Wednesday, September 9, 2015

63 Years and Counting: Elizabeth II

Every so often I attend an estate sale that includes British monarchy memorabilia.  A couple of weeks ago, I found a small collection of postcards that were issued to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II.  

Since September 9, 2015 is the day that Elizabeth II became Britain's longest-reigning monarch (surpassing her great-grandmother Victoria), I thought it would be appropriate to share some of those postcards.

The first batch of cards were issued to commemorate Elizabeth II's coronation in June 1953, created by Valentine's for the consumer market.

Valentine's of Dundee was founded in 1851 by photographer James Valentine, who specialized in landscape views. In 1897, his sons, who had inherited the company, decided to get into the postcard business.

Elizabeth was only 25 when she became Queen in 1952. Her father, George VI, had died a few weeks before. And, as countless news stories have noted, she wasn't even the "heir presumptive" when she was born.  George VI only became King when his brother Edward VIII abdicated the throne.

This postcard, from 1937, is even labeled "The Heir Presumptive."

Also in the postcard collection were a number of cards from a series of 24, which came inside tobacco products from Godfrey Phillips Associated brands.

Other postcards from the series show members of the royal family.

One card shows an illustration of Westminster Abbey, where coronations are held.

Others show the ceremony itself.

Many of the rest of the cards from the series show what the well-dressed monarch wears.

Another postcard in the collection I found, shows a formal portrait of Queen Mary, George VI's wife and Elizabeth II's mother. The photograph was taken by Cecil Beaton, the famous portrait photographer who was also an Academy Award-winning stage and costume designer.

It was printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons, one of the preeminent publishers of postcards during the correspondence boom of the late 1800s-early 1900s.

My favorite card in the collection I found, is an official engagement photo of Elizabeth and Philip by The Times of London.

She reportedly fell in love with him when she was 13 years old, and they started writing letters.  They were married in November 1947.  If you look at pictures of them together today, you can see that their eyes still sparkle.  Perhaps their still being friends after nearly 70 years of marriage, is as significant to them -- in a different way -- as being heads of state for 63.


British Pathe' has archived much of its work on YouTube. Here's its coverage of the coronation of Elizabeth II:

And of her father, George VI, in 1937. Note that this is color footage, somewhat rare in its day.

This is my favorite newsreel footage of Elizabeth II -- not of her coronation, but in honor of her 18th birthday.  It also shows her at her father's coronation. (I get the impression that she is happiest when she is around horses.)

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