Tudor Penny Post

The stamps fo Queen Victoria may have been the world’s first adhesive stamps but it’s not often realised that the Tudor monarchs came up with the first postage stamps in the reign of Henry VII (crowned in 1485 and died in 1509).  There were further issues for Henry VIII; Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth.

They were all printed on thin parchment in sheets of 24.  One would expect all sheets to be imperforate of course as the perforating machine wasn’t patented until 1848 but the sheets are known both perforate and imperforate so clearly the technology was known in the 15th century if not earlier.

The Henry VII sheet was printed by William Caxton at Westminster, London.  All the subsequent issues were printed by Messrs Wynkyn de Worde at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London after he had taken over Caxton’s workshop in 1495.

Each stamp was priced one penny or a groat for a row or a Florin for the sheet.  A legend at each side of the sheet gives the instruction “Place ye label above ye addresse & towards ye ryghte of ye lettrre.  Applye ye small mixture of cowe dunge & syrruppe to back of ye label and affyxe”

Henry VII Henry VIII Edward VI Mary Elizabeth

Further issues were produced for the “Matrimonial Cause”.  This was a sheet of 8 showing Henry VIII and his 6 wives.  The values for the wives reflect the order of marriage so are 1/- to 6/- with the two Henry stamps being valued at one sovereign each – so a very high value set for the time.  The sheet is gummed with gum arabic and underprinted with H VIII R and the rose of the House of Lancaster.  In Victorian times the design was reused for revenue stamps used in divorce cases.  The wording was unchanged but the busts of Henry and his wives was replaced by Victoria’s head

HenryVIIIsheetO HenryVIIIsheetR

(25) £1 Ultramarine (1866)

There is also a sheetlet of 4 which show, somewhat gorily, the beheaded necks of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.  This is underprinted with what appears to be the executioner from Wonderland.  The copy studied has this underprint inverted.  This issue also exists as an imperforate proof in black underprinted with a clearer executioner.

BeheadedO BeheadedR

BeheadedProofO BeheadedProofR

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