Almost everyone knows the House of Windsor’s Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, albeit not personally.
To most of her subjects, she’s known as “Her Majesty the Queen” (that is, unless you live on the Channel Islands, where she’s the Duke of Normandy, or on the Isle of Man, where she’s known triumphantly as the Lord of Mann).
She’s arguably the most well recognized woman of the modern world, much of which she has ruled – at least symbolically – since 1952, when she first ascended to the throne. Over the past 63-plus years, she has been – at one time or another – the ruler of 40 independent nations.
She’s already Britain’s longest-lived monarch, and at 89-years-old, she’s also the world’s oldest. And if she’s still reigning on Sept. 9, she’ll become Britain’s longest-reigning head of state.
What’s more, on that day, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest-reigning female monarch in history, surpassing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.
It all began on Feb. 6, 1952, when the 25-year-old princess and heir presumptive succeeded her father, the ailing King George VI. Her reign – now nearing its 64th year – has witnessed many changes to the empire; however, many of its countries still recognize the Queen as their head of state, and Canada is among them.
Further proof of her ubiquitous influence around the world is in her image, which is portrayed on more stamps than any other person in history.
ELIZABETH II ON STAMPS
Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) made her first appearance on a postage stamp in January 1932, when she was featured on a six-cent stamp (Scott #192) issued by none other than Newfoundland. The stamp’s design, which featured a portrait of the six-year-old princess, was based on a photograph by Marcus Adams.
Esteemed English philatelist Robson Lowe said it “was for some years one of the most popular stamps in the world.”
With her philatelic roots planted deep in Canadian philately it wouldn’t be long before Princess Elizabeth graced a stamp issued by Canada’s own postal authority.
In May 1935, the Canada Post Office Department (POD) featured the then-10-year-old princess on a one-cent stamp (SC #211) as part of a series marking the Silver Jubilee of her grandfather, King George V. Like the Newfoundland stamp issued in 1932, the design was based on a photograph taken by Adams, who earned widespread acclaim for his portraits of children.
In 1938, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the princess’ mother) visited Canada, which became the first Commonwealth nation to welcome the new King and Queen in person. To commemorate the occasion and add to Canada’s welcome, the POD issued three stamps (SC #246-8), of which the one-cent denomination (SC #246) featured Princess Elizabeth’s portrait alongside her sister, Princess Margaret. Again, the design was based on Adams’ photography.
In November 1947, Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was then Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of the Royal Navy. In commemoration, the POD issued a four-cent stamp (SC #276) portraying a photograph of the princess by noted photographer Dorothy Wilding, whose work was later featured on a Canadian definitive series known as the Wilding issue (1954-62), among others.
In May 1953 – about a year after Elizabeth II was first proclaimed Queen – the POD issued a set of five stamps (SC #325-9). It was the first time Queen Elizabeth II was featured on a set of Canadian definitive stamps, and it was with portraits taken by renowned Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh. The stamps would gradually replace the previous definitives that depicted the late George VI.
The next month, another four-cent stamp (SC #330) was issued to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The stamp featured a sculptured profile of the Queen – again based on a photograph by Karsh – that was designed by Toronto sculptor Emanuel Hahn.
In June 1954, the POD issued a set of six stamps (SC #337-42) known as the Wilding issue, which had denominations of one cent through six cents.
In October 1957, in commemoration of another royal visit to Canada, the POD issued a five-cent stamp (SC #374) bearing the portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.
Two years later, in what was the third Canadian issue to commemorate a British royal visit, the POD released a five-cent stamp (SC #386) featuring the Queen. The visit was a momentous occasion as many cities and towns were welcoming a reigning monarch for the first time. What’s more, all the provinces and territories were included in the couple’s coast-to-coast itinerary.
In February 1963, a set of five stamps (SC #401-5) was released as part of the POD’s Cameo issue. Alongside the Queen’s portrait in the upper-left corner of each of the stamps is a symbol representing one of the primary sectors of the Canadian economy.
The next year, the POD issued a five-cent stamp (SC #433) to commemorate the royal visit of 1964. It showed a photo of the Queen alongside the words “Postes-Canada-Postage” and the denomination. As was customary for stamps issued to commemorate royal visits, no other wording appeared on the stamp.
In February 1967, the POD began releasing a set of seven stamps (SC #454-60) as part of its issue of low-value definitives (1967-73) marking the Canadian Centennial. The five stamps featured a portrait of Elizabeth II alongside a regional view of one of five geographical regions in Canada.
