In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, shops are shut and leaving one’s house might seem a little daunting for some of us. No one has been left unaffected, individuals and large corporations alike. So, as could have been predicted, we started to rely more and more on delivery services as the safer and more convenient option. Delivering our food, drink, and, especially as Christmas approaches, delivering to ourselves and to others the odd parcel full of goodies!
But have you ever wondered how your parcels get to you? How does the Royal Mail in particular, on whom we have all relied on now more than ever, provide the quality service that they do? What is the history of this ancient and reliable service, and what strange reasons exist for it to sometimes fail? Here’s 11 interesting facts about the Royal Mail to clue you in…
Royal Mail’s story began in 1516 when Henry the 8th first appointed “Master of the Post”- which then became “Postmaster General” in 1710.
Previously, the ‘royal mail’ was exactly that, only to be available to the royal household and court. The messages were relayed between palaces and estates on horseback. It wasn’t until 1635 that Charles I opened the King’s Posts to the general public.
Even two hundred years after it was opened to the public, it was still far too expensive for common use and only the wealthy had the privilege of using it.
This fact changed in 1840 when the Royal Mail introduced the first ever postage stamp and stopped charging by distance. It was called the Penny Black, issued in 1837. This made the service much more affordable, it only cost a penny (which is the equivalent of just over a pound today).
Having one’s head featured on a stamp was usually a position reserved for the monarchy, and the first ‘commoner’ to feature on a stamp would be Shakespeare, in 1964. The stamp was released to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the famous writer’s birth.
The arrival of the postage stamp and its affordable nature had a direct effect on the number of letters sent: in 1839, only 67 letters were processed, but only a few years later the Royal Mail saw over 170 million letters pass through its hands from all across the country.
At one point in time, 2 million postcards were sent per day with up to 7 delivery times per day. This frequency of delivery made the postal service timing relatively close to the emailing service we know and take for granted today! However, due to the arrival of the Internet and immediate responses, less and less letters and postcards are sent every year.
The 5 most common things to be sent by the Royal Mail in 2017 were books, clothing, and gaming consoles. Greeting cards aren’t far behind at 5th on the list.
When things go wrong, it is usually because a parcel’s shipping label gets damaged somehow and then that’s your parcel lost to the wind. Some surveys have seen the number of disappearing parcels rising which could, unfortunately, be because dishonesty is rising, and more reliance on technology leading to more human error or system errors. What was once a small service for the elite has now expanded to a massive international effort which employs over 160,000 people.
Due to the Coronavirus, Royal Mail expected to suffer losses even though parcel sending increased exponentially over lockdown. Sickness and furloughed staff decreased their manpower, and Royal Mail was hurt by as massive decrease in letters sent, whereas parcel revenue rose by 33.1%, thus the overall revenue of Royal Mail ended up jumping by £139million!
Royal Mail’s CEO is Newcastle University graduate Stuart Simpson, but the biggest shareholder of Royal Mail is billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, also known as the Czech Sphinx.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about the Royal Mail that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!