

You can only do it once. You can take a brand downmarket but it's really difficult to take it back up again.

And there's a sense in which and I don't, haven't got a clever answer for this, but I worry about the future of stamps because if they stop being things that people actually use and part of the fabric of everyday life, and just become things that people collect, that's not so interesting.

The fun of collecting them, is that they weren't made to be collected, they were made to be used.

So I leave you with that conundrum.

I suppose I'd also like to leave you with the thought of when you go back to your collections, just think about the history and think about the people on these stamps and what they did and the stories the stamps tell.

But I mean here's a wonderful thing stamps tell stories.

Look at your stamp collection and enjoy the stories because they are wonderful, they are wonderful little time machines.

So enjoy your journeys back in time.

Thank you, very much ladies and gentlemen it's been a huge pleasure.


So we can spend about five to seven minutes on questions and answers.

And then at the end of that time we'll invite you to continue the conversation out in the reception.

Lovely. Can you click it forward? Oh no, respect for the King. That is fine. A future King anyway.

Question? Sir? Thank you.

I wondered of what you thought is one of the rarest British stamps? You follow your nation stamps. Is it the five-pound orange under Victoria? Well I, I think it's pretty rare. It's pretty rare.

I mean there was an Edwardian stamp, they did a two-penny tyrian plum which is incredibly rare because they hardly made any of them.

Well they made quite a few but they destroyed them all because the King died.

It's a lovely stamp, beautiful stamp, the two-pence tyrian plum.

That's pretty rare.

All right, I have one other question.

I watched the Titanic film we have here, and they indicated there are six million packages and letters on that ship and the bags are still down there and there's sea life growing on it.

They show in the Registered room is a grate and it looks partly open.

I wondered, is there any interest in the British government in recovering the registered mail? It's clearly much more critical than the rest of it and today's technology might permit such an operation.

They should honor their obligation to the people who sent those letters. I quite agree.

I agree, absolutely. But I mean I don't know whether there is or not, I'm afraid.

But there certainly should be.

I mean, traditionally the post office been very good at fulfilling its obligations and getting the post through.

There's that lovely quote you have on your post office in New York about getting through.

It says, through the snow, in the night and then... the post office has been very good at that sort of thing.

So maybe they will. That be nice. Thank you.

Wonderful presentation.

I'm a collector of Great Britain and I kind of expected as you got towards the end, I'd see one of the country issues that's become a big issue in Great Britain right now, to the point where Scotland is holding a referendum in a year.

Well we, what I did have...

Can you just ping it back a few to the... I'll tell you when to stop.

Keep going.


Oh, yeah, there we are.

This was a kind of country issue because it was British landscapes.

It's got Sussex, Atrim which is in Northern Ireland, Harlech Castle in Wales, wonderful place I've been there, and the Cairngorms in Scotland.

So, and that was the start of, well, it wasn't the start.

We did have regional issues before.

They had them when the new Queen came to the throne.

We started having regional issues quite early on.

But I think that's a nice, a nice little set which shows people thinking in terms of the regions.

And of course now we've got this question of Scottish independence. Are the Scots going to go vote for independence? Who knows. I have no idea.

So yes that's another aspect of British life which you kind of get out of those ones, I think.

But yes, thank you for mentioning that.

This gentleman here? On the last stamp that you showed, the Prince. Can you show that again? Can we run back to, run forward, there.

The stamp on the left has no denomination. Is that right? We've got "first" on it which is the first class letter.

So we had, we introduced this quite a long time ago with some first class and second class mail and that's a first class stamp which is kind of better than having a figure on it because the stamps keep going up in price. You can keep using them.

It's like the Forever ones in the USA. It's the same idea.

Thank you.

Madam? Again on the last stamp you've got there it is, I don't know whether you planned it this way, but it's a very nice illustration of the point you made earlier about the British public's reaction to the death of Diana.

The emergence of an emotional literacy which is beautifully illustrated by this stamp.

It is. It is lovely, isn't it? Thank you.

It's beautifully done, especially the one on the left, I think.

And they love each other which is good, it's good.

[Unintelligible comment]

Absolutely, good as me. What next? [laughter] We didn't build an empire by being emotional.


Sir? The number 36, was that a fallout of when you started assembling these or was that a pre-planned target? It was a pre-planned target.

I mean, I kind of hovered around that sort of number, and it just seems to be a nice number.

It's, it's, a it's a square. It's multiple. It's divisible by lots of numbers.

And actually the whole thing, "A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps" it's a roll of the tongue, nicely.

So it was a sort of vaguely artistic decision to choose 36.

Thank you.

Any more questions? It's all yours sir? Hi, yeah thanks.

Just the fact of the monarch's head on all the stamps through time in British history.

What do you think it reflects? You know, a monarchist's view on Britain's history as opposed to more political view? You mentioned how it swings back to conservatism, to the socialism, through a parliament but you keep getting its remind you of the Queen.

So it does give you kind of one view, side view of it.

What was your comment on that? When it does, yes. I mean that's a fair point.

But I think it's a point that most people in Britain share.

And it's not the case that the modern Labour Party, for example, wants to get rid of the Queen.

It's a very much a minority view in Britain.

The monarchy was very unpopular around the time of Diane's death, and that was probably one of its low points.

It was unpopular in the '60s when sort of Britain was becoming very modern and swinging and groovy and they thought the Monarchs were a bit fuddy-duddy.

But it's never been, monarchies by and large, it's popular.

The thing is with the Monarchy, we take and make out of the monarchs, quite a lot.

It's a very British thing. We make fun of them.

We have satirical programs that laugh at them. But we don't to get rid of them because we like them really.

We're fond of them.

And I think there's a kind of affectionate teasing about the monarchs that's part of British life.

And if you look back in history, well actually, if you look at, go back to the 18th century and see cartoons by Rowlandson and things, now they're vicious.

That's vicious satire that nowadays you don't get.

So now I think it's an appropriate to have the monarch on stamps because people like it.

And also the monarchy is a symbol of the nation as a whole.

And I think that's where Edward VIII got it wrong.

He kind of got involved in politics and that's a mistake because the monarch is above politics.

They are symbol of the nation.

And I know in America you have a president who's elected but there are symbols like the White House, like Air Force One, there are things which and the flag would symbolize the nation and the monarch is all part of that.

So I think the monarch is a symbol of the fact that...

There's a phrase that politicians are bemusing and everybody laughs at them quite rightly when they do use it.

But it is true. When you think of it in a bigger spectrum, that we're all in it together, and the monarch is a symbol of that.

And that's what, you know, that's what we're reminded of at these royal events.

It is an event for everybody.

And so I think it's right and proper than the monarch should be on the stamp.

And I think most people in Britain would agree that this isn't just my view, or a man in middle age.

It's, I think, it's a genuine generally held view that people have a lot of respect from the monarchy.

And I think it's good. No one makes you say that.

Well I think she ought to abdicate and give Charles a go.

But I mean that's, that's just a personal feeling.

Well, let's continue this out in the reception and book signing. One more round...


Thank you.


Thank you very much. Thank you.


Chris West, the author of A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps explored his country’s recent history through its most fascinating, beautiful, and eccentric postage stamps. From Queen Victoria’s Penny Black to the struggles of post-World War II reconstruction, West showed that stamps mirror the events, attitudes, and styles of their time. The lecture was followed by a light reception and book signing.