Pillar Box War

The Pillar Box War refers to a number of 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 or Elizabeth I.

The Queen's Royal Cypher, surmounted by St Edward's crown


Ascending to the throne in February 1952, Elizabeth adopted the royal style of Elizabeth the Second. This was reflected in her royal cypher, which took the Latin form 'EIIR'. Some objected to this usage as the new queen was 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 her right 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.

Actions and legacyEdit

A Royal Mail van in Scotland showing the omission of the Royal Cypher
Post-1954 pattern Royal Mail lamp post box of the type used in Scotland, showing the Crown of Scotland

Some occasions of vandalism and even explosions of post boxes which carried the Queen's EIIR insignia were recorded.[1][2] 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.[3]

The folksongs Sky High Joe[4] and The Ballad of the Inch[5] commemorate these events.[6]

After 1953, new post boxes were placed in Scotland carrying only the Crown of Scotland image rather than the EIIR cypher,[7][8] which continued to be used in the rest of the United Kingdom, and indeed in some of the Queen's other realms and territories. A post box with the EIIR cypher was installed in Dunoon in 2018 and immediately scheduled for replacement on discovery of the error.[9]


  1. ^ Scott, Andrew Murray; Macleay, Iain (January 18, 1990). Britain's Secret War: Tartan Terrorism and the Anglo-American State. Mainstream Pub. ISBN 9781851583065 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "The return of our fiends in the north". The Independent. March 6, 2002.
  3. ^ The Scots Independent, March 1953, Page 2
  4. ^ Spiegel, Max. "SKY-HIGH JOE". mudcat.org.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-05-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Neat, Timothy (August 25, 2012). Hamish Henderson: The Making of the Poet. Birlinn. ISBN 9780857904867 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "About Boxes – The Letter Box Study Group". lbsg.org. Q = Queen Elizabeth. When the first of Queen Elizabeth’s boxes were erected in Scotland, in 1952, some objected to the EIIR cipher, arguing that Scotland had never had an Elizabeth I. Several boxes in Scotland were vandalised. The problem went as far as the prime minister; eventually it was decided that Scottish boxes would bear a Scottish Crown in place of the EIIR cipher.
  8. ^ "St Andrews in Focus Issue 66 Sep Oct 2014". Issuu.
  9. ^ "New EIIR postbox sparks fury among residents of Scottish seaside town". The National.