A Rare Bird in the land

Exploration before modern technology was a risky business. Not only for the pockets of those funding these travels, but for the lives of those brave enough to venture into the unknown.

Willem de Vlamingh was a Dutch sea captain and whaler by trade who later joined the VOC (Dutch East India Company). His second voyage was a rescue mission to look for survivors of the Ridderschap van Holland which had been missing for two years. The Nine Year’s War with France forced him to take a route along the coast of Scotland to Tristan da Cunha and then on to the Cape of Good Hope. Here, their journey was hampered by the dreaded illness, scurvy. Finally, after many weeks of recovery they continued their journey to the East, searching for the missing ship and its crew.

On their route they stopped at the islands of Île Saint-Paul, Île Amsterdam, and one which they were the first to land on. Willem de Vlamingh named it Rottnest Island because of the creatures that resembled rats. Eventually they reached the western coast of Australia. Venturing up a river one day they spotted a black bird in the shape of a swan. A black swan? Could this be? Up until this point black swans only occurred in the imaginations of the Early Europeans as a metaphor for that which did not exist. There, on a continent far away they discovered that black swans did exist.

The black swan has become a widely recognized symbol for Western Australia. It can be found on the Western Australian flag and coat of arms, coins, logos and mascots, and of course stamps.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 1861 SWAN 6D PERKINS BACON COLOUR TRIAL BLOCK

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 1861 SWAN 6D PERKINS BACON COLOUR TRIAL BLOCK

Even though no wreckage was ever found, nor any souls saved, the mission to rescue the Ridderschap van Holland was not a complete failure; a new island was named and a bird was discovered.

The Grandmother of Europe

On the day Alexandrina Victoria was born she was only fifth in line to ascend to the throne. Before the age of one she moved up to third in line after the death of her father in January 1820 and her grandfather a week later. She became heir presumptive at the tender age of eleven after the death of her two oldest uncles who had no legitimate surviving children. The Parliament of the United Kingdom passed The Regency Act 1830 that provided regency in case the person next in line to the throne was not yet eighteen. This would mean that should King William IV die before Alexandrina Victoria had come of age, her mother would act as regent.

King William IV distrusted Alexandrina Victoria’s mother and publicly stated that he wanted to live until after her eighteenth birthday. His wish came to fruition… just. He died within a month of Alexandrina Victoria turning eighteen and so it was that she became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837.

Queen Victoria did not get along well with her mother and often refused to see her. However, due to social convention she was obliged to live with her until she was finally married to her first cousin in 1840. She was besotted with Prince Albert and together they had nine children, all of whom married into royal and noble families across the continent, and her forty two grand-children were spread all over Europe.

The “Victorian Era” is how her reign came to be known, and with it being the longest reign than any of her predecessors, marked many changes within the United Kingdom and a great expansion of the British Empire.

The Scottish born and popular British hero in the Victorian Era, David Livingstone, discovered the Victoria Falls and named it so in honour of Queen Victoria. Two stunning examples of Victoria Falls stamps can be found here and here.

RHODESIA 1905 VICTORIA FALLS 1D- 5/- TUNISIAN UPU SPECIMENS

RHODESIA 1905 VICTORIA FALLS 1D- 5/- TUNISIAN UPU SPECIMENS