27th March 1911. Britannia Rule The Waves.

‘Promise-large promise-is the heart of advertising’: Samuel Johnson.

‘The All British Shopping Week’, from Today 27th March to April 1st, 1911,  showed Britannia and a lion and promised to be ‘the greatest shopping event of the century.’

One month later the Festival of Empire preceding, the coronation of George V, again needed Britannia to celebrate the event.

The picture below shows Britannia, enveloped in the Union Flag, advertizing the Coronation Exhibition of George V.


Coronation Exhibition 1911.


Britannia was the Roman term for Britain and used widely in the latter part of the 19th century, at a time of foreign competition from abroad, and used as a symbol of Britishness to sell home made products.


The symbol was used widely by companies  such as Ind-Coope’s from 1862 to sell their India Pale Ale, and Mazawattee (known for its tea adverts on buses), which shows as ‘Britannia welcomes the new Cocoa.’



The Crimean War saw Britannia wielding the ‘Sword of Justice, with a lion at her side in the 1854 Punch cartoon, standing up against the Russian bear, standing up for Right against Wrong and against tyranny. John Bull standing up for the weak against the bully.

Britannia also featured on boot and shoe manufacturer, Stead & Simpson’s 1895 showcard; Sunlight soap magazine advert 1889.

Among other companies using the symbol were Vinolia tooth paste 1915 (British made and British owned) and a biscuit tin label for Huntley & Palmer’s, Empire Assorted of 1925.

Britannia and Empire.

Britannia and Empire.

As late as 1980 Britannia featured alongside the Union Jack on an apple box following on from the 1967, ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign’ of the time. On a poster of 1984 Britannia Building Society announced, ‘Your Hard Earned Money Will Thrive With Us.’

Advert used until 1995.

Advert used until 1995.

Stamp overprinted

British Stamp overprinted after Ireland’s independence 1922.


1936 halfpenny

1936 halfpenny showing Britannia.



Ref: Tuckdb.org. Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/britannia. Pic Ref.

Ref: advertizingarchives.co.uk. Pic Ref.

Ref: sterlingtimes.co.uk/memorial_images.

Ref: historytoday/empire. Pic Ref.





About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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