HM The Queen's 90th Birthday
2016 will see national celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday. Already the longest reigning UK monarch, she is also the oldest reigning monarch in the world, and 90 years is a significant landmark.
The six sheet stamps celebrate with three stamps focusing on her family life, and three honouring her official work for the country. Royal Mail has never issued a stamp featuring The Queen with her father, and this is remedied with the first stamp. An image of her with her children, the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne conveys her family life, while a stamp with the Duke of Edinburgh marks their long partnership. Three other stamps mark The Queen’s official duties: as Head of State for the opening of Parliament; as Head of the Commonwealth where she is depicted with Nelson Mandela; and on a state visit to New Zealand, to represent more than 100 state visits made worldwide by Her Majesty since her accession.
The Miniature Sheet
Photographed by Ranald Mackechnie for Royal Mail, the specially commissioned Stamp Sheet features a family portrait of four generations of the House of Windsor: HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Duke of Cambridge and for the first time on a Royal Mail stamp, HRH Prince George of Cambridge. The photograph was taken in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace.
The perforations in the Stamp Sheet are positioned to create a postage stamp for each member of the Family.
The photoshoot - behind the scenes
Royal Mail had to consider a number of factors in the planning of the photoshoot.
Photographer Ranald Mackechnie, was chosen due to his excellent use of light in his work and specialist portrait skills. Ranald had worked with the Royal Mail design team many times; however, this was the first time his work would feature on a stamp.
The team looked at a range of rooms within the Palace and originally selected the Yellow Drawing Room as it was the preferred choice of the photographer. However, after reviewing the initial test shots, the team felt that the White Drawing Room would best capture the sense of this special portrait, without overpowering the actual photograph.
Another challenge was the height difference within the group.
For both aesthetic and technical reasons Prince George couldn’t be positioned much lower within the photograph. The position of each portrait within the miniature sheet was critical due to tight technical constraints.
The team undertook an initial recce of locations within the Palace and then conducted two half-day test shoots using the polystyrene blocks that Ranald has as part of his kit. This ensured the shot could be composed as much as possible prior to the final shoot, which took about 25 minutes.
Using the blocks enabled the Prince to be lifted into the frame so it was a more intimate grouping.