When Queen Victoria died on January 22nd 1901, discussions on the stamps for the new reign began immediately. The possibility of making use of the existing designs of the 1887-1900 “Jubilee” issue and 1881 1d lilac was explored and on February 11th De La Rue submitted two alternative groups of essays from the ½d to 1s: Series A which showed a three-quarter face of KEVII and series B which showed a quarter face, both with him wearing military uniform. These were paste-ups using the frames of the issued Jubilees and 1d lilac stamps and pasting in the central vignette showing KEVII’s profile.
On 16th March however, the King’s private secretary Sir Francis Knollys wrote to the Post Office expressing the King’s disproval of series A and B and suggesting a simpler profile with no uniform or orders, and that the profile head produced by Austrian artist Emil Fuchs should be used, which had already been sent to Somerset House.
Fuchs was commissioned by the King to design the ½d, 1d, 2½d and 6d values whilst the Inland Revenue retained control of the other values. The inclusion of the Crown was stipulated for all values so the “Jubilee” frames had to be altered but the duty tablets could be kept.
Lot 10003 – 1901 Small head die proof in black on glazed card, signed by the designer Emil Fuchs
Fuchs’ designs for the ½d, 1d and 6d values were the same with the value tablet changed for each value, but the 2½d used a different style for the duty tablet. This value was used for the international letter rate and UPU regulations required that the colour be blue. Previously the Queen Victoria 2½d was printed in purple on blue paper and was deemed adequate for the KEVII issue. However after 17’611 sheets were printed on blue paper the decision was taken to print the stamp in blue on white paper, and all sheets were destroyed except for only a few stamps.
In October 1902 essays were prepared at the request of the King who admired the recent issue of Transvaal with the thought of replacing the values designed by Fuchs. The essays were printed in several colours and comprised of the Transvaal medallion in an adapted wreath frame. However the King decided to retain the existing designs.
Early in 1909, for reasons of economy, the changing of all bi-coloured values to mono-coloured was being seriously considered. The diminished relevance of fiscal demands now allowed the use of singly fugitive inks in particular for the lower values; 1½d, 2d and 4d. On 19th March De La Rue submitted 28 examples of each of these values on different papers. The deep brown shade was chosen for the 1½d (although the combined die was never completed) and orange for the 4d.
It was decided that the 2d design would not be suitable for mono-colour and in 1910 a new design was prepared, which created the iconic 2d “Tyrian plum”. On 19th August 1909, De La Rue submitted three essays to the Post Office for the new 2d.
The chosen design was printed on perforated white wove paper with watermark Crown in 18 different colours and all appear to have been cut from the sheet resulting in varying degrees of trimmed perforations. Imperforate colour trials were also produced which may derive from later Somerset House trials. The colour Tyrian plum was chosen and over 100’000 sheets were printed from the plates and delivered to the Inland Revenue.
Its release was delayed until current stocks of the bi-coloured stamps were used up, but before that happened the King died on May 6th and it was decided not to proceed with the issue and the whole stock was destroyed although some examples managed to escape. According to Matthew Healey’s article in the GB Journal in 2019 (see reference below), only 17 mint examples are so far recorded and one example on an envelope sent to the Prince of Wales, who a day later became King George V after Edward’s death.
References and Further Reading
“Chasing the 2d Tyrian Plum”, Matthew Healey, GB Journal vol.57 no.6 p.126-137
King Edward VII to King George V, edition XX, Stanley Gibbons