Phuketia – MPLP #55 (2019)

With the corornation of His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn (วชิราลงกรณ) — reigning title Phrabat Somdet Phra Vajira Klao Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระวชิรเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว) or King Rama X — on May 4, 2019, the Kingdom of Thailand also gained a new queen, Her Majesty Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana ( สุทิดา พัชรสุธาพิมลลักษณ). She was born Suthida Tidjai (สุทิดา ติดใจ) on June 3, 1978, in Hat Yai, Songkla, Thailand.

A Thai of Chinese origin, she graduated from Hatyaiwittayalai Somboonkulkanya Middle School and Assumption University with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in 2000. Suthida was formerly a flight attendant for Jalways Airlines — which is now part of Japan Airlines — from 2000 to 2003 and later Thai Airways in 2003 till 2008.

Suthida was appointed commander of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s household guard in August 2014. Suthida was linked romantically to the crown prince following his divorce from Srirasmi Suwadee. In October 2016, international media reports labeled her as the designated king’s “consort”, despite the palace never officially declaring their relationship. Her name is consistent with naming conventions for wives of Thai princes. On December 1, 2016, she was appointed Commander of the Special Operations Unit of the King’s Guard and promoted to the rank of general. She reached her present rank after only six years of service.

On June 1, 2017, Suthida was appointed as acting commander of Royal Thai Aide-de-camp Department following the reorganization of the Royal Security Command. On October 13, 2017, she was named a Dame Grand Cross (First Class) of The Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao, which bestows the title Than Phu Ying (ท่านผู้หญิง). She is the first female officer to receive this honor since 2004 and the first in the reign of King Rama X. From that date until her marriage with the king, her full title and name was Than Phu Ying Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya (ท่านผู้หญิงสุทิดา วชิราลงกรณ์ ณ อยุธยา).

In this photo released by Bureau of the Royal Household ,Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, right, presents a gift to Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya at Ampornsan Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who will have his official coronation on Saturday, has appointed his consort as the country’s queen. An announcement Wednesday in the Royal Gazette said Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya is legally married to the 66-year-old king, and is now Queen Suthida. (Bureau of the Royal Household via AP)

On May 1, 2019, King Vajiralongkorn married Suthida who became the his queen consort, three days before the coronation took place in Bangkok on May 4-6. The marriage registration took place at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Bangkok, with her sister-in-law Princess Sirindhorn and President of Privy Council Prem Tinsulanonda as witnesses. Between May 1 and 4, her she was known as Somdet Phra Rajini Suthida (สมเด็จพระราชินีสุทิดา). Upon her husband’s coronation, Queen Suthida became Somdet Phra Nang Chao Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana Phra Borommarajini (สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสุทิดา พัชรสุธาพิมลลักษณ พระบรมราชินี).

In Thai, Queen’s Suthida’s Birthday is วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสุทิดา พัชรสุธาพิมลลักษณ พระบรมราชินี or Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Nang Chao Suthida Phatcharasutha Phimon Lak Phra Borommarachini and was designated as a new national holiday late last month.  Government offices and schools are closed (although my language school remains open today) and I observed a few new royal portraits alongside the roadways in Phuket this morning along with purple and yellow bunting and several new royal portraits at major intersections. Her Royal Biography was released yesterday and the slideshow above contains the English version as well as several photos from the royal wedding and coronation.

Phuketia – MPLP #Ph51-54 (June 3, 2019)

Thailand Post has yet to release a stamp portraying our new queen.  I suspect that the first will be released one year from today to mark her 42nd birthday in 2020.  In the meantime, I created five designs for my own local post, that of Republica Phuketia. There are four vertically-oriented rectangular designs, each denominated 25 farang (a sub-unit of eth).  A 50-farang square stamp completes the set.  These are the first Republica Phuketia stamps to be released in 2019 and have the MPLP (Muang Phuket Local Post) catalogue numbers of Ph51-55.

I am currently reading the latest thriller by Steve Berry, The Malta Exchange, and just came across a passage mentioning stamps. The main character, Cotton Malone, is in Italy where he had a violent encounter with somebody he has discovered is a member of the Knights of Justice.  In the passage, Malone is thinking about what he has learned about the organization:

One hundred and four countries maintained formal diplomatic relations, including an exchange of embassies. It possessed its own constitution and actively operated within fifty-four nations, having the ability to transport medicine and supplies around the world without customs inspections or political interference. It even possessed observer status in the United Nations, issuing its own passports, license plates, stamps, and coins. Not a country, as there were no citizens or borders to defend, more a sovereign entity, all of its efforts focused on helping the sick and protecting its name and heritage, which members defended zealously.”

Palazzo di Malta, Via dei Condotti 68 Roma, headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Note the flags flying at half-staff after the death of the Grand Master Andrew Bertie. Photo taken by Willtron on February 11, 2008. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Sovereign Military Order of Malta – Yvert et Tellier #184: Baptism of Christ (June 25, 1980). Image sourced from active eBay auction.

Upon reading that, my first thought was, “I have never heard of ‘Knights of Justice’ stamps” but then I realized that Malone is referring to the Knights Hospitaller (founded in 1050 in Jerusalem) which are now officially called the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta and better known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM). It is a Roman Catholic order based in Rome.  A postal administration called the Poste Magistrali was set up for the order under a Decree of the Grand Master on May 20, 1966, with first stamps issued on November15 of that year. I have seen these referred to once or twice but always thought they meant the stamps of Malta, either as a British colony or independent republic.

