Have you noticed that not all postboxes are the same?

Different royal cyphers denote which British monarch's reign they are from.

"The new cypher of King Charles III has been unveiled, but how it will translate to letter box design remains to be seen," said a spokesperson for The Postal Museum.

The custom of including a royal cypher on letter boxes dates back to the very earliest roadside boxes from the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). This first box bore the initials VR – Victoria Regina, with regina meaning queen in latin.


When Edward VII came to the throne, new cyphers were produced just as we are seeing today with King Charles III.

The monarch has the right to choose their cypher and will work with the College of Arms on its design.

King Edward VII chose a traditional cypher which was used widely during his reign on documents, buildings, by the military and by the Post Office. His cypher takes the classic approach of interwoven letters, ER for Edward Rex - rex is latin for king - with his regnal number for seven in Roman numerals VII. On post boxes, you can see this is topped by a crown, unlike Queen Victoria’s cypher.

Edward VII’s reign was short compared to his mother, Queen Victoria. His son George V became king in 1910 and a new cypher was developed.


King George V opted for a simpler, bolder cypher for use by the Post Office. The cypher has a simpler font and the letters GR are not interwoven as his father and grandmother had done. There was also no inclusion of the Roman numeral for five. Whilst he was the fifth king by the name of George, he was the first to have roadside letterboxes in his name, so arguably there was no need for the inclusion of the ‘V’.

A turbulent period for the monarchy followed the death of King George V in 1936. His son, King Edward VIII, reigned for only 326 days. Edward’s cypher took a different form to those of his predecessors. It featured an ornate font, but kept the letters distinct and separate.

Edward’s short reign meant the number of boxes produced in his name was less than 200, so these are rare. One of of them is on display at The Postal Museum.

King George VI cyphers are fairly rare compared with his father George V and great grandmother Queen Victoria. George VI was on the throne for 16 years - six of which were during the Second World War. The war was the priority for iron production, so the variety and number of iron boxes produced during his reign are less than others.


George VI’s cypher is easily distinguishable from his father, George V’s, cypher because of the roman numerals and interlocking letters.

George VI’s unexpected death in February 1952 saw his daughter, Elizabeth II, come to the throne. She selected a bold cypher design, reminiscent of George V’s cypher. The two letters ER are separated by the Roman numerals II. Given the length of her reign, designs featuring EIIR are the easiest to spot!

There is a cypher variation only found in Scotland. The inclusion of the Roman numerals in Queen Elizabeth’s cypher caused controversy. Elizabeth II was not the second Elizabeth to be Queen in Scotland. The Tudor queen, Elizabeth I, was queen of England and Wales only. An alternative design for Scotland uses only the image of the Crown of St Andrew.

A spokesperson for The Postal Museum said: "The new cypher for King Charles III has been unveiled. There appears to be inspiration drawn from past cyphers, but how it will be interpreted remains to be seen.

"There are practical considerations about how cyphers appear on letter boxes. Cast iron boxes have limitations on what can be cast. Some of the more modern boxes also use the cypher in a printed vinyl which allows for colour to be used."