Crete: Protecting French Trade

Protecting trade across the Mediterranean has been a common interest of imperial states for thousands of years. The Mediterranean has supported direct trade routes between Europe, Middle East and Africa as well as opening routes to Asia and the Far East. This continuing well into the 20th century and can be evidenced through the establishment of remote Post Offices by imperial powers such as Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Postal stamps issued by these countries are often identified by key type designs and overprints.

Following repeated uprisings against the Ottomans in Crete (the fifth largest of the Mediterranean islands) that threatened to destabilise the region, France, Britain, Italy and Russia garrisoned troops on the island in 1897. France established Post Offices in Crete in July of the same year at locations including Canea, Rethymnon, Candia, San Nicolo, Sitia and Hierapetra. Initially ‘Peace & Commerce’ stamps of France were used as well as stamps from French Post Offices in the Turkish Empire. In 1902, the French ‘Blanc, Mouchon & Merson’ stamps were issued with ‘CRETE’ clearly marked on the key type design. The issue comprised 15 stamps in total (5 stamps of each design), all denominated in French currency from 1c to 5f.

1902 4c Blanc key type design Crete stamp
1902 4c Blanc key type design
1902 25c Mouchon key type design Crete stamp
1902 25c Mouchon key type design

In 1903, a five stamp issue was released comprising just two of the designs (one Mouchon and four of the Merson design). These were surcharged with local currency from 1 to 20 piastres reflecting the continued regional influence of the Ottoman Empire. For the collector, the higher values in the 1903 issue are relatively rare.

1903 25c Mouchon key type design surcharged 1pi Crete stamp
1903 25c Mouchon key type design surcharged 1pi

Crete, an island to the south of mainland Greece and east of Turkey, proved a valuable asset to numerous empires including Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman. Crete has always had strong ties with mainland Europe and in December 1913 became an administrative state within Greece and adopted the same postal services as the Greek mainland. The French Post Offices in Crete were gradually closed down between 1899 and 1914.

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

Published by billmandsphilatelycom

William (Bill) Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 60 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the British Commonwealth including most notably, the issues from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, he also has specialist interest in the postal history of Egypt, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Sarawak, Sudan and the Italian States as well as a fine collection of overprints.

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