Australia's Abandoned Royal Visit Stamps of 1949 and 1952
Written by Richard Breckon   
Tuesday, 10 August 2004

The first visit to Australia by a reigning monarch was scheduled to take place in 1949. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were to tour, but their visit was cancelled because of the King’s ill health. The same royal party were to visit in 1952, but again the state of the King’s health caused the visit to be abandoned. Next, a visit by Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh was planned for 1952, but this did not proceed because of the King’s death. For each proposed royal visit, the Post Office planned to issue stamps and although none were actually printed, steel dies of the never-issued stamps were engraved and these have survived.

The stamps planned for the 1949 royal visit involved three denominations:- two and half pence (21/2d) - letter postage in Australia and to British Commonwealth countries; three and half pence (31/2d) - letter postage to foreign countries; and one shilling and six pence (1s.6d) - air mail postage to the United Kingdom and most other countries. The portraits to be featured on the stamps were the King, Queen and Princess Margaret (21/2d), Princess Margaret (31/2d) and the King and Queen (1s.6d).

The Post Office’s first step was to obtain photographs from Buckingham Palace to serve as the basis of the engraved stamp portraits. Once the stamp designs had been finalised they were transmitted photographically by cable service to London. Shortly afterwards, a telegram from the King’s Private Secretary advised that the King had approved the Royal Visit stamp designs.

The engraving of the stamp dies could then proceed, commencing with the 31/2d Princess Margaret stamp and followed by the 1/6d value. Before the 21/2d stamp die could be engraved, it was learned that the Royal Visit would not take place and all work on the stamps ceased.

For the 1952 Royal Visit, five stamps were proposed: three stamps in 31/2d values to feature King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and 71/2d and 1s.6d stamps to depict the King and Queen. The postal functions of the stamps were the same as in 1949, except that two increases in postal charges had occurred in the meantime. Following the King’s major surgery in October 1951, it was clear that he could not visit Australia and the projected stamps were abandoned, having reached the stage where the dies of the 31/2d and 1s.6d stamps had been engraved.

For the next Royal Visit stamp issue, photographs of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were obtained. Three denominations were proposed: – a 31/2d stamp depicting the Princess, and 71/2d and 1s.6d stamps featuring both the Princess and the Duke. All the stamp dies were engraved and proofs approved, after which the printing plates were manufactured.

Just before the stamps were due to be printed, King George VI died. Princess Elizabeth had reached Kenya on her journey to Australia. She had to return to London and a third, projected royal visit to Australia was cancelled. It was not until the 1954 visit by Queen Elizabeth II that a Royal Visit stamp issue proceeded as planned.The stamps planned for the 1949 royal visit involved three denominations:- two and half pence (21/2d) - letter postage in Australia and to British Commonwealth countries; three and half pence (31/2d) - letter postage to foreign countries; and one shilling and six pence (1s.6d) - air mail postage to the United Kingdom and most other countries. The portraits to be featured on the stamps were the King, Queen and Princess Margaret (21/2d), Princess Margaret (31/2d) and the King and Queen (1s.6d).

The Post Office’s first step was to obtain photographs from Buckingham Palace to serve as the basis of the engraved stamp portraits. Once the stamp designs had been finalised they were transmitted photographically by cable service to London. Shortly afterwards, a telegram from the King’s Private Secretary advised that the King had approved the Royal Visit stamp designs.

The engraving of the stamp dies could then proceed, commencing with the 31/2d Princess Margaret stamp and followed by the 1/6d value. Before the 21/2d stamp die could be engraved, it was learned that the Royal Visit would not take place and all work on the stamps ceased.

For the 1952 Royal Visit, five stamps were proposed: three stamps in 31/2d values to feature King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and 71/2d and 1s.6d stamps to depict the King and Queen. The postal functions of the stamps were the same as in 1949, except that two increases in postal charges had occurred in the meantime. Following the King’s major surgery in October 1951, it was clear that he could not visit Australia and the projected stamps were abandoned, having reached the stage where the dies of the 31/2d and 1s.6d stamps had been engraved.

For the next Royal Visit stamp issue, photographs of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were obtained. Three denominations were proposed: – a 31/2d stamp depicting the Princess, and 71/2d and 1s.6d stamps featuring both the Princess and the Duke. All the stamp dies were engraved and proofs approved, after which the printing plates were manufactured.

Just before the stamps were due to be printed, King George VI died. Princess Elizabeth had reached Kenya on her journey to Australia. She had to return to London and a third, projected royal visit to Australia was cancelled. It was not until the 1954 visit by Queen Elizabeth II that a Royal Visit stamp issue proceeded as planned.