LONDON, UK (TEH) – This week, the United Kingdom ushers in an epochal shift, as British passports bearing the title “Her Majesty” will transition to bearing the moniker of King Charles III – the first such change in seven decades. A historic moment reverberates through the land as the British citizenry, for whom the image of Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant fixture on their travel documents, prepares for this symbol of monumental transition.
“For 70 years, Her Majesty has appeared on British passports and many of us cannot remember a time when she did not appear. Today is a significant moment in UK history, as the title Her Majesty begins to appear on British passports for the first time since 1952.”
Over the first two quarters of 2023, an impressive tally of over 5 million passports were processed, with the remarkable efficiency of the HM (His Majesty) Passport Office ensuring over 99 percent of these were issued within the standard 10-week UK service frame. Notably, over 90 percent of these were dispatched within a mere three weeks.
These commendable metrics underscore an appreciable improvement in the functioning of HM Passport Office from the preceding year, with 95.4 percent of passports issued within the 10-week period in 2022. This marked uptick can be traced back to a multitude of strategic enhancements implemented at the start of 2022 to tackle forthcoming challenges. These included process refinements, considerable progress in digital systems, improved access to flexible resources, and a range of other measured initiatives, according to UK government’s official website.
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The earliest known British passports date back to the epoch of King Henry V in 1414, and were originally known as “safe conducts”. However, it was only in 1915 that the archetype of the modern passport, complete with photographs and signatures, made its debut. This model has evolved over the past century to incorporate numerous security features and design elements.
The inaugural security element, a unique watermark, was unveiled in 1972. Since then, British passports have continually updated their security arsenal, featuring an array of elements such as detailed printed patterns, watermarks, holograms, and polycarbonate pages. 1988 saw the issuance of the first machine-readable passport, a noteworthy advancement in passport technology. Fast forward three decades to 2020, the quintessentially British blue cover was reintroduced, a nostalgic nod to pre-European Union times, following the UK’s exit from the EU.
This evolution of the British passport, now culminating in the transition from “Her Majesty” to “King Charles III”, serves as a testament to the UK’s ability to adapt and evolve, striking a balance between historical reverence and the necessity for continual progress.