Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Royal Philatellic Collection

"Scattered Heritage": The philatelic collection of the British royal family was in its day the world's most comprehensive collection of postage stamps of Great Britain and the Commonwealth and would have been of considerable historic and cultural value if it had been kept intact. Originally housed in St. James's Palace, the collection was begun in the early nineteenth century, key figures in its development were Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (the second son of Queen Victoria), and King George V, who became one of the most renowned philatelists of his time and built up a personal collection of world renown.
Tradition has it when King George V was in London he spent three afternoons a week with his stamp collection. He was very rarely interrupted. The King received stamps of the UK and many Commonwealth countries in mint blocks of four or six, and purchases of rare historical items we also made to enhance the Collection further. A particular strength of the collection were the many rare stamps from the earliest days of stamp usage in Great Britain in the period 1839-41, with stamp designs, proofs and colour trials, together with similar material from across the former British Empire and today's Commonwealth. Together they formed a prime source of evidence for the postal history of the British Empire and Commonwealth.

After the death of King George V, his son Edward inherited the collection. After he abdicated as King Edward VIII, the collection was taken by him to the continent. The Royal Philatellic Society (of which his late father had at one time been Executive President) protested, but there was nothing that could be done to prevent their export, stamps were not considered cultural property in 1936 and the collection was in any case the personal asset of the Sovereign. The fate of the collection is unclear, from time to time items have appeared on the market sold by Swiss auction houses which it has been rumoured come from the breakup of this once magnificent, significant and comprehensive historic collection.

View items from the former Royal Philatelic Collection in a special stamp gallery
Photo: The material comprising the former Royal Collection is now no longer available for study, this block of four Penny Blacks is from Ian Wright's website about his collection in Canada.

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