I didn't know that

Came across a mention in the London Philatelic Journal of 1906 about the London International Philatelic Exhibition of the same year:

H.R.H. PRINCE EDWARD OF WALES (Liberia).—A fine collection of unused
stamps, mostly in pairs, practically complete from the first perforated issue. All these
stamps are worthy of attention through their superb condition, and nearly all have the
full original gum.

He was President of the Royal Philatelic Society until he became king in 1910

Wonder what happened to his stamps!


  • I remember reading about that and several other noted Liberian exhibitions. I am betting we all probably have some of those stamps in our collections.
  • Travis,
    I'm slowly going through the old copies of the Journal which are now available online. It;s surprising how often Liberia issues crop up
  • I was curious about this one, not least because the Prince of Wales in 1906 (normally the immediate heir to the throne) was the future George V, not an Edward at all. So:
    • Who are we talking about? and
    • What happened to those Liberian stamps?

    I have been helped today by the book “The Queen’s Stamps: The Authorised History of the Royal Philatelic Collection” by Nicholas Courtney (Methuen Publishing Ltd, London, 2004), although the book has two demerits – the complete absence of any index at the back, and at the front an encomium on Buckingham Palace headed paper, signed by Prince Andrew.

    Trying to be reasonably brief …
    Among Queen Victoria’s children (the generation of Edward VII), the stamp enthusiast was Edward’s younger brother Prince Alfred. On April 8th 1856, the young princes visited the De La Rue Manufactory and were given two panes of six pence lilac, the first recorded stamps to enter the Royal Philatelic Collection. Alfred is acknowledged as the founder of the Collection. In 1890, Alfred opened and exhibited at the Jubilee Philatelic Exhibition and exhibited and was also elected that year first Honorary President of The Philatelic Society, London.

    Alfred (as Duke of Edinburgh) collected almost exclusively foreign issues, reflecting his naval service (strong on Malta, Greece and Ionian Islands, Cyprus and Gibraltar; around the Baltic also Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Heligoland, even Iceland; the Balkans; the West Indies with Cuba, Puerto Rico, Fernando Po, and Tristan da Cunha). “By 1900, after years of extravagant living, his finances became so strained that he was forced to sell his beloved stamp collection to his brother, for an undisclosed sum. The Prince of Wales [the future Edward VII] promptly passed it on, in its entirety, to his son, Prince George [the future George V] ... Shortly after he had disposed of his collection, the Duke [i.e. Alfred] died.”

    Edward VII himself was never interested in stamps (apart from the issues with his own face on them) but was always keen to promote his son’s involvement.

    So as Duke of York (from 1892) and Prince of Wales (following Edward VII’s accession in 1901), the future George V (from 1910) was the next-generation stamp enthusiast. It does not help us that Harold Nicholson, George V’s official biographer, was brought to incandescence by philately, and not in a good way: “it enrages me”, he wrote, “that there are people in the world who are prepared to pay … such immense sums for tiny, unusable, frail, ugly and wholly meaningless objects …”, and said of George V that, “For seventeen years, he did nothing at all but kill animals and stick in stamps.” [Harold Nicholson, “Diaries and Letters about King George V”, London, 1948 pp181-182 and p78].

    George as the Prince of Wales was unable to open the International Philatelic Exhibition on May 23rd 1906 (at the Horticultural Hall, in Vincent Square, Westminster), due to a lunch engagement with the Elder Brethren of Trinity House (a very short walk from my home). The exhibition was opened instead by Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford (who won the Championship Cup for his Great Britain entry, and whose Crawford Philatelic Library now forms part of The British Library, and has been helpful to me).

    George noted, “I showed my Mauritius, Hong Kong & King’s Head English stamps”, and he won silver and bronze medals. Courtney writes: “The covertly competitive side of his nature, which surfaced when he applied himself to any of his chosen pastimes, drove the Prince of Wales to match his collection of stamps against the world’s finest. His two silver medals and the bronze must have delighted him”. The Mauritius exhibit, however, was something of a debacle (Courtney, pp95-96). “In that, the Prince was one of ‘that larger class of collectors who have to rely rather upon philatelic knowledge and patient collecting, than upon their financial powers of acquisition’.” [The London Philatelist vol XV, page 121, 1906]

    The Liberian exhibit was not submitted by “the” Prince of Wales (George), but by his 11-year-old eldest son, briefly (in 1936) the future Edward VIII. I see that while The London Philatelist’s reports and listings consistently style George (unnamed) “H.R.H. [His Royal Highness] The Prince of Wales, K.G. [Knight of the Garter]”, it is Edward his son who is styled, “H.R.H. Prince Edward of Wales”, presumably as heir presumptive – not a style used today. His official investiture as Prince of Wales was in 1911, after his father’s coronation. (An asterisk indicates that the Liberian exhibit was not entered into competition).

    Courtney lays out evidence that “The facts do not bear out the persistent rumour that Edward VIII wanted to sell the Collection at the time of his Accession” (page 246). Edward’s younger brother “Bertie”, who had to step in as George VI, was interested in the Collection, but not as a hands-on philatelist like his father.

