To Orwell Today,


Thanks for publishing my email and your response at ORWELL'S WALLINGTON ROYAL MAIL DELIVERY

To answer some of your questions:

Edward VIII (1894-1972) was ascended to the throne on the death of his father on 20 January 1936, and abdicated less than eleven months later on 11 December 1936. He precipitated the constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to the divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson (1896-1986) shortly after his ascension. As a result of his decision to abdicate Edward VIII was never crowned - he did not have a coronation. I don't know what that means in terms of his being recognised as Edward Rex, but I do know that because he had sparked the constitutional crisis a number of normal processes were suspended; for instance: no coins bearing his name were ever circulated, only a handful of coins bearing his portrait were struck for testing purposes.

Regarding postboxes, I was completely wrong. From the site EDWARD VIII POSTBOXES I discovered that there were, in fact, "271 letter boxes made (cast) during the short reign of Edward VIII. Of these, 161 were pillar boxes, 6 were wall boxes and the remaining 104 were Ludlow boxes for use at sub-post offices. All except 76 of the Ludlow boxes bore the cipher of Edward VIII."

It concludes that: "only about 130 letter boxes cast in 1936 still bear the cipher of Edward VIII, all being pillar boxes."

They go on to list the location of 57 of those boxes -- sadly none in Wallington! Here is a photo of one of them (this example is near Oxley in Wolverhampton):


From a different site I was able to discover that there were a large number of postboxes made with Queen Victoria's cipher, both as pillar boxes and wall boxes, dating from 1852. As Queen Victoria reigned for another 50 years there are liable to be a considerable number of VR boxes that have survived. Here is a photo of a VR cipher pillar box in Guernsey, reputed to be the oldest 'in use' box in the British Isles.


Concerning the initials behind the signature on your grandfather's document, I can only speculate that George was signing as George Rex Imperator (King and Emperor) and Edward was signing as Prince (of Wales). All British monarchs since 1877 (when the British crown assumed the administration of India) have been Rex Imperator or Regina Imperatrix -- but perhaps someone with a better understanding of these things can help further.

Peter Duby

Greetings Peter,

Thanks a million for the photo and the fascinating info that King Edward VIII postboxes DO exist -- 130 still standing of the original 271 cast. Thanks also for the photo of the oldest Queen Victoria postbox still in use.

It was interesting to learn, from a link at the bottom of the website you sent, that some of the King Edward postboxes were altered after his abdication, ie "the doors bearing his Insignia were replaced". That travesty must have been authorized by the government because no other organization would have the power to tamper with the Royal Mail.


Although there isn't an ER VIII postbox in Orwell's Wallington there is one in the Hertfordshire town of Enfield which may not be too far away -- I scanned it at the top of the page.

I appreciate your answering my question about the meaning of the initials RI and P after George's and Edward's signatures on my grandfather's OBE and the Instrument of Abdication, respectively.

Louis Bourassa OBE KingEdwardAbdicate

As you say, the P after Edward means PRINCE (of Wales, heir to the throne). And the RI after George and Edward means REX IMPERATOR which is Latin for KING EMPEROR (as in King of Great Britain, Dominions and Colonies and Emperor of India).

I don't think the fact that Edward was never officially crowned -- ie his coronation was scheduled for May 1937 -- affected him being recognized as EDWARD REX (cipher ER) because he signed his name as EDWARD RI and he wouldn't have done that if it wasn't proper.

Although no King Edward VIII coins were minted there were King Edward VIII postage stamps printed with his portrait:


Apparently, according to stamp-collectors, King Edward the 8th stamps are easily obtainable because millions of them were issued during his reign and people hoarded them after his abdication.

You say that King Edward precipitated a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to an American divorcee socialite but in fact it isn't against the Constitution for the King to marry whoever he wants to marry.

Edward never intended to shirk his duty and, powerless though he was to shake off Wallis Simpson (and that's another story) he never intended to abdicate -- that was illegally FORCED on him by the government and powers-that-be behind the throne (and THAT'S another story too).

For now suffice it to say that Edward called Prime Minister Baldwin to Buckingham Palace and told him to convey to the government that his marriage to Wallis Simpson could be "morganatic" meaning he would be King but his wife would not be Queen and their children would not be heirs to the throne. He asked for permission to go on radio to explain this to the people.

Baldwin pretended to agree with Edward's plan but behind his back he sabotaged it in speeches to the Cabinet, the House of Commons and his own radio address to the people, while at the same time getting the head of BBC to refuse airtime to the King.

Edward didn't realize, until after it was too late, that Baldwin's government -- and members of the opposition -- were put to shame by the King's plan to "do something for the people" and wanted him gone all along.

