The year is 1952 and Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation is fast approaching. But who would have ever thought that it wouldn’t be the upcoming historical event that would make the national news, but a lonely and quite boring red post box in the Inch area of Edinburgh. Well it did and for quite explosive reasons…
When Her Majesty ascended the Throne back in 1952, she became known as ‘Queen Elizabeth II’. However, some of her subjects in Scotland considered her to be Queen Elizabeth I, considering that the original Elizabeth I had never ruled over Scotland. The fact that Her Majesty was considered their second Queen Elizabeth was somewhat unacceptable to many Scots.
So let’s skip forward to 28th November 1952 to a housing estate in Inch, where crowds had gathered around a little red pillar for the formal unveiling of Scotland’s first E II R post box (the E II R standing for Elizabeth II Regina). This was supposed to be a harmless recognition of the new head of state, however it rapidly descended in to national chaos with wide scale media coverage and even debates in the House of Commons.
The reason for that chaos was this: shortly before the unveiling, a pressure group had written to many officials questioning the legality of the E II R symbol. When their questioning was ignored, all hell broke loose and after 36 hours of the box being unveiled the symbol had been defaced with tar. Only a week later, a parcel containing gelignite was found inside.
Things really came to an explosive head on 12th February 1953, just under four months before the Coronation, when Inch was rocked by an explosion that could be heard for miles around. Where did the explosion come from? Yes, you guessed it – it came from the three month old post box, which had been completely destroyed courtesy of another gelignite bomb. Following the explosion, a small Lion Rampant was found draped across the smouldered ruins of the post box, and soon after this another post box was reinstated, without the E II R symbol.
For months after, the post box was the talk of the nation, and even the talk of the British government. And yet, all attempts to challenge Her Majesty’s right to be called Queen Elizabeth II were unsuccessful, and rightly so in my opinion. The incident didn’t relinquish the thoughts of the residents of Inch though, as they made it perfectly clear that any future structures bearing the E II R symbol would not be welcome. Since that day Scottish pillar boxes, postal vans and other post office paraphernalia would carry the symbol of the Crown of Scotland, just to avoid any further troubles. One wonders if the residents of Inch today still have the same feelings towards the title Queen Elizabeth II…
Though I cannot comment personally on this event, I would like to say that I for one love to walk past a post box that has the symbol E II R on it. For some strange reason it fills me with some sort of national pride, and what is even better than that is that everyday I walk past a box with the symbol V R on it…now that is history for you.