In the spring of 1939, the German menace loomed large in England. The Nazi plan for European domination was becoming clear and the fear was that Great Britain would be
attacked. In an attempt to assuage civilian fears should an invasion occur, a civil servant in England’s Ministry of Information designed a poster featuring an icon of the King’s Crown and the sans serif slogan Keep Calm and Carry On.
King George VI (shown left) with Eleanor Roosevelt (shown centre) and Queen Elizabeth (shown right) in London. The King is wearing Royal Air Force uniform.
At the time, American opinion was divided on whether or not to enter the conflict. Ever since the United States had won its independence from Great Britain, a level of tension and hostility had marked the relationship between the two countries. Still, in a gesture of goodwill, Franklin Roosevelt invited King George VI over to visit. This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited America and the voyage signaled the beginning of a new period of Anglo-American cooperation and alliance. After time spent in Washington DC, the Roosevelts hosted King George and Queen Mary at their family estate in Hyde Park, New York. Eleanor Roosevelt took care in hosting the couple and treated them to an American picnic, complete with hot dogs. Friendships were formed, letters exchanged, and when America’s help became clearly necessary, we sent troops and support.
Despite bombing and close calls, the German invasion didn’t occur, the Allies triumphed and the poster was never released. Still, throughout the war, the Royal Family handled themselves with typical aplomb and one could sense that Keep Calm and Carry On was in their minds throughout the war. The couple maintained official residence at Buckingham Palace during the bombing as a show of solidarity with Londoners. Winning the war would take democratic effort, and the Royal Family was committed to this both in practice and appearance. They even had ration cards.
When a British bookseller discovered a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in 2000, the nearly forgotten design began its rebirth. In a faster-paced world, the slogan has taken on new meanings while retaining its original wisdom for people from all walks of life.
Reign 11 December 1936 – 6 February 1952