This study analyses the administrative and economic career of Francesco De Gratta (1613–1676) as Royal Postmaster, Royal Secretary, and trader within the postal and fiscal systems of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This investigation focuses mainly on his network and career strategies and is based on various sources from a number of European archives and libraries, mainly those situated in Italy, Poland and Germany.
The study presents the family De Gratta and the familial social actions that Francesco used in order to root his children and family in the Polish-Lithuanian noble culture. Next, the analysis shows that the career of Francesco De Gratta was inextricably correlated with the establishment of the early modern royal postal system in Gdańsk (the city of Gdańsk fulfilled an important bridging role within the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth) as well as his close contacts with different Polish kings and queens.
The career followed distinct stages, tying him ever closer with the Crown, the nobility as well as the merchants in Gdańsk. It all started with his position as Head Postmaster in Gdańsk, in 1654. In 1661, he became Postmaster General of Royal Prussia, Courland, Semigallia and Livonia. After these initial steps, Francesco immersed in creditor activities and close contacts with the Royal Prussian cities, royal authorities, and not the least different Polish mint masters. He also got involved in the potash trade with his later son-in-law Jan Wawrzyniec Wodzicki, first as his factor and later as a co-owner of Wodzicki’s company. The study finally traces his social and economic advancement by the analysis of Francesco De Gratta’s legacies and their importance for his heirs’ social status.
The summary compares the career of Francesco De Gratta with that of other postmasters and mint masters of Italian origin in Poland-Lithuania.