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The unique reign of Queen Elizabeth II

On 9 September 2015 Queen Elizabeth II is set to become the longest reigning British Monarch, surpassing her great great grandmother Queen Victoria. To mark her long length of service, Isle of Man Post Office recently released a celebratory set of eight stamps depicting some of the most significant ceremonial occasions during Her Majesty the Queen's reign to date.

Queen Elizabeth officially became Her Majesty on 6 February1952, when her father, King George VI, died in England while she and husband Prince Philip were on holiday in Kenya. She returned home immediately and was proclaimed Queen. Elizabeth was 25 when she came to the throne, and 26 when she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.

On her succession in 1952, a new British stamp design was required to replace her father's image. This resulted in a collection of variations on a theme which came to be known as the 'Wilding' issues, based on a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by photographer Dorothy Wilding. The Wildings were used up until 1967, at which point the 'Machin' stamp issue was introduced on 5 June 1967.

The Machin issue is a simple stamp design, displaying a profile of the Queen on a solid colour background, and is still being used today as the standard British postal stamp. The initial palette of 14 colours was chosen after extensive testing and to date they have been printed in scores of rainbow colours and new denominations following the introduction of decimalisation in 1971.

Queen Elizabeth II appears on every British and Manx stamp, she is fundamental to each new release as none is made available prior to her Royal Consent. Therefore each stamp design must adhere to strict criteria before being sent to Buckingham Palace, this includes stamp images produced to a challengingly small size, incorporation of the Queens's head or initials ER (Elizabeth Regina - Latin for Queen) and a denomination. A number of Commonwealth countries also feature the Queens's head or initials ER on their stamps; however this is not pre-requisite outside of Britain. Once the designs are ready they are sent to the Palace for the Queen's approval. Once given, the printing process can then begin.

The Isle of Man has been producing its own stamps in this manner since 5 July 1973 when it became an independent postal administration. Prior to that it was part of the British Post Office and only used stamps that were called 'regionals' which were in part designed by Manxman John Nicholson.

The recent celebratory stamp issue is the Isle of Man's tribute to the long reign of Her Majesty the Queen, the Lord of Mann, and reflects key milestones during her reign until now, including: The Coronation, The Investiture, Order of the Garter, Trooping the Colour, The Golden, Silver and Diamond Jubilees and Opening of Parliament. The issue is complete with insightful text and stunning imagery, embellished with a metallic gold ink.

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