First British ‘Special Stamps’ feature king’s silhouette

The U.K.-based Royal Mail issued the first commemorative stamps featuring the silhouette of King Charles III as part of a March 23 set showcasing 10 flowers popular in British gardens.

It marks the first silhouette change on a U.K. stamp since 1968 in what Royal Mail officials called a “significant milestone in British philatelic history.” For the 10 first-class (currently 95 pence) flower stamps, the silhouette – standing in for the country name on British stamps – appears along with the denomination in the upper-left corner.

“Britain is a nation of gardeners, and a love of flowers runs deep in our collective consciousness,” said David Gold, the Royal Mail’s external affairs and policy director. “His Majesty is known to be a passionate gardener, and we are delighted that the first ‘Special Stamps’ to feature his silhouette should be a celebration of some of the most popular flowers in British gardens.”

To design the silhouette, illustrator Andrew Davidson, the Royal Mail’s head of design and editorial, worked with designers Marcus James and Ian Chilvers, both of the agency Atelier Works.

First, Davidson developed a likeness “that would work at stamp size,” according to a statement from the Royal Mail. Next, the team digitized and fine-tuned the detail in the silhouette “with visual adjustments that were tested at actual size to ensure the silhouette would work at the diminutive dimensions required.”

The stamps feature photographs of the flowers against a white background alongside their common names, including the sweet pea, iris, lily, sunflower, fuchsia, tulip, peony, nasturtium, rose and dahlia.

Since 1965, the Royal Mail’s Special Stamps have “told the story of Britain through tiny yet stunning images that reflect our history, heritage, culture and achievements,” according to the postal service’s website. They differ from the “everyday” definitive issues produced for use on the mail.

The recent commemorative issue came just ahead of the first British definitive stamp featuring the new king’s portrait (“First British Charles III definitive unveiled,” CSN Vol. 47 #23, Feb. 28, 2023). While the Royal Mail unveiled the definitive issue earlier this winter, it will begin offering these stamps for sale on April 4.

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