Leeward Islands #118 (1949)

Leeward Islands #118 (1949)

Leeward Islands #118 (1949)
Leeward Islands #118 (1949)

The Leeward Islands are a group of islands in the West Indies,  referring to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. The more southerly part of the Lesser Antilles chain are called the Windward Islands. The British Leeward Islands was established as an English colony in 1671. In 1816, the islands were divided in two regions: Antigua, Barbuda, and Montserrat in one colony, and Saint Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands in the other. The Leeward Islands were united again in 1833, coming together until 1871 under the administration of the Governor of Antigua. The islands then became known as the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands from 1871 to 1956, with Dominica becoming part of the colony in 1871 but leaving it again in 1940, and in 1958 the remaining islands were absorbed into the West Indies Federation.

The name of the island group, Leeward Islands, dates from previous centuries, when sailing ships were the sole form of transportation across the Atlantic Ocean. In the West Indies, the prevailing winds, known as the trade winds, blow from the northeast to the southwest. The early Spanish colonizers called Puerto Rico and the islands to the west Sotavento, meaning leeward. The islands to the south and east of Puerto Rico were then called Islas de Barlovento, meaning “windward islands”.

When the British gained control of many of the Lesser Antilles, they designated Antigua, Montserrat, and the islands to the north “Leeward Islands”. Guadeloupe and the islands to the south were designated “Windward Islands”. Later on, all islands north of Martinique became known as the Leeward Islands. Thus, Dominica is the first of the Leeward islands. However, even in modern usage in languages other than English, e.g., Spanish, French and Dutch, all of the Lesser Antilles from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad and Tobago are known as the Windward Islands (Iles du Vent in French, Bovenwindse Eilanden in Dutch, and Islas de Barlovento in Spanish). The islands along the Venezuelan coast, known in English as the Leeward Antilles, in languages other than English are known as the Leeward Islands.

The Caribs, for whom the Caribbean is named, are believed to have migrated from the Orinoco River area in South America Venezuela to settle in the Caribbean islands about 1200 AD, according to carbon dating. Over the century leading up to Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean archipelago in 1492, the Caribs mostly displaced the Maipurean-speaking Taínos, who settled the island chains earlier in history, by warfare, extermination and assimilation.

The islands were among the first parts of the Americas to fall under the control of the Spanish Empire. European contact commenced with Christopher Columbus’s second voyage, and many of the islands’ names originate from this period, for example, Montserrat was named in honor of Santa Maria de Montserrat (Our Lady of Montserrat), after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the Mountain of Montserrat, the national shrine of Catalonia. ‘Mont serrat‘ in Catalan means ‘saw mountain’, referring to the serrated appearance of the mountain range.

The Leeward Islands became a British colony in 1671. In 1699, prior to the War of the Spanish Succession, Christopher Codrington became the governor of the Leeward Islands. The war lasted from 1701 to 1714. Daniel Parke II was the British governor of the Leeward Islands from 1706 to 1710. He was assassinated during a mutiny triggered by his self-enriching enforcement of Stuart imperialism.

Although comparatively much smaller than the surrounding islands in the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands posed the most significant (though decidedly less severe in comparison to the colonies) rebellion to the British Stamp Act.

In 1816, the colony was dissolved, with its last governor being James Leith. The colony was reformed in 1833. From 1833 until 1871, the Governor of Antigua performed the duties of the Governor of the Leeward Islands.

In 1871, the name was changed to the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands. Not only was the name changed, the British also centralized the administration of the islands by appointing one governor for the Leeward Islands, and imposing one set of legislation. The former colonies now became presidencies of the Leeward Islands. The attempt to amalgamate the islands into a unified political entity met with strong opposition from the constituent parts of the federation and proved only partially successful. Minor changes occurred in 1883, when Saint Kitts and Nevis were grouped together as the presidency of Saint Kitts & Nevis, and in 1940, when Dominica was transferred from the Leeward to the Windward Islands — the federation that grouped together the British possessions in the Windward Islands.

As part of the process of decolonization, the British, in the 1950’s, aimed at federating not only the Leeward Islands but all British possessions in the Caribbean. Thus, the Leeward Islands Federation was dissolved in 1956 and the West Indies Federation was established. The Leeward Islands became the Leeward Islands Territory, which was abolished in 1960. The presidencies of the Leeward Islands became separate colonies, that, as such, joined the West Indies Federation in 1958. The Virgin Islands opted to stay out of the West Indies Federation and became a separate colony in 1960.

While amalgamating the Leeward Islands had proved to be difficult, federating all British possessions proved impossible. The short lived West Indies Federation was dissolved in 1962. The constituent parts became separate colonies again that, in subsequent years, gained independence or decided to remain part of the United kingdom as, currently, British overseas possessions. Thus, Antigua & Barbuda and Saint Kitts & Nevis gained independence while Anguilla seceded from Saint Kitts & Nevis. Montserrat and the Virgin Islands became British overseas territories.

