Pillar Box War

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The Queen's Royal Cypher, surmounted by a crown

The Pillar Box War refers to a number of[citation needed] politically motivated acts of vandalism against post boxes in Scotland during the early 1950s in a dispute over the correct title of the new British monarch, Elizabeth II.


Ascending to the throne in February 1952 following the death of her father, George VI, the former Princess Elizabeth adopted the Royal style of Elizabeth the Second of the United Kingdom. This was reflected in the Queen's Royal Cypher, which took the Latin form 'EIIR'.

Some objected to this usage as the new Queen was in fact only the first Elizabeth to reign over the United Kingdom or indeed Great Britain, Elizabeth I having been solely the Queen of England. In 1953, John MacCormick took legal action against the Lord Advocate in the case of MacCormick v Lord Advocate challenging the right of the Queen to call herself Elizabeth the Second. The case failed on the grounds that the matter was within the Royal Prerogative and thus the Queen was free to adopt any title she saw fit. However, a submission by the Crown stated that the Royal title was decided to reflect the highest number from either the Kingdom of England or the Kingdom of Scotland and while Elizabeth II was not the second Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, she was the second Elizabeth in the territory which now made up the United Kingdom.

Actions and legacy[edit]

A Royal Mail van in Scotland showing the omission of the Royal Cypher

Some[citation needed] occasions of vandalism and even explosions of post boxes which carried the Queen's EIIR insignia were recorded. One particular pillar box in Edinburgh's Inch district was repeatedly vandalised with tar, paint and a hammer before being blown to pieces less than three months after its unveiling.[1] These actions were carried out by Alf Marney, a prominent member of the Orange Order and owner of a television repair shop in Leith.[2]

The folksongs Sky High Joe[3] and The Ballad of the Inch[4] commemorate these events.

After 1953, new post boxes were placed in Scotland carrying only the Crown of Scotland image rather than the EIIR cypher, which continued to be used in the rest of the United Kingdom, and indeed in some of the Queen's other realms and territories.


  1. ^ The Scots Independent, March 1953, Page 2
  2. ^ Kay, Billy. The Complete Odyssey: Voices from Scotland's Recent Past (editor).
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]