Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
Royal Mail Steam Packet Company House flag
|Successors||Royal Mail Lines Ltd|
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Lord Kylsant|
|Industry||Shipping, cruise line|
|Predecessors||Royal Mail Steam Packet Company|
|Successors||Furness, Withy & Co.|
The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was a British shipping company founded in London in 1839 by a Scot, James MacQueen. After good and bad times it became the largest shipping group in the world in 1927 when it took over the White Star Line.
The company was liquidated and its assets taken over by the newly formed Royal Mail Lines in 1932 after financial trouble and scandal; over the years RML declined to no more than the name of a service run by former rival Hamburg-Süd.
Queen Victoria granted the initial Royal Charter of Incorporation of "The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company" on 26 September 1839. In 1840 the Admiralty and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company made a contract in which the latter agreed to provide a fleet of not fewer than 14 steam vessels for the purpose of carrying all Her Majesty's mails, to sail twice every month to Barbados in the West Indies from Southampton or Falmouth. 14 new steam vessels were built for the purpose, being Thames, Medway, Trent and Isis (built at Northfleet); Severn and Avon (built at Bristol); Tweed, Clyde, Teviot, Dee, and Solway (built at Greenock); Tay (built at Dumbarton); Forth (built at Leith); and Medina, (built at Cowes). In reference to their destination, these vessels were known as the West Indies Mail Steamers.
The West Indian Mail Service was established by the sailing of the first Royal Mail Steam Packet, PS Thames from Falmouth on 1 January 1841. A Supplemental Royal Charter was granted on 30 August 1851 extending the sphere of the Company's operations. In 1864, the mail service to the British Honduras was established. A further Supplemental Royal Charter was granted extending the sphere of the Company's operations on 7 March 1882.
In the decade before the First World War the RMSP modernised its fleet, introducing a series of larger liners ranging from 9,588 GRT to 15,551 GRT on its Southampton – Buenos Aires route. Each had a name beginning with the letter "A", so collectively they were called the "A-liners" or the "A-series". The first was RMS Aragon in 1905, followed by sister ships Amazon, Araguaya and Avon in 1906, Asturias in 1908, Arlanza in 1912, Andes and Alcantara in 1913 and Almanzora in 1915. Earlier members of the series, from Aragon to Asturias, had twin screws, each driven by a four-cylinder quadruple-expansion steam engine. The final four members of the series, from Arlanza to Almanzora, had triple screws, with the middle one driven by a low pressure Parsons steam turbine.
After the First World War RMSP introduced a pair of new 22,200 GRT liners, RMS Asturias in 1925 and RMS Alcantara in 1926. But the company ran into financial trouble, and the UK Government investigated its affairs in 1930, resulting in the Royal Mail Case. Chairman Lord Kylsant was jailed in 1931 for misrepresenting the state of the company to shareholders. So much of Britain's shipping industry was involved in RMSPC that arrangements were made to guarantee the continuation of ship operations after it was liquidated. Royal Mail Lines Ltd (RML) was created in 1932 and took over the ships of RMSPC and other companies of the former group. The line's motto was Per Mare Ubique (everywhere by sea).
The new company's operations were concentrated on the west coast of South America, the West Indies and Caribbean, and the Pacific coast of North America; the Southampton – Lisbon – Brazil – Uruguay – Argentina route was operated from 1850 to 1980. RML was also a leading cruise ship operator.
RMS's largest vessel was the 25,895 GRT turbine steamship RMS Andes. She was designed as an ocean liner but when launched in 1939 was immediately fitted out as a troopship. She finally entered civilian liner service in 1947, transferred to full-time cruising in 1958 and was scrapped in 1971.
RMSP and RML lost a number of ships in their long history. One of the last was the 17,547 GRT turbine steamship RMS Magdalena, which was launched in 1949 and grounded and sank off Brazil on her maiden voyage.
In 1965 RML was bought by Furness, Withy & Co., and rapidly lost its identity. In the 1970s parts of the Furness Withy Group, including RML, were sold on to Hong Kong shipowner C.Y. Tung, and later sold on to former River Plate rival Hamburg Süd; by the 1990s Royal Mail Lines was no more than the name of a Hamburg-Süd refrigerated cargo service from South America to Europe.
List of RMSP Company vessels
|Ship||Date Commissioned||Gross Tonnage||Propulsion||Material|
|City of Glasgow||1842||1,700||paddle||wood|
Table sources: A Link of Empire and Nicol 2001, MacQueen's Legacy.
- See Royal Mail Case for more details on RML's financial situation
- "Royal Mail Steam Packet Company". Shipping Lines. Plimsoll.org. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Anonymous 1910
- Dodd, George (1867). Railways steamers and telegraphs: a glance at their recent progress and present state. London: W&R Chambers. pp. 159–161.
- Nicol 2001, p. 101.
- Nicol, Stuart. "The Royal Mail Story". Users.on.net. Retrieved 17 April 2012.[self-published source][dead link]
- Nicol 2001, pp. 162–186.
- Nicol 2001, pp. 186–193.
- Anonymous (1910). A Link of Empire; or, 70 years of British Shipping: Souvenir of the 70th year of incorporation of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. London: Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.
- Bushell, T.A. (1958) . Royal Mail: a Centenary History of the Royal Mail Line 1839–1939. London: Trade and Travel Publications Ltd.
- Nicol, Stuart (2001). MacQueen's Legacy; Ships of the Royal Mail Line Two. Brimscombe Port and Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2119-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.|
- Swiggum, Susan; Kohli, Marjorie (2 June 2009). "Royal Mail Steam Packet Company / Royal Mail Lines Limited". TheShipsList. Susan Swiggum & Stephen Morse.
- Archival material relating to Royal Mail Steam Packet Company listed at the UK National Archives