How King Charles III’s first stamp breaks with long-standing royal tradition

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The Royal Mail of England has released the first stamp featuring a portrait of King Charles III after he ascended the throne in September, but one key detail is missing from the design.

New stamps featuring the sovereign were announced by Britain’s Royal Mail on Wednesday, 8 February. The Royal Mail announced on social media:

‘Today, we reveal our new definitive stamp featuring the image of King Charles III. The image of HM The King is an adapted version of the portrait created by Martin Jennings for The Royal Mint. The stamps will go on general sale from 4 April 2023.

According to CNN, the design featuring the 74-year-old king’s profile was created by sculptor Martin Jennings, who was also the creator of the image on the new coins. It depicts a horizontal portrait of King Charles III when he is facing left - just like his mother's stamp, along with the price and attached bar code of the stamp. This stamp will be on sale from 4 April.

Crucial detail missing from King Charles' stamp

As the image of the stamp floods social networks, eagle-eyed fans have spotted one key detail missing from its design.

Notably, the crown, which has long been one of the strongest signifiers of a British monarch, is nowhere to be seen on the stamp. According to the Guardian, the simple design was approved by King Charles himself, who wanted it to be simple so that the public could feel a more 'human' face of the monarch.

How King Charles III’s first stamp breaks with long-standing royal tradition Max Mumby

Explaining the King's choice, David Gold, the Royal Mail’s director of external affairs, said:

‘The feedback we got back was that he wanted it to be simple… It’s a very human image, with no embellishment on the plain background, almost saying, 'this is me and I’m at your service', which I think in this modern age is actually rather humbling.'

This detail makes King Charles II the first monarch in history to be featured on a stamp without a crown. Previously, his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, donned a glitzy diamond crown created for the coronation of King George IV in 1821.

In addition to the noticeable lack of a crown, King Charles' profile on the stamp also features no royal symbols - a stark difference from previous generations. However, other minor elements such as the left direction he is facing and his slightly smiling face, are purposefully made as a nod to continuity.

How King Charles III’s first stamp breaks with long-standing royal tradition Samir Hussein

The new stamps are now being printed in millions. Existing stamps featuring the late Queen will continue to be valid for circulation until the old stocks run out.

The meaning of the British stamp

According to the Times, King Charles III is the seventh British monarch to feature on the country stamps. His great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, was the first to have the honor. In 1967, artist Arnold Machin created the famous profile of the late Queen and it has been used on stamps ever since, becoming a symbol of England.

How King Charles III’s first stamp breaks with long-standing royal tradition DE AGOSTINI PICTURE LIBRARY

The stamps featuring King Charles III are called definitive stamps, which mean regular, non-commemorative postage stamps. The Postal Museum’s website explains:

‘Definitive stamps are everyday stamps, which in the UK feature the reigning King or Queen. This year, a new monarch will feature on stamps for the first time in 70 years. '

The image on the stamp was approved by King Charles III himself and is also the image appearing on the new British coin model, after he succeeded Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8, 2022.
Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson said the unique feature of the British stamp was that it did not print the country's name, because 'just the image of the King is enough'.

Read more:

King Charles III will not appear on Australian banknotes

King Charles III: New coins have entered circulation

King Charles III won't be following this Christmas tradition

© Max Mumby

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