Two days after he signed the Instrument of Abdication, and the day after he gave his farewell address to the people on December 11, 1936, Edward wrote a telegram to Prime Minister Baldwin at 10 Downing Street in response to "a kind letter" he'd received from him and Mrs Baldwin and expressing his appreciation for their "great understanding at this difficult time":

KingEdDonaldson EdwardTelegramPage EdwardTelegramPage

The caption under the photo, from the book EDWARD VIII: THE ROAD TO ABDICATION reads: The friendly telegram that Edward sent to the Baldwins on his departure from England. It was only in later years that the Duke of Windsor came to believe in Baldwin's involvement in a 'plot' against him.

Notice that the signature is now just "Edward" with no initials after it -- he was no longer Prince or King.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

KingEdwardStory Edward Signatures

PPS - Since writing the above email exchange I've bought and read King Edward's 1951 autobiography A KING'S STORY: THE MEMOIRS OF THE DUKE OF WINDSOR, scanned above. On the front cover, under the dustjacket, King Edward's Coat of Arms is etched in gold above his three different signatures, first as Edward P (Prince); then as Edward RI (Rex Imperator); then as just plain Edward (although his title was "Duke" after the abdication). Later I'll excerpt the passages where King Edward describes how he chose the image for his postage stamps.

PS - I have a massive coffee-table book that chronicles 1,000 years of British Kings and Queens and it confirms your understanding of the origin and meaning of the letters "RI" after the monarch's name. I've scanned the pertinent passages below:

RoyalFamilyChronicle VictoriaReginaImperatrix VictoriaEmpire
Queen Victoria is empress of India
Bond with eastern empire cemented
1 January 1877

At a banquet held this evening at Windsor, Queen Victoria was toasted for the first time as "Empress of India", the title that she has coveted for some four years.... The Queen had been toying with a royal titles bill since the transfer of India to the crown in 1858, but it was only in 1871, when King William of Prussia became emperor of Germany, that she was spurred into action.... Although the bill did not get an easy ride through the Commons it was passed on 1 May last year. Now Victoria can proudly sign herself VR&I -- Victoria Regina et Imperatrix, Queen and Empress.


PPPS - I also ordered, and just received and watched on DVD, the 1965 film A KING'S STORY, described as "...The Duke and Duchess themselves tell the story.... More than just a documentary compilation, this prestige production is as emotionally involving as the finest motion picture. Narrated by Orson Welles, and including extensive interviews with the Duke of Windsor, it traces the Duke's life from childhood visits with his gread-grandmother Queen Victoria to his abdication.... capturing coronations, investitures, funerals, and other rarely seen footage...

King's abdication appeal blocked, BBC, Jan 30, 2003
King Edward VIII tried to make a last-minute broadcast to the British Empire to win public support for his proposed marriage to Wallis Simpson and avoid abdication. Papers revealed at the Public Record Office show the King's planned broadcast in December 1936 was a critical turning point in the abdication crisis, with the then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin rallying his government and the key members of the Empire against the monarch....

Edward VIII Postboxes (list of locations with photos)

Victorian postbox Guernsey (the oldest in British Isles)

British Post Depositaries (The British Pillar box, better known as the Post Box -- of which there are 115,000 in Britain -- is 150 years old. ...Those installed during the brief reign of Edward VIII had the doors bearing his Insignia replaced, although some do remain as a challenge for the devout enthusiasts....)

King Edward the 8th Stamps

British Postal Museum & Archive (The accession of King Edward VIII resulted in ambitious plans from the Post Office, including suggestions for Accession stamps, new definitives, and a Coronation series. Once the new definitives were well underway, thoughts turned to the Coronation....King Edward VIII agreed to the idea of Coronation stamps featuring Royal Castles at a meeting on 10 March 1936, requesting the designs to be kept as simple as possible....The King's abdication on 11 December 1936 brought the whole exercise to an abrupt end.)

Edward the 8th Stamps (Popular folklore has it that the stamps have the crown in the corner because the king was never crowned. Not true. It was just a feature of the design - a design that is notable for its very simple format. When the stamps were designed it was expected that they would be on sale for many years, long after the intended coronation date.... Many members of the public believe that these stamps will be valuable, probably because he abdicated and that the stamps therefore were only on sale for a relatively short time.... As the standard postage stamps of the period, they were sold in large numbers. After the abdication many people made a point of keeping them, believing that they would become valuable....)

The Edward VIII Postage Stamp Essay (...Edward's Coronation had been set for the 12th of May 1937. Preparations were well on their way for both his Coronation, and for the various philatelic and numismatic items which would hear his portrait. Immediately following his abdication, the governments of Great Britain and Canada moved swiftly to destroy or otherwise bury all images of Edward that had been created for the coinage, stamp, and fiduciary tender of the Realm. Preparations then began for the swift introduction of new materials to bear the portrait of the new king.



Jackie Jura
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