The first stamps used in the Leeward Islands were the general issues of Great Britain. These were used between 1858 and 1868 when the post offices in the Leeward Islands were put under the authority of the London General Post Office. The presidencies of the individual Leeward Islands issued their own stamps:

  • Antigua (from 1862)
  • Dominica (from 1874)
  • Montserrat (from 1876)
  • Nevis (from 1861)
  • Saint Kitts (from 1870)
  • Virgin Islands (from 1866)

The Leeward Islands colony issued its first stamps in 1890, which superseded the issues of the presidencies. These were inscribed LEEWARD ISLANDS. The issue of 1890 was a key plate stamp design with the usual profile of Queen Victoria, eight values ranging from ½-penny to 5 shillings.

The issues of the Leeward Islands were used exclusively, until 1899, in the Virgin Islands and, until 1903, in the other presidencies. Since 1899 and 1903 respectively, the presidencies resumed issuing stamps that were used concurrent with the issues of the Leeward Islands. Saint Kitts and Nevis did not resume issuing stamps as they had merged into Saint Kitts & Nevis that now became the stamp issuing entity.

The issues of the Leeward Island are mainly of designs common to the British colonies. Specific for the Leeward Islands is an issue in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria — the 1890 issue overprinted Sexagenary 1897 and showing a V.I.R. monogram. In 1902 the 4 pence, 6 pence and 7 pence stamps of the 1890 issue were surcharged with a value of 1 penny. The 1890 issue design was also used for stamps of King Edward VII, as well as for King George V and George VI, with several changes of watermark and colors.

In 1928, a large one-pound stamp was introduced, and updated for the new monarch when George VI took the throne. The common design omnibus commemorative stamps of the Commonwealth between 1946 and 1949 included stamps inscribed LEEWARD ISLANDS. In 1951 the West Indies University issue reflected the changeover to cents and dollars, as did the Queen Elizabeth II definitive series of 1954. The issues of the Leeward Islands were withdrawn on July 1, 1956.

Scott #118 was released on January 2, 1949, the low value in a set of two released as part of the Commonwealth’s Silver Wedding omnibus, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) which took place on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey in London. In an unexpected and unprecedented gesture, Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of The Unknown Warrior on her way into the Abbey, in memory of her brother Fergus. Ever since, the bouquets of subsequent royal brides have traditionally been laid at the tomb, though after the wedding ceremony rather than before. Upon their marriage, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York. Following a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace prepared by chef Gabriel Tschumi, they honeymooned at Polesden Lacey, a manor house in Surrey, and then went to Scotland, where she caught “unromantic” whooping cough. The 2½-pence bright ultramarine stamp was printed by photogravure and perforated 14×14½.

The stress of World War II had taken its toll on King George VI’s health, made worse by his heavy smoking and subsequent development of lung cancer among other ailments, including arteriosclerosis and thromboangiitis obliterans. A planned tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed after the King suffered an arterial blockage in his right leg, which threatened the loss of the leg and was treated with a right lumbar sympathectomy in March 1949. His elder daughter Elizabeth, the heiress presumptive, took on more royal duties as her father’s health deteriorated. The delayed tour was re-organised, with Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, taking the place of the King and Queen.

The King was well enough to open the Festival of Britain in May 1951, but on September 23, 1951, his left lung was removed by Clement Price Thomas after a malignant tumor was found. In October 1951, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh went on a month-long tour of Canada; the trip had been delayed for a week due to the King’s illness. At the State Opening of Parliament in November, the King’s speech from the throne was read for him by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Simonds. His Christmas broadcast of 1951 was recorded in sections, and then edited together.

On January 31, 1952, despite advice from those close to him, the King went to London Airport to see off Princess Elizabeth, who was going on her tour of Australia via Kenya. On the morning of February 6, George VI was found dead in bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He had died from a coronary thrombosis in his sleep at the age of 56. His daughter Elizabeth flew back to Britain from Kenya as Queen Elizabeth II.

From February 9 for two days his coffin rested in St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, before lying in state at Westminster Hall from February 11. His funeral took place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on the 15th. He was interred initially in the Royal Vault until he was transferred to the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St. George’s on March 26, 1969. In 2002, fifty years after his death, the remains of his widow, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the ashes of his younger daughter Princess Margaret, who both died that year, were interred in the chapel alongside him.

Leeward Islands Flag (1871-1956)
Leeward Islands Flag (1871-1956)
Combined married coat of arms of Albert and Elizabeth, the Duke and Duchess of York.
Combined married coat of arms of Albert and Elizabeth, the Duke and Duchess of York.

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