World Stamps

By Denise McCarty

Britain issued eight stamps Oct. 14 honoring prime ministers

October 08, 2014 02:20 PM

  • Eight British prime ministers will be commemorated on stamps to be issued Oct. 14. The four first-class stamps picture Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson, Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill. The 97-penny stamps show William Ewart Gladstone, Robert Peel, Charles Grey and William Pitt the Younger.

Eight of Great Britain’s 53 prime ministers are commemorated on stamps issued Oct. 14 by Royal Mail.

The designs for the stamps were revealed Aug. 12, as reported in the Sept. 1 Linn’s, page 13.

In announcing the stamps, Royal Mail said: “It is around 200 years ago that the term ‘Prime Minister’ was first used in relation to the UK Government, when William Pitt the Younger who, while out of office, stated that a lead Minister was needed to control the finances.

“The office of Prime Minister’s origins lie in the early 18th century. Robert Walpole, the longest serving Prime Minister (1721–1742), is generally regarded as being the first to hold the post, although that description was not official at the time.”

Both Pitt and Peel are commemorated on 97-penny stamps in the Prime Minister set. The 97p denomination pays the airmail rate to European countries.

Pitt served as prime minister from 1783-1801, taking office while only 24, and then again from 1804-06. While in office, he reformed the government of India, passed the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, and introduced Great Britain’s first income tax.

John Hoppner painted the portrait of Pitt that is shown on the stamp.

Peel, who served as prime minister in 1834-35 and 1841-46, reintroduced the income tax. He also passed the Factory Act of 1844, which improved working conditions for women and children, and two years later, the Importation Act, which removed trade barriers on imported corn.

While serving as home secretary before becoming prime minister, Peel established the Metropolitan Police, which are nicknamed “bobbies.”

The other two 97p stamps honor Charles Grey and William Gladstone.

Among the major events during Grey’s administration of 1830 to 1834 was the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire in 1833 and the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 that laid the foundations for the modern electoral system.

Grey also is remembered for a popular type of tea. The British government website,, said: “One of his other legacies is the blend of tea known as Earl Grey. He reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic present, of tea that was flavoured with bergamot oil. It became so popular that he asked British tea merchants to recreate it.”

Gladstone’s 60-year political career included serving as prime minister four terms, 1868-74, 1880-85, 1886 and 1892-94. He reformed the electorate, the tax system and primary education.

Gladstone also was commemorated on a nondenominated first-class stamp in the 2009 Eminent Britons set (Scott 2695).

Four 20th-century prime ministers, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher, are commemorated on first-class stamps. The current first-class rate is 62p.

As prime minister between 1940-45, Churchill led Great Britain to victory in World War II. While serving a second time between 1952-55, he received the Nobel Prize in literature “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Previous stamps from Great Britain commemorate Churchill’s birth and death.

Churchill died Jan. 24, 1965, and Royal Mail issued two stamps July 8 of that year in remembrance (Scott 420-421). His 100th birth anniversary is celebrated on four stamps issued Oct. 4, 1974 (Scott 728-731).

In addition, a portrait of Churchill by Walter Sickert is included on a nondenominated first-class stamp in the July 18, 2006, National Portrait Gallery 150th Anniversary set (Scott 2384), and he is pictured reviewing troops on a stamp in the May 13, 2010, Britain In World War II issue (2795).

Churchill has been pictured twice on United States stamps. He is shown with President Franklin Roosevelt on a stamp issued Sept. 3, 1991, in a WWII commemorative series (Scott 2559d). A 1965 memorial stamp is based on Yousuf Karsh’s famous photograph of the prime minister (1264).

Britain’s latest Churchill stamp also shows the Karsh photograph.

Another Karsh photograph is the basis of the new British stamp honoring Attlee, prime minister from 1945-51. His government founded the National Health Service, established social security and nationalized approximately one-fifth of the British economy.

Wilson, prime minister from 1964-1970 and again from 1974-76, abolished capital punishment and passed reforms of race relations and sexual equality.

Thatcher, nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” was Great Britain’s first and so far only female prime minister. She was in office from 1979-90, making her the longest running primer minister of the modern era.

The September issue of the British Philatelic Bulletin said “... her political brand of free markets, strong defence policies and the small state became famous as Thatcherism.”

The stamp pictures a photograph taken by Gerald Penny.

The firm Together Design designed the stamps. They are square, 35 milliemters by 35mm, and perforated gauge 14.5.

International Security Printers of England printed the stamps in two sheets of 48 (one sheet for the four se-tenant first-class stamps, and another sheet for the four 97p stamps), sold in panes of 24 at most postal outlets.

Products offered in conjunction with the Prime Ministers stamps include a first-day cover; eight postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps; and a presentation pack written by Robert Saunders, lecturer in modern British history at Queen Mary University in London.

Royal Mail’s shop on the Internet is located at Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.

Royal Mail’s two agencies in the United States are Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557; and the British Stamp Service in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, WY 82008.