Family quarrels, to which we owe the postal service

They say that the only business worth doing with the family is no business at all. If the saying were known in the 16th century, King Sigismund Augustus would definitely have agreed with its tenor. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that one consequence of the quarrel with his family was the institution of Poland’s first postal service.

The King did not experience much joy in his married life, while his disputes with the Italian born Queen Mother Bona Sforza persuaded the temperamental lady to return her to her home country, where she died, leaving a fortune as a heirloom for her son. Unfortunately, just before her death, the Queen had lent Philip II of Spain the vast sum of 430,000 ducats, known as the “Neapolitan monies”. The Polish king realised that the recovery of the treasure from the Spanish one would be a difficult task. His envoys and lawyers immediately made for Italy, yet the speed of communication between Poland and Italy was of critical importance.

This is why the Polish King founded Poland’s first “so-called post, that is relays of horses from Kraków to Venice, operating permanently in designated periods, years, and days”*. Its first director was Prosper Provano, the owner of the house in Floriańska Street, which today stands at No. 14 and has been turned into the Pod Różą Hotel. It was from there that the first postal stagecoach set forth for Italy to reach Venice in only 10 days.

After a few years, when the management of the enterprise was taken over by the Montelupi family, the seat of the post office was transferred to their house in the Main Square (No. 7). The stagecoaches never slowed down their pace; moreover, the year 1583 marked the first time in the history of the postal services when a uniform flat fee for a parcel, regardless of the distance and the place to which the correspondence was sent, was introduced. In comparison, the first post-stamp, together with the uniformity of postage, was to be introduced only in 1840 in England...

*Cyt. za: M. Czuma, L. Mazan, Pępek świata nazywa się Kraków, Anabasis, Kraków 2000.

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