The Franking Privilege

Franks are marks or signatures which allow mail to pass through the General Post without charge. Franked mail had to be signed and by a late Act of Parliament, dated with the town of origin in the sender's hand.

Before 1840, a great many letters passed through the General Post without charge. The privilege of franking had been granted to Ministers of State during the reign of Elizabeth I and before its abolition in 1840 had been granted to members of both Houses of Parliament, many Government Departments and many Government Officials.

In a Council of State Ordinance of 1652, it was first formally stated that Members of Parliament were granted Free postage. Prior to the Franking Act of 1764, the privilege was controlled by Royal Warrant and thereafter by Act of Parliament. At a time when postal charges were excessive, abuses were abundant with many members signing letters for friends and business associates, thus the Post Office revenue suffered. Many attempts to control the privilege were made by the Post Office until Franking was finally abolished on the introduction of Uniform Penny Postage on 10th January 1840.

A pre Franking Act Letter 1740.

This Letter is dated at London 16th December 1740. It has been carried privately to Hamilton where it has been put into the post. It is addressed "To Alexander Cuninghame of Craigend member of Parlement att his howse near Paisly" the letter is free of postage as it addressed to a Member of Parliament. The latter part of the address appears to have been added at Hamilton

The reverse of the letter showing the small 2 line HAMIL/TON namestamp.


A pre Franking Act letter from a Government Department 1757.

30th September 1757, a letter from the Commissioners of Supply Hamilton to Edinburgh endorsed "Free J.C." "To Mr Archibald Stuart Writer to the Signet Edinr". Inside the letter is signed by James Cunnison.

The reverse of the letter showing the small 2 line HAMIL/TON namestamp.