A plan to privatise the Royal Mail, which will see around 150,000 workers handed shares worth millions of pounds, is the latest twist in its turbulent but distinguished history.
Here is a timeline of the key events which have shaped the British postal service:
1512: The origins of the Royal Mail go back to the early years of the Tudor monarchy. Brian Tuke, a former King's Bailiff in Sandwich, was acknowledged as the first "Master of the Posts" and went on to build up a network of postmasters across England for Henry VIII.
1635: Charles I made the postal service available to the public, before Charles II established the General Post Office in 1660.
1793: Uniformed postmen hit the streets for the first time.
1840: The first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was released nationally. This was the world's first postage stamp.
1852: The first Post Office pillar box was erected in Jersey. The boxes, painted dark green, were introduced to mainland Britain the following year.
1881: The postal order was introduced, followed two years later by the parcel post service.
1968: Second class stamps were introduced.
1990: The Royal Mail Parcels business was rebranded as Parcelforce.
2001: The Post Office Group was renamed Consignia in a massive, but short-lived, rebranding exercise which reportedly cost £2 million.
2002: Fifteen months after it was renamed Consignia, the postal service was renamed the Royal Mail Group focusing on its key brands - Post Office, Royal Mail and Parcelforce.
2006: After 350 years of tradition, Royal Mail lost its monopoly on the postal service when the regulator, PostComm, opened up the market three years ahead of the rest of Europe.
2007: Royal Mail announced plans to close 2,500 Post Office branches.
2009: Lord Mandelson, the Labour business secretary, launched an attempt to part-privatise the Royal Mail. The bid failed after opposition from the Communication Workers Union (CWU).
2010: The new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition announced its intention to sell off the Royal Mail's delivery business but retain the Post Office network in public ownership.
2012: The Government took on historic assets and liabilities of the Royal Mail pension scheme.