Decapitation, Pirates and Post Haste


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Decapitation, Pirates and Post Haste May 18 2015 Stamps

SPINK LONDON | Spink is excited to announce that within The Philatelic Collector's Series Sale in London on the 20th - 22nd May, a letter to the Right Honourable John Bradshaw from 1652 is to be offered. Not just a letter, an entire 'Haste Post Haste' letter.

Writing 'Haste Post Haste' on a letter in the 17th century would get the letter to its intended destination as quickly as it is possible to do by horse. One can imagine that compared to the speed of an email today, this must have taken an awfully long time. That is what makes lot 3633 so special. Written on the letter are the six endorsements where the courier changed horses, and their times of arrival. It went: "From Dover past six at night/ Receiv(e)d att Canterbury past 10 att night/ Received at Settingborn past 2 in the morning/ Rochester past 5 in the morning /Dar(t)ford past 9 in the morning /arrived at Southwerk past 2 in the afternoon". This letter travelled from Dover to London in the space of 21 hours. An incredible speed to achieve considering the limited resources of the time.

This was a very important letter to a very important person, and would have to be if it was to get there so quickly. During the Civil War the postal service for the general public was severely restricted, if not completely non-existent. Both Royalists and Parliamentarians employed special couriers for Official Mail, otherwise letters were carried (and, occasionally charged or postally endorsed) privately. The 'Old' Post was restored in c. 1647, utilising the 1635 rates and, in 1653 the Post office was reorganised and the 'New' Post was established. Fortunately, this letter had written on it: "For the service of the State/ To the Right Hono(ra)ble/ the Lord President/of the Counsell/ of State/ those/present/ Whitehall" , i.e. John Bradshaw (1602-59) who presided at the trial of Charles I and passed sentence. The man who judged that Charles I should be beheaded. A man who trod the fine line between righteously upholding the law, and committing regicide. A man who held a lot of power, and one of the most important people in the history of the English monarchy.

The letter itself contains appropriately exciting news for its recipient, within its largely complete but cracked wax seal, the letter refers to "The Dutch Fleete" of "seventy sayle" anchored "in our roade." Kelsey adds that the Dutch "unhappily mett with three English Shippes coming from Barbadoes" which captured "two of them, the other escaped and came under the Castle." An endorsement in second hand reads "Letter from Coll: Kellsey Governr of Dover Castle relating the state of the Dutch fleet then in Dover Roade". This letter is referring to one of the skirmishes that took place during the first Anglo-Dutch War (1652-4), a battle for maritime dominance. However, it is unclear who comes off better from the writing still visible on the letter. The English ships coming from Barbados could very well have been privateers, or honest merchants. The Dutch ships could have been simply trading in the English Channel, or they could have been heavily armed and hostile towards the British pirating caused by the 1651 Navigation Acts (which essentially demanded that trade with  England must mean that the goods be imported into England by English ships, leading to much pirating by the English). This letter was potentially a matter of national maritime security. 

Whatever the real circumstances of this letter's contents, it is a marvellous 'Haste Post Haste' letter and a major British Postal History rarity.

3633

Lot 3633, estimated: £20,000-25,000

 

For more Information, please contact Dominic Savastano:

Tel: +44 020 7563 4094 | Email: dsavastano@spink.com

 

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