Canada Post unveils William and Kate stamp

Canada Post on Friday unveiled stamps commemorating the upcoming nuptials of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton.

"As symbols of love and loyalty, these stamps are eloquent," Canadian Governor General David Johnston said at an unveiling ceremony at the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II's representative, Rideau Hall.

"At once, they affirm Canada's commitment to the crown and, on a human level, they symbolize one of the most joyous occasions in life: the joining of two people in marriage."

Canada Post will produce more than 16 million of the royal wedding stamps. Some 100,000 were pre-ordered online by collectors even before they were unveiled, a spokeswoman told AFP.

The domestic stamp features a photograph taken of the couple last November when they announced their engagement.

The international stamp shows their official engagement photo taken by fashion photographer Mario Testing, who was the favorite of Prince William's mother, Diana, and who took some of the most memorable images of her.

It marks the first time in more than 60 years that Canada Post has issued a stamp to commemorate a royal wedding. The last was issued in 1948 in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's marriage the previous year to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

Since 1935, the queen has appeared on 65 Canadian stamps.

On the day of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, Canadians will have an opportunity to cancel their stamps at the post office with commemorative cancels.

"It will be one of the largest stamp issues of 2011," said Canada Post president Deepak Chopra.

The typical stamp approval, selection and production process takes months but was condensed into weeks for this issue to ensure the stamps would be available by the date of the wedding.

Canada Post even diverted special paper that was to be used to make other stamps for this issue, as it was too late to order new paper, a spokeswoman said.

William and Kate are to visit Canada from June 30 to July 8, two months after their wedding in London's Westminster Abbey on April 29. It will be their first official trip outside Britain as newlyweds.

The search and rescue pilot is directly in line to become Canada's king after his father Prince Charles, the heir to the throne in the 16 Commonwealth realms, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The tour by William, 28, and Kate, 29, will include Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and the capital Ottawa, said St James's Palace.