Although modern diplomatic relationships between nations are delicate enough at any time, they are doubly so in a time of war, and should, for example, a ciphered letter be’ decoded by a nation to whom it was not addressed, relations between the countries might be disrupted, and more fagots heaped on the fires of war. Kings messenger dangerous
Consequently, whenever the Foreign Office wishes to send valuable and confidential State documents to an embassy or legation in another country, they are sent in “the diplomatic bag” in the personal charge of a Queen’s Messenger.
15 Queen’s Messengers
In 2005 there are about 15 Queen’s Messengers, and when King Charles II. first formed the corps, they had to be proficient in both horsemanship and the pistol; it is now sufficient for them to be expert shots.
In those early days, they had to defend the King’s despatches with sword and pistol, perhaps while riding in a rocking post-chaise. A brigand-infested mountain pass. It was a dangerous job. The last Royal courier to lose his life went to look at his horses outside an Austrian inn during the Napoleonic wars and was never seen again. Kings messenger dangerous
The Silver Greyhound
The Queen’s Messengers carry a badge that consists of the Royal monogram with a silver greyhound as a pendant. King Charles II. was an exile in Holland when he founded the corps and selected two English and two Dutch officials to carry his despatches.
When they set out on their first journey, the King Is reputed to have been at breakfast, and, pulling the silver porringer to him, he is said to have broken off the four greyhounds with which it was ornamented, giving one to each of his messengers as identification and passport.
In former times, the occupation of King’s Messenger consisted of a considerable extent of serving the warrants issued by the Secretary of State for the apprehension of persons accused of high treason and other grave offenses against the State. Nowadays, however, they are principally employed in foreign service. Kings messenger dangerous
The “diplomatic bag” sent from the Foreign Office to an embassy or legation in another country is a short, stout sack made of closely woven canvas. Its opening closes very tightly and is double-locked. It closes so tightly that during the last war, when the boat in which a King’s Messenger was traveling was torpedoed, the bag, being practically airtight, floated.
Fortunately, it was rescued by another British ship. Still, the risk of State documents floating into enemy hands was revealed and caused the Foreign Office to have the bags weighted with lead and perforated. Thus, any bags now lost in the sea would sink to the bottom and be safe from prying enemy eyes.
The Chief Queen’s Messenger today receives a salary of £900 yearly. The other messengers, several retired officers, receive salaries ranging from £300 to £650 a year, but some are unpaid. One of the most important of them is the well-known Captain Beddington Behrens, who made diplomatic history last year by carrying the bag to America by air. Kings messenger’s dangerous job
The most famous of recent King’s Messengers were Sir Park Goff, who died in 1939. He was appointed honorary messenger at the beginning of the last war and, during its first two years, crossed the Channel 80 times, the North Sea 30 times, the Mediterranean 22 times, the Black Sea four times, and the Caspian twice. Of those 730 days, he was at home, only 22! Kings messenger dangerous
Unique Red Passport
The King’s Messengers are armed with a unique red passport, which frees the bearer of every Customs barrier, and a diplomatic “laissez-passer,” a beautiful document ornately engraved on banknote paper, which states that the bearer is “on the King’s business.” Sometimes the messenger must use the latter to extricate himself from difficult and dangerous situations.
In wartime, the risks of personal danger are significantly increased, which has caused the Foreign Office to request the Commissioner of Police to provide King’s Messengers with protection. Retired officers at Scotland Yard’s particular branch are now recalled as escort guards to all the messengers.
These guards act as “shadows” and are experts in that task because they have all been bodyguards to statesmen and Royalty. They not only know foreign countries but international political criminals as well.
Not only do they have to guard the messengers against apparent dangers, but they have also to keep a watchful eye on spies of both sexes. Even these days, enemy nations are said to use beautiful women to discover State secrets. However, one famous King’s Messenger always lamented that the traditional glamorous spy who used her feminine wiles on Royal couriers never seemed to cross his path! Kings messenger dangerous
King Charles III
Following the accession of King Charles III, the Queen’s Messenger Service, our experienced and respected global courier service, has now been renamed the King’s Messenger Service.
Our King’s Messengers provide an invaluable service, safely delivering critical items within the Diplomatic Bag around the globe. They are about to travel for the first time using diplomatic passports that name them as King’s Messengers instead of Queen’s Messengers, marking the start of a new era serving under King Charles III’s reign.” -Head of the King’s Messenger Service-
FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
Question? Contact me...