    So what happened to those Liberian stamps?
    From Courtney [with my emphases]: “Although [the future George V] frequently showed parts of his collection in exhibitions and at meetings of the now Royal Philatelic Society, London, he was never again to exhibit competitively … After the International Exhibition of 1906, the Prince of Wales decided to drop the foreign issues within his collection to concentrate on Great Britain and her Empire … and at his death, he passed on a collection of Great Britain, the Dominions and Colonial territories that is virtually complete in every issue. Certainly it will never be rivalled in content, or uniqueness. The sale of all his foreign stamps, of which there is no record, must have gone a long way in financing the future acquisitions in his chosen field. Perhaps his decision to concentrate on Great Britain and the Empire might have been influenced by the thought that, one day, his own head would grace their stamps.”

    So Travis is probably on the money when he says, “I am betting we all probably have some of those stamps in our collections”. But we do not know. They are at least no longer in the possession of H.M. the Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Martin

    I think you're right about this referring to the future Edward VIII

    Those around in 1906 would have been:

    - King Edward VII (died in 1910)
    - his second eldest son George Frederick Ernest Albert (born 1865) who was Prince of Wales in 1906 (and would become King George V in 1910)
    - the eldest son of the above George - Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David born 1894 (who would become Edward VIII in 1936)
    - the second eldest son of the above George Albert Frederick Arthur George born 1895 (who would become George VI in 1936)

    Only the King and the future Edward VIII have "Edward" as one of their names.
    The future Edward VIII would have been 12 at the time.

    Cockrill comments (Booklet #25 p 47) "... the young Prince, who was only 12 years old at the time, and no doubt King George V encouraged his eldest son to enter this ... Exhibition as he [King George V] was its patron"

    Cockrill also mentions that he made enquiries into the Duke of Windsor's collection (as Edward VIII was known after his abdication) and suggest that some of his collection was sold in Paris at the end of WW2 although he also adds that he has no recollection of early pairs coming on to the market.

    Quite why Edward would be referred to as Prince Edward of Wales when he was not actually Prince of Wales at this time is unclear. However, his father had become Prince of Wales in 1906 so maybe this was the media's way of helping people understand where Edward fitted into the chain. His father would be George Prince of Wales so he was Prince Edward of Wales.

    Roll on the Republic!
  • Mik –

    Well done.

    I was doing a bit more reading today that closes some loops here:
    In “Chats on Postage Stamps”, Fred J. Melville, T. Fisher Unwin, London (1911)
    Chapter X (“Royal and National Collections”), page 305:
    “King George V. probably owes some of his early enthusiasm for stamps to his uncle, the late Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha [so that’s Prince Alfred]. As Duke of Edinburgh, the latter had long been a collector before the fact was made publicly known by his cordial support of the London Philatelic Exhibition of 1890, which he formally opened. At the lunch which followed the ceremony, he said:- ‘To-day Prince George of Wales [so that’s the future George V] starts – nay, probably has started – from Chatham in the Thrush, to the command of which he has been appointed. I am sure you will join me in wishing him a prosperous and pleasant cruise. He is also a stamp collector, and I hope that he will return with a goodly number of additions from North America and the West Indies. I am a collector, too, and I have been only too glad to contribute specimens to this fine exhibition.’ … In the same year, H.R.H. became Hon. President of the London Philatelic Society.”
    “It will be seen from the wide field covered by his exhibits that the philatelic inclinations of the late Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha were broadly catholic. His royal nephew, King George, has limited his collecting – though not his interest – to stamps of the British Empire.”
    • So this all ties up with what I wrote above … and the future George V is referred to by his uncle in exactly the same way (“Prince George of Wales”) at the point when George’s father (the future Edward VII) was the Prince of Wales.
    • Clearly the distinction between “The Prince of Wales” [father] versus “Prince [insert name here] of Wales” [son] was standard and understood in both generations.
    • Incidentally, this book offers a list (page 302) a list of auctions that includes “1898, H. L. Hayman, General, £4,000”, comparing nicely with “1904, A titled collector, Selection of great rarities, £4,700”.

    In “Paper Chase: the amenities of stamp collecting”, Alvin F. Harlow, Henry Holt and Company, New York (1940), pages 138-139:
    • P138-139. “Mr Phillips [Charles J. Phillips, head of Stanley Gibbons, and chief purveyor to the King] recalls that the Prince of Wales, now the Duke of Windsor, [so this is talking about Edward VIII] when a boy in his early teens, frequently bought stamps out of his pocket allowance, but once gloomily remarked that he didn’t believe he would ever get anywhere with his collecting, because the ‘Old Man’ picked up everything good that came along.”
    • Also, “Little Princess Margaret Rose is carrying on the philatelic traditions of the family.” [… presumably at the age of 9!]
  • Interesting that in the Victorian/Edwardian heyday of stamp collecting even the royals got involved

    Maybe LPS should apply for the "By Royal Appointment" logo given the royal connections - although that might not sit well with our US colleagues given 1776!
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