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The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom was a
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
-level
ministerial Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity), a Christian cleric * Minister (government), a member of government who heads a ministry (government department) ** Minister without portfolio, a member of government with the rank of a normal minist ...
position in
HM Government ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinrick , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size=220px, date_established = , state = United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, comm ...
. Aside from maintaining
the postal system
the postal system
, the
Telegraph Act 1868 The Telegraph Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c.110) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations ...
established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric
telegraph Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages where the sender uses symbolic codes, known to the recipient, rather than a physical exchange of an object bearing the message. Thus flag semaphore Flag semaphore (from the Ancient ...
s. This would subsequently extend to
telecommunications Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio, Optical system, optical, or other Electromagnetism, electromagnetic systems. It has its origin in the desire of humans for communication ov ...
and broadcasting. The office was abolished in 1969 by the
Post Office Act 1969 The Post Office Act 1969 (c.48) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * ...
. A replacement
public corporation A public company, publicly traded company, publicly held company, publicly listed company, or public limited company is a company whose ownership is organized via shares of share capital, stock which are intended to be freely traded on a stock ...
, governed by a chairman, was established under the name of the ''
Post Office A post office is a public facility that provides mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended fo ...

Post Office
'' (later subsumed by Royal Mail Group). The cabinet position of ''Postmaster General'' was replaced by a ''Minister of Posts and Telecommunications'', with reduced powers, until 1974; most regulatory functions have now been delegated to the
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, also referred to as the culture secretary, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinri ...
. However the present-day Royal Mail Group was overseen by the
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, also referred to as the business secretary, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unit ...
prior to flotation.


History

In England, the monarch's letters to his subjects are known to have been carried by relays of couriers as long ago as the 15th century. The earliest mention of ''Master of the Posts'' is in the ''King's Book of Payments'' where a payment of £100 was authorised for
Brian Tuke Sir Brian Tuke (died 1545), was the secretary of Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey. He became treasurer of the household. Life He may have been the son of Richard Tuke (died 1498?) and Agnes his wife, daughter of John Bland of Nottinghamshire. The f ...
as master of the posts in February 1512. Belatedly, in 1517, he was officially appointed to the office of ''Governor of the King's Posts'', a precursor to the office of Postmaster General of the United Kingdom, by
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for Wives of Henry VIII, his six marriages, including his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon ...
. In 1609 it was decreed that letters could only be carried and delivered by persons authorised by the Postmaster General. In 1655
John Thurloe John Thurloe (June 1616 – 21 February 1668) of Great Milton in Oxfordshire and of Lincoln's Inn,''The life of John Thurloe Esq., Secretary of State'', published in: ''A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe'', Volume 1, 1638–1653, e ...

John Thurloe
became Postmaster-General, a post he held until he was accused of treason and arrested in May 1660. His spies were able to intercept mail, and he exposed
Edward Sexby Colonel Edward Sexby (or Saxby; 1616 – 13 January 1658) was an English Puritans, Puritan soldier and Levellers, Leveller in the army of Oliver Cromwell. Later he turned against Cromwell and plotted his assassination. Biography Sexby was born ...
's 1657 plot to assassinate Cromwell and captured would-be assassin
Miles Sindercombe Miles Sindercombe (died 13 February 1657) was the leader of a group that tried to assassinate Lord Protector#Cromwellian Commonwealth, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell during the English Interregnum, period of the Protectorate in 1657. Early milita ...
and his group. (Ironically, Thurloe's own department was also infiltrated: in 1659 Morland became a Royalist agent and alleged that Thurloe,
Richard Cromwell Richard Cromwell (4 October 162612 July 1712) was an English statesman who was the latter Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and son of the first Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. On his father's death, Richa ...
and Sir Richard Willis - a Sealed Knot member turned Cromwell agent - were plotting to kill the future King
Charles II
Charles II
.) About forty years after his death, a false ceiling was found in his rooms at
Lincoln's Inn The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court The Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices ...

Lincoln's Inn
, the space was full of letters seized during his occupation of the office of Postmaster-General. These letters are also now at the Bodleian. In 1657 an Act entitled 'Postage of England, Scotland and Ireland Settled' set up a system for the British Isles and enacted the position of Postmaster General. The Act also reasserted the postal monopoly for letter delivery and for post horses. After the
Restoration Restoration is the act of restoring something to its original state and may refer to: * Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage * Restoration style Film and television * The Restoration (1909 film), ''The Restoration'' (1909 film), a ...
in 1660, a further Act (12 Car II, c.35) confirmed this and the post of Postmaster-General, the previous
Cromwellian Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English general and statesman who, first as a subordinate and later as Commander-in-Chief, led armies An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" ...

Cromwellian
Act being void. 1660 saw the establishment of the General Letter Office, which would later become the
General Post Office The General Post Office (GPO) was the state mail, postal system and telecommunications carrier of the United Kingdom until 1969. Before the Acts of Union 1707, it was the postal system of the Kingdom of England, established by Charles II of En ...

