The door of each post box carries the Royal Cipher of the reigning Monarch from the year of its construction, and unlike the British currency, does not get replaced when the Monarch dies. Consequently there are thousands of examples scattered throughout the British Isles and Commonwealth; including overseas territories, former ‘Mandates’ like Palestine, and even countries untouched by Empire that nominated to have their postal services run by the Royal Mail, such as Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Dubai.
Thus far, there have been six Monarchs to have been inscribed on the boxes:
- Victoria (1837 - 1901)
- Edward VII (1901 - 1910)
- George V (1910 - 1936)
- Edward VIII (1936)
- George VI (1936 - 1952)
- Elizabeth II (1952 - present day)
On a recent visit by my girlfriend from Toronto, Canada, we noticed the Royal Cipher’s and were curious to learn if there might be any Edward VIII examples, given his notoriously short and uncrowned reign. A quick Google revealed that 271 post boxes were made bearing the ‘EVIIIR’ cypher, of which only 130 remained; after a short tube journey to East Finchley in North London we found one such example.
What’s happened to those post box that don’t fall under British Authority any more, those that do, and even some that never did!?
- Ireland: Following independence from Britain in 1922 red post boxes were painted green, with older post boxes still bearing royal ciphers.
- Hong Kong: Post independence in 1997, all red post boxes were painted green but still carry the Cipher of the Reigning Monarch.
- Jerusalem, Israel: Still in use and retaining their distinctive red colour, but the Royal Cipher’s were removed following independence from Britain in 1948, in the territory which was then known as the ‘Mandatory Palestine.’
- Cyprus: Post Boxes were painted yellow after independence from Britain in 1960 and are still in use, retaining the Royal Cipher.
- Gibraltar: The overseas territory stays faithful to the red colour scheme, with the Royal Cipher and other details emphasised in black.
- Channel Islands: Just north of France in the English Channel, the British Crown Dependencies post boxes are identical to the mainland but painted blue.
- Lisbon, Portugal: Portugal, never under British influence but in a centuries old alliance, offers boxes on the streets of Lisbon containing no cipher, but they are the same design and colour.
Closer to home, two of my favourites, illustrate that there are some interesting curios still around:
- The Post Box that’s also a Phone Box (!) in Cheshire, England:
- The ‘Father and Daughter’ (George VI and Elizabeth II) post boxes in Bembridge, Isle of Wight, England.
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David Harding is a 25 year old who was born and raised in South West London, now living and working there. When he was younger, his older brother moved to Australia sparking an enduring fascination with the culture, kinship, and common language of the English Speaking People's all over the world.