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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Mark Sweney

Royal Mail reveals image of King Charles to be used on stamps

King Charles III 1st class stamp
The portrait style facing to the left and background colours are the same as on the stamps featuring the late queen. Photograph: The Postal Museum

The image of King Charles III that will be used on first and second class stamps has been revealed, with Royal Mail expected to make them available for the public to buy from 4 April.

The image depicts the king in profile facing to the left, known as a definitive stamp, using an adaptation of the portrait to be used on new UK coins in a tradition dating back to the creation of the Penny Black stamp for Queen Victoria in 1840.

The continuity also includes retaining the background colours of the stamps featuring Queen Elizabeth II: plum purple for first class, holly green for second class, marine turquoise for large first class and dark pine green for large second class.

The new first class stamp featuring King Charles
The new first class stamp featuring King Charles. Photograph: The Postal Museum

“The guidance we got from His Majesty was more about continuity and not doing anything too different to what had gone before,” said Royal Mail’s director of external affairs and policy, David Gold.

“There is no embellishment at all, no crown, just simply the face of the human being, 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.”

Royal Mail said that in an effort to “minimise the environmental and financial impact” of the change in monarch – around 8bn letters are delivered in the UK each year – retailers will exhaust their stocks of stamps featuring the late queen before selling the new ones.

The King Charles first class stamp
The King Charles first class stamp. Photograph: The Postal Museum

“The King gave very clear directions – he didn’t want anything to be pulped, he didn’t want things being shredded, he didn’t want stock being thrown away,” said Gold.

Fans of the monarchy and philatelists can register their interest from Wednesday, but the new stamps will not go on sale to the general public until 4 April.

Charles is the seventh monarch to appear on a definitive stamp, sometimes referred to as an “everyday” stamp, which only feature the monarch’s head and value of the stamp on a plain-coloured background.

“Ever since the Penny Black was issued in the reign of Queen Victoria, British stamps have carried the image of the reigning monarch,” Royal Mail’s chief executive, Simon Thompson, said.

“Uniquely, British stamps do not have the country of origin printed on them as the image of the monarch is sufficient. The definitive stamp has become a recognisable symbol of each reign.”

The image on the stamp is a “digitally re-lit” version of the portrait created by the British artist Martin Jennings for the Royal Mint to use on the front of a new range of UK coins.

The Bank of England revealed designs for banknotes featuring the king in December which are planned to enter general circulation by mid-2024. The king’s portrait will appear on existing designs of all four of its polymer bank notes in circulation – £5, £10, £20 and £50 – while notes featuring the late queen will continue to be legal tender.

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