Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, turned 90 on April 21st, but she’s stretching celebrations out all the way from April until June, because She’s The Queen So Suck It Plebs.
Last year I wrote about Australia’s tradition of marking Her Majesty’s birthday with a stamp issue. In that post, I may have inadvertently given readers the impression that I’m not a fan, with ambiguous phrases such as “pointless allegiance to Empire”, “another country’s monarch is irrelevant to a nation half a planet away in the 21st century”, and “reliably some of the dullest Australian stamp issues each year”.
Well, didn’t I have to swallow my republican tongue with this year’s issue. I didn’t mention it here when it was released, but I keep seeing it at the Post Office, and it is no less stunning for the delay.
It’s all about this Australian Golden Wattle diamond brooch.
Australia Post tells us it was presented to the Queen during her inaugural tour down under in 1954, and it is “said to be one of the Queen’s personal favourites”.
Well, of course it’s said to be one of her favourites. As if she’s going to tell us anything else. She’s not stupid. But if I were the Queen, I would think it’s absolutely gorgeous.
According to the internet, the brooch comprises 150 white and yellow diamonds arranged to resemble a spray of Golden Wattle, with mimosa leaves and tea-tree blossoms. (The Golden Wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem, beloved of patriots and unfairly maligned by allergy sufferers.)
Yes, it’s antiquey and looks like something your grandma might wear to a wedding, but remember, it was crafted in the 1950s. Those sticky-outy gems were possibly quite avant garde for its day. I sure hope they were stuck on with some good quality superglue.
This stamp is such a great example of design serving design. The graphic elements around the brooch are just right. The blurred golden background brings a warmth to the image that might have been lacking in a simple photo of the brooch sitting on a display cushion. The font is elegant and regal without looking dated. The subordinate role assumed by the stamp design, helped by the crystal-clear modern printing techniques, means that every time I see this stamp, I gaze in wonder once again at the artistry of the brooch itself, as stunning now as the day it was made. I would congratulate the designers, Melbourne’s William Drummond & Co, but they shut up shop in 2002. I assume Sharon Rodziewicz from the Australia Post Design Studio is still going strong, so I can at least congratulate her for her contribution.
The brooch was in an exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in 2015. You can see a photo of it through this online back door. (I explored my options for using the image on this page, but I needed Royal permission. I didn’t rate my chances.)
The accompanying stamp is something more standard for a Queen’s Birthday issue: a photo of the Queen in a hat. More importantly, this photo is the proof that she’s worn the Golden Wattle brooch at least once.
My one bugbear with this issue is that if the rules are being followed, then the brooch stamp is heading out on international mail, while domestic mail is getting the more bog standard Queen headshot. It’s sad that such a beautiful stamp, featuring a work of art of which we can be proud, will go largely unnoticed by the nation that brought both into being.
I’ve no doubt that Her Majesty is a regular reader of this blog, so may I say happy birthday from me, too, ma’am. I hope someone gives you 150 more diamonds. I would hate you to hit 90 and find you’re running low on diamonds.
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