At its zenith following World War I, the British Empire, under the reign of King George V, covered more than 13,000,000 square miles, almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area, with about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world's population at the time. It circled the globe, resulting in it being called "the Empire on which the sun never sets". In 1949, with the decolonisation of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories, the Commonwealth of Nations (commonly called The British Commonwealth) was created. Three years later, on February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen following the death of her father, King George VI, after a long illness.
In 1977, 54 nations issued postage stamps to honour the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth's accession to the throne. The Westmister Collector Society, a division of Fleetwood which was established specifically for this purpose, issued 56 First Day Covers for the stamps from each of the participating nations. Advertising for this series was very heavy (see a double-page advertisement), and a total of 12,289 complete sets of the First Day Covers were sold.
Significantly, the scope and concept of this collection are unparalleled in philatelic history, For, never before have so many Nations cooperated to isse a series of individual stamps which, when viewed as a complete collection, captures an event of this magnitude.
And, never before has there been a collection which traces step by step the events of the Coronation. Or portrays the individual Crown Jewels and Coronation Regalia in all their beauty.
Individually designed by the Commonwealth's most prominent artists - perhaps the greatest assemblage of talent ever gathered to a single purpose - each issue will be a masterpiece of philatelic art. Together capturing with uncommon sensitivity the glittering panoply of tradition, religious rite, and chivalrous pageantry just as it happened nearly twenty-five years ago.
Subscribers received the first day covers at the rate of three per month starting in March 1977, at a cost of $3.25 each. A high-quality album and information booklet (a 32-page history of the British monarchy by Kathleen Sommers) were sent at no extra cost.
Ascension Island opens this timeless story with the golden State Coach departing from Buckingham Palace pulled by eight perfectly matched Windsor Greys enroute to Westmister Abbey.
The Ascension Island cover and information sheet are seen to the right - click on the image to enlarge them.
First day covers are created by governments, private companies, and even individuals - the Postal History Corner has a good page showing some of the various first day covers created for Canada's stamp in this Silver Jubilee series, as well as its use for regular mail.
On June 2, 1953, the Coronation ceremony of Elizabeth II was held in Westminster Abbey, and another much smaller series of First Day covers was released, the Coronation Silver Anniversary series.
Seen below is the cover page in the collection album, and then links to the first day covers and information sheets for each of the 56 countries.