For the first time in 70 years, British passports bearing the title of “His Majesty” will start being issued this week in the name of King Charles III.
U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the new design update on July 18 evening which changes the passport salutation from “Her Majesty” following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September last year. As is customary, the 74-year-old King himself does not carry a passport as it is a document issued in his name.
“For 70 years, Her Majesty has appeared on British passports and many of us will not remember a time when she did not feature. Today marks a significant moment in U.K. history, as the first British passports since 1952 start featuring the title of His Majesty, the King,” said Ms. Braverman.
“As HM Passport Office enters a new era in its history, it is delivering an exceptional service and I am extremely grateful for their outstanding accomplishments and the unwavering dedication of the whole team to meet the needs of the British public. While vast improvements have been made, I continue to urge the public to make sure they apply for passports in good time,” she said.
The earliest recorded British passport can be traced back to the reign of Henry V in 1414 and documents were known as safe conducts. It was not until 1915 that the first modern-style British passports, including a photograph and signature were first issued.
The first security feature, a special watermark, was introduced in passports in 1972. Since then, a large number of security features have been incorporated into British passports, from watermarks, holograms, elaborately printed patterns, to the polycarbonate page. This is intended as reassurance to British nationals that there is only one issue of their unique document.
The first burgundy-coloured machine-readable passports were issued in 1988 and over 30 years later, in 2020, the distinctive blue cover was re-introduced following the departure of the U.K. from the European Union (EU).
The Home Office said in the first six months of this year, over 5 million passports have been processed with more than 99 per cent issued within the standard U.K. service of 10 weeks, the vast majority well within this timeline, with over 90% delivered within three weeks.
It hailed it as a “significant improvement” in His Majesty’s Passport Office (HM Passport Office) performance since 2022, during which time 95.4% of passports were issued within this 10-week timeframe.
It attributed the improvements to a series of strategic measures implemented to overcome the challenges faced in early 2022, including process improvements, significant advancements in digital systems, enhanced access to flexible resources, and the introduction of a second supplier of customer contact services.