British Virgin Islands: Restoration of Legislative Council

The featured postage stamp is one of a set of four issued in 1951 to commemorate the restoration of the Legislative Council of the British Virgin Islands – an event that had taken place as a result of the re-introduction of democracy in 1950.

The British Virgin Islands are a British Overseas Territory (self-governing with the UK retaining responsibility for defence and foreign relations) in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. Together with the US Virgin Islands, they form part of the Virgin Islands archipelago located in the Leeward Islands. The islands were named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after the legend of Saint Ursula and comprise more than 50 islands of which 16 are inhabited including Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke.

The political history of the British Virgin Islands can be roughly divided into two eras: the British colonial legislatures of the 18th and 19th centuries and the modern democratic legislature of 1950. The colonial legislatures ended in 1871 upon the creation of a single federal colony for the Leeward Islands under which the British Virgin Islands were denied a seat at the assembly – noting that the islands ‘had nothing of any real importance … to legislate about’. The 1950 Constitution Act introduced democracy to the British Virgin Islands with elections for four seats to a Legislative Council. In 2007, constitutional reforms led to the creation of the House of Assembly made up of 13 elected members, the Speaker and the Attorney General.

The four stamps were issued on 2 April 1951 to commemorate the restoration of the Legislative Council and were denominated 6c, 12c, 24c and $1.20 British West Indies Dollars. The stamps were printed on paper with Multiple Script CA watermark, 14½ x 14 perforation and all featured the same image of the islands and portrait of King George VI. Today, the executive authority in the British Virgin Islands remains vested in the UK monarch, King Charles III, and is exercised on his behalf by the Governor who is appointed by the King.

In 1975, four commemorative stamps were issued on the 25th anniversary of the restoration including images of St. George’s parish School (the first meeting place of the Legislative Council in 1950), the new Legislative Council building, the mace and gavel of the Legislative Council, and the commemorative scroll. The 50th anniversary of the restoration was commemorated with the issue of seven stamps in 2000, featuring the portraits of leading members of the Legislative Council.

To view postal issues of British Virgin Islands, 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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