In November 1967, to continue its series of low-value definitives, the POD issued a sixth stamp (SC #459). It symbolized the importance of transportation and communications in unifying the five major economic regions depicted earlier in the year.
Also in 1967, Her Majesty was also commemorated on a separate five-cent stamp (SC #471) to mark another royal visit. According to the press release, Elizabeth II and Phillip attended the July 1, 1967 ceremonies in Ottawa before sailing through the St. Lawrence Seaway aboard the yacht Britannia.
In August 1973, the Queen was featured on two stamps – an eight-cent denomination (SC #620) as well as a 15-cent denomination (SC #621) – in recognition of another royal visit as well as a Commonwealth government meeting held in Ottawa that summer.
Two months later, the Queen was featured again, this time on Canada’s latest set of definitive stamps (1973-77). The definitives portrayed six former prime ministers on the one- to six-cent denominations while the Queen was depicted on the eight-cent denomination (SC #593).
In 1977, to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the POD issued a 25-cent stamp (SC #704). The issue featured foil stamping and a new typeface (Cartier), both of which were appearing on a Canadian stamp for the first time.
In May 1982, Canada Post issued a 30-cent stamp (SC #791) featuring the Queen as part of its first-class definitive series. A year later, the series continued with a 32-cent definitive (SC #792) depicting Her Majesty.
In July 1985, a 34-cent definitive (SC #926) featuring Queen Elizabeth II continued the series.
Likewise, in July 1987, a 36-cent definitive (SC #926A) was issued. Towards the end of the year, a 37-cent stamp (SC #1162) was issued, reflecting the new postage rates for the following year.
In January 1990, Karsh’s familiar portrait of Elizabeth II was featured on a 39-cent definitive (SC #1167). Towards the end of the year, she was featured again on a 40-cent definitive (SC #1168). In fact, at this time, the Queen had appeared on all first-class definitive stamps issued by Canada since May 1, 1953.
In December 1992, Canada Post issued a 43-cent stamp (SC #1358) featuring the Queen, who visited Canada that year and was present at ceremonies on Parliament Hill marking the 125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
In December 1998 – nearly 65 years after she first adorned a Canadian stamp – Elizabeth II was depicted on another definitive, this with a denomination of 46 cents (SC #1681). Again featuring a portrait by Karsh, the design was updated with dramatic new colours and a slightly smaller size.
The definitive series continued around the turn of the century with a 47-cent denomination (SC #1683). The familiar definitive used a new blue background but kept Karsh’s portrait of the Queen.
Two years later, Her Majesty was featured on a 48-cent stamp (SC #1932) marking her Golden Jubilee. She was the fifth British monarch to celebrate a Golden Jubilee, joining the ranks of Queen Victoria and Kings Henry III, Edward III and George III. The design featured two images – the maple leaf alongside the Queen – meant to symbolize Canada’s support for Elizabeth II.
In June 2003, Canada Post celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation with a 48-cent stamp (SC #1987). Later that year, she was featured again – this time on a 49-cent denomination (SC #2012) – as part of a new definitive series.
In 2006, to mark her 80th birthday, Elizabeth II was featured on a 50-cent (SC #2142) and $1.49 (SC #2150a) stamp issued by Canada Post.
The following December, another stamp (SC #2248) featuring Queen Elizabeth II was issued. This definitive was based on a photograph taken in Saskatoon during the 2005 royal visit to Canada. In more recent years, the Queen’s portraits have been less formal and often portray her as relaxed and engaging. As such, this example shows her smiling as she meets face-to-face with Canadians.
Up until 2012, the year of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II had made 22 visits to Canada. That year, Canada Post issued a series of stamps (SC #2513-8) to mark the occasion. In total, two stamps and five mini-panes were released. Each mini-pane featured a different stamp-on-stamp design using some of the most popular Queen Elizabeth II stamps from history.
An official Diamond Jubilee Permanent stamp (SC #2518) was issued in booklets of 10 along with an official first-day cover cancelled in Ottawa. This domestic-rate stamp featured a cameo of Elizabeth II in her royal robes and tiara, waving from the window of a carriage.
In May 2012, Canada Post released a $2 stamp (SC #2540) that mirrored the design of an 1897 issue celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (SC #58), the only other Canadian monarch to reach the 60-year milestone. Engraved and printed in the same purple tone as the $2 Queen Victoria commemorative, the 2012 recreation features an image of a young Queen Elizabeth II taken early in her reign facing a more recent photograph of herself.
Lastly, in May 2013, Canada Post issued another Permanent stamp (SC #2644) to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.