Barbados: Tale of Two Kings

Barbados, the most easterly island of the Caribbean group, is argued to have first been visited in the early 16th century by the Portuguese who named it ‘Los Barbados’ after its bearded fig trees. It was claimed in the name of King James I in 1625 by the captain of an English trading ship. It was colonised two years later when 80 English settlers landed. By then, King Charles I (son of James I) had ascended to the throne. The colony remained relatively untouched by the Franco-British wars that pestered the region in the 18th century and the colony became prosperous on crop exports such as sugar cane, cotton, coconuts and the production of rum.

Regular mail services between Barbados and England were established by a mailpacket agency in the capital, Bridgetown, early in the 18th century. The British handled overseas mail until the Barbados Post Office was established in 1858 and the first Barbados adhesive stamps were issued in 1852.

As the tercentenary of the colonisation of Barbados approached, it was proposed that a commemorative issue be released to mark the event in the islands history. Subsequently, the issue was significantly scaled back and just one stamp of 1d denomination was issued in February 1927. A design competition was launched and 49 essays were submitted. A local Barbadian, Miss H E Cox, won the competition with a design depicting portraits of both King Charles I and the present King George V, emphasising the historical placeholders. The two facing portraits appear in medallions either side of a coconut palm grove and the elaborate border depicts acanthus leaves.

The stamp was printed by the London printers, Bradbury Wilkinson, and in accordance with Universal Postal Union rules, the 1d stamp be printed in red – although colour variations from carmine to deep carmine can be found. The stamp was printed on Multiple Script CA watermarked paper and a perforation gauge of 12½, although 12 x 12½ varieties are also available. More than 400 stamps, overprinted ‘Specimen’, were sent to the Universal Postal Union and a further 600 retained for delegates of the Postal Union Congress in London 1929.

To view postal issues of Barbados, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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