Of course, now that I know about this issuing entity, I need to seek out some of their stamps. Unfortunately, postal agreements have been established with only 50 or so territories which allow mail sent, provided it is posted at the Magistral Post Office at Via Bocca di Leone 68, Rome. The United States doesn’t have such an agreement with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta nor is the order a member of the Universal Postal Union. As a result, many catalogues view these as Cinderellas or local post stamps and simply do not list them. In fact, the only two major catalogues for which I have found SMOM listings are the Italian-language Unificato and French-language Yvert et Tellier catalogues.

Australia – Queen Victoria Bicentennial gold coin

May 24 marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth and a number of entities are planning stamp issues as well as commemorative coins. In searching for new stamps in this topical, I came across a number of coins that I would love to obtain as well. I found the designs from the Perth Mint in Australia particularly beautiful. Oddly, I cannot find an announcement picturing the designs for Great Britain’s upcoming stamp set other than the one that accompanied press releases last December that described this year’s stamp programme.  However, there are several online dealers advertising their first day cover cachet designs picturing the stamps. One example is shown below:

Great Britain – Queen Victoria Bicentennial (May 24, 2019) first day cover
Jersey – Queen Victoria Bicentennial (May 24, 2019)

The set from Jersey is another of my early favorites. This is an island I began collecting about the same time I started my childhood collections of Pitcairn Islands and Tristan da Cunha (sometime around late 1978 or early 1979). My other great interest at this time was North Atlantic ocean liners and I had just started a correspondence with Noel R.P. Bonsor, an author who had a series of books that profiled virtually every passenger ship that had steamed across the Atlantic since the early days of Samuel Cunard’s beginnings. Bonsor divided his time between a residence on Jersey and a villa in Alicante, Spain, and we traded letters back and forth for many years. Eventually, he began sending me stamp issues (mostly in presentation packs) from Jersey. I stopped actively collecting the bailiwick’s releases sometime in the 1990’s when they began releasing far too many stamps to keep up with (or afford). However, I will try to add the Queen Victoria set. The souvenir sheet is particularly striking:

Jersey – Queen Victoria Bicentennial (May 24, 2019) souvenir sheet
Thailand – Coronation of King Rama X (May 4, 2019)

Here in Thailand, everybody is getting reading for this weekend’s Coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, usually referred to in the West as King Rama X. There have already been a plethora of ceremonies and events associated with the event and the King himself got married Wednesday afternoon to the head of his Royal bodyguard detail (his father, the much revered King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, similarly married Queen Sirikit just prior to his own coronation back in 1950). The actual coronation ceremony occurs tomorrow (May 4) but the grand procession through the streets of Bangkok is scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Monday is a special holiday for the Kingdom.  All government employees (myself included) are to wear the Royal color of yellow every day for the entire month of May. Thailand Post’s stamp for the Coronation will be released tomorrow; while there are special postmarks available from many of the post offices in Bangkok, I doubt any of the post offices here in Phuket will be open. I have to work all day anyway and it won’t be until next week that I will be able to buy any of the new stamps (and there are several due for release next Friday so I may just wait until then).

Canada – Sweet Canada (April 17, 2019)

I have a fair amount of stamps that make me hungry looking at them, particularly those from Thailand, Malaysia, and New Zealand that portray the wonderful fruit we have in this part of the world.  I now have the opportunity to add a few picturing sweets thanks to delectable sets released by Canada and Singapore, coincidentally (?) both on April 17.  The Sweet Canada set has received some controversy as confectionary “experts” claim the proportions of chocolate, custard and crumb crust are pictured incorrectly on the design featuring the famed Nanaimo bar. It still looks tasty to me!  The stamps in Singapore’s Traditional Confections set are just as mouth-watering.

Singapore – Traditional Confections (April 17, 2019)

I haven’t spent much time on the stamp blogs lately but I did read an excellent article by John M. Hotchner on the Virtual Stamp Blog about “Collecting On A Tight Budget“, something I totally relate to.  I also came across an essay that was originally broadcast on CBC Radio discussing “The Lost Art of Writing Letters“.

“May 5, 1862 and the siege of Puebla”, a 1901 image from the Biblioteca del Niño Mexicano, a series of booklets for children detailing the history of Mexico.”

Sunday is, of course, the 5th of May — a date which is celebrated in Mexico and the American Southwest as Cinco de Mayo. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. Oddly, the holiday has taken on a greater significance in the U.S. than in Mexico, and has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. These celebrations began in California, where they have been observed annually since 1863. The day gained nationwide popularity in the 1980s thanks especially to advertising campaigns by beer and wine companies. Today, Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl. I plan to celebrate in my own way with a nice meal of Mexican food, a real hit-or-miss affair in Phuket, Thailand. Luckily, one of the island’s best restaurants serving Mexican food in located not far from my home.

Mexico – Children’s Day (April 26, 2017)

I am also thinking about putting together a Cinco de Mayo article for the long-hibernating A Stamp A Day blog as I have several stamps that commemorate the Battle of Puebla. Over the past several months, I have added quite a few Mexican stamps to my collection, many are modern stamps commemorating various holidays and other annual celebrations, something I think they do consistently well (much better than some of the other entities I collect). There are a number of other Mexican holidays in May for which I have stamps including the birthday of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla — the initiator of the Mexican Independence War — on the 8th, Día de las Madres (Mother’s Day) on the 10th, and Día del Maestro (Teachers’ Day) on the 15th.