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France - Boulanger Fantasies

by Bonnie & Roger Riga

image1.jpg (23266 bytes)Oftentimes cinderellas are created as a result of a form of propaganda wish fulfillment. Stamps are produced that show a desired end and thus become an implementing means to that end. That seems to be the impetus behind the stamps created in the late 1800s in France of General Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger.

Boulanger was a good soldier by all accounts and successful in the Franco-Prussian War in the 1880s. The General, not content with that, set out to be the most popular and well-liked General in France. He apparently succeeded since in 1886, he was named War Minister and endeavored to have himself seen as the man to lead France to revenge against the Germans. As governments changed, Boulanger's popularity ensured that he remained as Minister.

Vanity overcame the General and he began to dream of a coup d'etat with himself as head of a military dictatorship. France does seem to be a fertile field for this sort of person. Prosecution of Boulanger for treason was imminent when he fled to Brussels in 1889, then on to London. Convicted in absentia, the General had lost it all. He committed suicide in Brussels in 1891.

The stamps were created, ironically enough, by a German who was hopeful of Boulanger's success and planned to sell them after the General came to power. There were twelve values, found both perforated and imperforate. In each the General's portrait is done in brown in various colored frames. The values run from 1 centime to 20 francs. The printing is rather crude and done on either white, yellow or blue paper.

This is an interesting issue just on its own and an early example of propaganda-based cinderellas. Topicalists, French collectors, military history buffs - all could find a corner in their albums for the General who thought he could outdo Napoleon.

This column first appeared in Scott Stamp Monthly and has been edited for online presentation.
This page was last updated July 8, 2016.
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