General Post Office
(GPO). A similar position evolved in the
Kingdom of Scotland The Kingdom of Scotland ( gd, Rìoghachd na h-Alba; sco, Kinrick o Scotland) was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern thi ...
prior to the 1707
Act of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
. The office was abolished in 1969 by the
Post Office Act 1969 The Post Office Act 1969 (c.48) is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * ...
. A new public corporation, governed by a chairman, was established under the name of the
Post Office A post office is a public facility that provides mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended fo ...

Post Office
(the part later subsumed by
Royal Mail Royal Mail Group plc is a British multinational mail, postal service and courier company, originally established in 1516 as a department of the English government. The company's subsidiary Royal Mail Group Limited operates the brands Royal Mail (le ...

Royal Mail
), which also had responsibility for
telecommunications Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio, Optical system, optical, or other Electromagnetism, electromagnetic systems. It has its origin in the desire of humans for communication ov ...
and the
Girobank National Girobank was a British public sector financial institution run by the General Post Office The General Post Office (GPO) was the state mail, postal system and telecommunications carrier of the United Kingdom until 1969. Before the ...
). The cabinet position of Postmaster General was initially replaced by a Minister of Posts and Telecommunications with less direct involvement; this department was dissolved in March 1974, with regulatory functions transferring to the
Home Office The Home Office (HO), also known (especially in official papers and when referred to in Parliament) as the Home Department, is a ministerial department of the Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govren ...

Home Office
, the Post Office retaining control of
television licensing A television licence or broadcast receiving licence is a payment required in many countries for the reception of television broadcasts, or the possession of a television set where some broadcasts are funded in full or in part by the licence fee ...
. Since 1992, most regulatory functions formerly conducted by the Postmaster General generally fall within the remit of the
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, also referred to as the culture secretary, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unitit Kinri ...
, although the present-day Royal Mail Group was overseen by the
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, also referred to as the business secretary, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe sco, Govrenment o the Unit ...
until flotation.


Masters of the King's Post


Postmaster under the Commonwealth


Postmasters General of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom

The earliest postmasters had responsibility for
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
. In 1707, on the Union with Scotland, the responsibility of the office was extended to cover the whole of the new
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", ''The American Pageant, Volume 1'', Cengage Learning (2012) was a s ...

Kingdom of Great Britain
as well as Ireland, but with some powers held by a Post Office Manager for Scotland. By the Post Office (Revenues) Act 1710, with effect from 1711, the services were united, but with a Deputy Postmaster for Scotland. From 1784, there were also
Postmasters General of Ireland The Postmasters General of Ireland, held by two people simultaneously, was a new appointment set up as part of the establishment of the Irish Post Office independent from that of Great Britain, by the Act 23, 24 George III in 1784. The post lasted ...
, but from 1831, the postmasters based at Westminster became responsible for the whole of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some f ...

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
.''Chambers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge: Vol. VIII'' (London: W. & R. Chambers, Ltd., 1901)
p. 347
/ref> In 1922, the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of St ...
became independent, and in 1923 it established its own arrangements under a Postmaster General of the Irish Free State. In 1924 the title became
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs ( ga, Aire Poist agus Telegrafa) was the holder of a position in the Government of Ireland (and, earlier, in the Executive Council of the Irish Free State). From 1924 until 1984 – when it was abolished ...
.


Two Postmasters General, 1691–1823

From 1691 to 1823 there were two Postmasters General, to divide the patronage between the Whigs and Tories.


A single Postmaster General, 1823–1900

In 1823 the idea of a Whig and a Tory sharing the post was abolished.


Postmaster General, 1900–1969


Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, 1969-1974


See also

* Postmaster General (disambiguation) *
Postmasters General of Ireland The Postmasters General of Ireland, held by two people simultaneously, was a new appointment set up as part of the establishment of the Irish Post Office independent from that of Great Britain, by the Act 23, 24 George III in 1784. The post lasted ...
*
Postmaster General for Scotland The Postmaster General for Scotland, based in Edinburgh, was responsible for the postal service in the Kingdom of Scotland from approximately 1616 until the Acts of Union 1707, Act of Union unified Scotland and England in 1707; creating a new sta ...
* Postmaster and Deputy Postmaster for Canada 1763–1851 – who reported to the Postmaster General of the United Kingdom *
Postmaster General of Canada The Postmaster General of Canada was the Canadian cabinet minister responsible for the Post Office Department (Canada Post). In 1851, management of the post office was transferred from United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Britain (Royal Ma ...
* Postmaster General of Hong Kong – created in 1870 to replace the
Royal Mail Royal Mail Group plc is a British multinational mail, postal service and courier company, originally established in 1516 as a department of the English government. The company's subsidiary Royal Mail Group Limited operates the brands Royal Mail (le ...

Royal Mail
and under British administration until 1 July 1997


References


External links


Postmaster General PDF
{{DEFAULTSORT:Postmaster General Of The United Kingdom Lists of government ministers of the United Kingdom Postal system of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Postmasters General Defunct ministerial offices in the United Kingdom Ministries disestablished in 1969 1517 establishments in England