ROYAL MANIA? A look back at Royals on postcards as William & Kate make history

People love souvenirs, and the British have always been eager to purchase everything sellers offered featuring their royals. Tourists, too, buy royalty postcards, so it seems probable that William and Kate cards are already on the racks.

According to information on the back, 2,650 guests attended the royal wedding, 700,000 lined the processional route, and 600 million watched on television. Photo Precision Limited published the postcard.

The British royals are unique in their ability to grab headlines and generate excitement, especially for big events like births, anniversaries, coronations, birthdays, and above all, weddings. When an heir to the throne marries, it’s superstar time. Prince William, Charles and Diana’s handsome son, will marry his long-time girlfriend, Kate Middleton, on Friday in Westminster Abbey. Every detail of the event from her dress to the problem of the black sheep uncle has been rehashed in the media over and over and over again.

This postcard was issued in celebration of the Royal Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, July 29, 1981.

Here’s a prediction: There will be postcards. Every royal since Victoria’s son, Edward VII (1901-1910), has been duly commemorated by postcard publishers, most notably Raphael Tuck and Sons until their plant was destroyed in 1940.

People love souvenirs, and the British have always been eager to purchase everything sellers offered featuring their royals. Tourists, too, buy royalty postcards, so it seems probable that William and Kate cards are already on the racks.

The press and the people had a long love affair with Princess Diana. Postcards issued for her wedding include a pair of all silver and another all gold commemorative cards along with countless pictures of the couple. In fact, there are so many of her blue outfit, it’s a shame she didn’t change between shots.

Prince Charles was in no hurry to take a bride, so there’s a fairly long time span between his marriage in 1981 and his parents’ in 1947.

In the austere days after World War II, the wedding of Elizabeth and Phillip was modest compared to the spectacle of their son’s, but the young princess won the hearts of the nation by pitching in to help during the war. The public must have enjoyed seeing the man she was marrying on a nice set of photo postcards issued by Valentine’s, a noteworthy British publisher.

If there were any postcards made for the marriage of Edward VIII and his American wife, the woman he renounced the throne for, I haven’t seen them. The coronation of his brother, George VI, subject of the popular new film, “The King’s Speech,” was commemorated by a nice photographic postcard shown here.

As every postcard collector knows, the postcard craze began in the early 1900’s and declined by the beginning of World War I. During the peak years, both the quantity and quality of postcards was astonishing. George V sat on the British throne from 1910 to 1936, so postcards from his reign aren’t particularly scarce. Some, though, are very attractive, especially lithographed cards made in Germany, where most of Tuck’s (and the world’s) were printed. It was George V who changed the name of the royal family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor, reacting to the German xenophobia of the First World War.

For those who are interested in the whole history of British royalty, it’s possible to see portraits of all the kings and queens. Tuck produced three series of 12 cards each, NO. 614, 615, and 616, plus one card in 617. These cards are pretty pricey if they can be found in complete sets, but countless world-famous artists also painted the royals. Art reproductions from museums are relatively inexpensive, and some, especially those of the Tudors with their elaborate clothing, are hugely entertaining.

The days when Henry VIII could say “off with her head” and have it happen are long gone, but interest in the British royals hasn’t diminished.  Today there are so many ways to get a look at Prince William and Kate, postcards are almost an afterthought, albeit one many will appreciate if the publishers come through the way they did with the Charles and Diana wedding.

Barbara Andrews has contributed postcard articles to Antique Trader for more than 35 years. She’s an author of women’s fiction and postcards.

More from Antique Trader and Barbara Andrews

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More Images:

Valentine's published a series of photo postcards showing the new royal couple, Elizabeth and Phillip.
Edward VII's long suffering queen, Alexandra, had to put up with his many mistresses. She was known for wearing chokers of pearls on her long, slender nick. H. Garner published this bas-relief photo card of the queen (padding between layers of paper give her face depth). It's tinted and embellished with tinsel and tiny "gems," showing just how much could be done to one postcard.
Victoria pretty much missed the postcard craze, but it's still possible to find her presence on quite a few cards. For example, her statue can be found all over the empire. Here an early wax tableau by Madame Tussaud shows the young future queen hearing the announcement of her accession to the throne.
The link with commonwealth nations is shown on "The Canadian Arch in Whitehall, Erected by the Government of Canada in Honour of the Coronation of His Majesty King Edward VII." Bertie was by all accounts a popular king in spite of his life as a playboy during his long wait to ascend to the throne.
George VI wasn't in line for the throne when he married his Elizabeth, so the event didn't attract much attention from postcard publishers. His coronation was a different matter, coming as it did after his brother's dramatic resignation.

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