The King of Nepal, Elvis, and an American Spy

Nepal has been issuing stamps since 1881, although its stamps were only valid for postage within Nepal and neighboring India until 1959.  Three years before this, Nepal released a set of stamps to commemorate the coronation of its King and Queen.

Nepal Stamp

The set is curious because King Mahendra had a new bride for the coronation.  Queen Ratna was actually the sister of the king’s first wife, who died two years previously.

Four years later, after the King of Nepal visited Elvis Presely in 1960, King Mahendra suspended the Nepal constitution and dissolved the nation’s parliament.

Elvis King of Nepal

Here are Nepal’s King and Queen on the set with Elvis in Los Angeles.  Their Southern California trip also featured visits  to Disneyland and a refinery in El Segundo.

Nepal has always been a bit of a challenging country for stamp collectors.  Although often considered aligned with India, it is not strictly considered a British Commonwealth country.  When Nepal launched its telegraph service in 1917, postage stamps were used to pay the fees, and, as a result, the cancellations which indicate postal use can be confusing.

In January, 1972, King Mahendra died a strange death.  Only 52 years old, he was big game hunting in southern Nepal with hotelier and CIA operative John Coapman.  Nine years previously, the King had granted permission to Coapman to operate a game hunting lodge in Nepal’s Royal Chitwan National Park.  For intelligence gathering purposes, the location provided an ideal vantage point on both China and India.

While hunting, the King died in Coapman’s arms.

The stamp that commemorates his life and notes his death was not released until December.  At the time of this posting, Queen Ratna is still alive.

I try to keep a stock of Nepal stamps in my store… because of the growing demand for the stamps of this unusual country, many of the singles and sets can be hard be hard to find.

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