In Highwaypersons, characters send and receive letters between London and Cardiff and between Cardiff and Cardigan. When he read this, someone asked whether or not this was an anachronism. Surely, there was no national postal service in the early Eighteenth Century? I am happy to assure him and you that there was.
- A postal service of some kind was established in 1516 by Henry VIII, a king renowned for innovation and reform.
- The service became known as the Royal Mail in 1635 when it was made available to anyone. The recipient paid, on a scale relating to the distance.
- Parliament made further reforms in the days of the Commonwealth in the 1650’s, making it a national service, covering England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
- In 1661, the restored Charles II reenacted only very few of the acts passed by the Commonwealth. Those concerning the postal service were among them. He must have placed a lot of importance upon communications at that time.
I have no hesitation, therefore, in asserting that by 1715 anyone could send a letter by Royal Mail from Cardiff to London or Cardigan and vice versa.
Does it matter?
Some people think I should make my books conform to people’s expectations regarding life in the past.
- I intend to be as true to history as I can be, allowing that I am writing fiction. I fill in the blank parts.
- Many authors have taught me history without my realising it at the time and I hope I can do the same.
- I try to help readers by including a few historical notes at the back of the book, to separate the facts from the fiction. I thank Bernard Cornwell for that idea.
I hope our postal service will remain, in effect, a national public service despite its relatively recent privatisation.