by Martino Laurenzi

Few places in the world can boast a rich past like the south of Italy. In particular Sicily, at the crossroads of the Mediterranean sea, has been home to many different populations, falling under different governance, including, in chronological order, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Vandal, Ostrogoth, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, the Holy Roman Empire, Angevin, Aragonese, Savoy, Austrian Hapsburg, Bourbon, and finally Italian.

It is not difficult to understand why the study of the history of this land is among the most challenging and daunting of all. At this time it is appropriate to reassure (or to warn, depending on points of view) the reader about the scope of this short article, which will focus only on the period of the Bourbon domination, a little longer than 100 years.

Far from addressing the complex issues of the real history, that which one reads about in the books of history, it will take a backroad approach, so to speak, to illustrate some of the formal yet personal issues affecting the lives of the members of the courts of Great Britain and of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies using evidence from letters addressed to members of the royal Sicilian household. The historian will have to forgive the low-key approach, while the philatelist will have to live without any erudite dissertation of printings, watermarks or colour varieties.

The postal historian however might – hopefully – find some interest in getting a less than usual exposure to the everyday life of kings, queens, princes and princesses, finding out first-hand about real friendships and court jealousies, intrigue, joy and sorrow, royal weddings and royal funerals.

Being a modest student of postal history himself, the author has always been intrigued by the insights that can be contributed to the interpretation of ‘big’ history through the daily comments that can be gathered from the daily correspondence of small people. Here the writers are certainly not small people, but they are often talking about daily life events, which is why this material is interesting to the point of wanting to share it.