Queen Elizabeth II has given her official stamp of approval to British Royal Mail on the issue of the new sheet of six 1st-class definitive stamps commemorating the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.With the “Diamond Jubilee Miniature Sheet,” issued on Feb. 6, for the first time in the history of British stamps, the official portraits of the queen, taken from stamps, coins, and banknotes, have been brought together for a stamp issue.“The Queen’s image is one of the most recognizable in the world and we are delighted to bring these iconic images together to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s accession,” chief executive Moya Greene at Royal Mail said, according to a press release.
The Queen’s Portraits
Famous artists like Dorothy Wilding, Arnold Machin, and Pietro Annigoni created the queen’s portraits, which were reproduced on numerous royal stamps over the past decades.The Wildings were a series of definitive postage stamps, featuring the Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The series was in use between 1952 and 1967.Wilding, official photographer at the Royal Court since 1937, remembered her first day at Buckingham Palace: “A sweet voice said ‘Oh, Miss Wilding, I’m so glad we meet at last,’ and a warm little hand grasped mine in hers, and held it for so long, and so tight, that for a moment my mind went blank.”The Wilding series’ portrait depicts the queen wearing a diamond diadem made for George IV in the 1820s, later also worn by Queen Victoria on stamps such as the world’s first stamp, the Penny Black.The Wildings were replaced because two stamp designers found it difficult to include the large Wilding portrait in their designs for commemorative stamps. Thus in 1967, the stamps were replaced by the Machin head with the sculptured profile of the queen.
When asked how many countries have issued the stamp with the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a Royal Mail press person replied by email: “This is difficult to answer for certain. The old Wilding portrait image appeared on old stamps of Gibraltar, but probably others. The current Machin has appeared on Gibraltar and old Hong Kong stamps.”To date, “220 billion Machin designs have been printed from the original portrait,” the Royal Mail press person added. The design has been updated with the words “Diamond Jubilee” in iridescent ink to mark the occasion.John Norton, a member of the Fishmongers’ Company of London for 60 years and friend of the author, wrote in an email, “The very best of the portraits was commissioned by the city guild …, the Fishmongers’ Company, in 1954 by Pietro Annigoni.”
The Fishmongers’ Company is one of 108 city guilds that have been formed in the city of London over the past 700 to 800 years. The company is mainly involved in charitable work related to the fish industry and education.“The painting is a full-height portrait of the Queen in the Order of the Garter Robe with a rural backdrop showing Windsor Castle and a small lake,” Norton wrote.“The significance of the lake is that Annigoni always placed himself in his paintings and he is to be found in a small boat on the lake, engaged in fishing.”The original portraits by Wilding and by Machin are displayed at the British Postal Museum, while Annigoni’s original painting hangs in the Drawing Room at Fishmongers’ Hall on London Bridge in London.