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  • GEMMA ALLEN (a1)

This article reveals how the ambassadress became an important part of early modern diplomatic culture, from the invention of the role in the early sixteenth century. As resident embassies became common across the early modern period, wives increasingly accompanied these diplomatic postings. Such a development has, however, received almost no scholarly attention to date, despite recent intense engagement with the social and cultural dimensions of early modern diplomacy. By considering the activities of English ambassadresses from the 1530s to 1700, accompanying embassies both inside and outside of Europe, it is possible not only to integrate them into narratives of diplomacy, but also to place their activities within broader global and political histories of the period. The presence of the ambassadress changed early modern diplomatic culture, through the creation of gendered diplomatic courtesies, gendered gift-giving practices, and gendered intelligence-gathering networks. Through female sociability networks at their host court, ambassadresses were able to access diplomatic intelligence otherwise restricted from their husbands. This was never more true than for those ambassadresses who held bonds of friendship with politically influential women at their host or home court, allowing them to influence political decision-making central to the success of the diplomatic mission.

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Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, mk7
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Aspects of this article were given to seminar and conference audiences in Bristol, Cambridge, London, and Plymouth and I am grateful for all their insights and suggestions. I would also like to thank Susan Brigden, Rosalind Crone, Jonathan Healey, and Sarah Ward Clavier for their assistance, and I am particularly indebted to Felicity Heal, Tracey Sowerby, and the journal referees for their valuable comments on drafts of this article. All pre-1800 works were published in London unless otherwise stated.

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1 Peck, D. C., ed., Leicester's commonwealth: the copy of a letter written by a master of art of Cambridge (1584) and related documents (Athens, OH, and London, 1985), pp. 58, 61, 63.

2 Gibbons, K., English Catholic exiles in late sixteenth-century Paris (Woodbridge, 2011), p. 99.

3 Ibid. See also Leimon, M. and Parker, G., ‘Treason and plot in Elizabethan diplomacy: the “fame of Sir Edward Stafford” reconsidered’, English Historical Review, 111 (1996), pp. 1134–58, at p. 1143.

4 For Douglas Stafford and Catherine de’ Medici, see below.

5 For the use of ‘ambassadrice/ambassatrice', see, for example, J. Finet, Finetti philoxenis (1656), pp. 9, 71–2, 199; for ‘ambassadress', see G. Miège, A relation of three embassies from his sacred majesty Charles II (1669), pp. 129, 297, 408.

6 For Renée de Guébriant, see Tischer, A., ‘Eine französische Botschafterin in Polen, 1645–1646: die Gesandtschaftsreise Renée de Guébriants zum Hofe Władisławs IV’, L'Homme, 12 (2001), pp. 305–21.

7 Potter, D., ‘Foreign policy’, in MacCulloch, D., ed., The reign of Henry VIII: politics, policy and piety (Basingstoke, 1995), pp. 103–4.

8 For the English court, see, for example, Mears, N., ‘Politics in the Elizabethan privy chamber: Lady Mary Sidney and Kat Ashley’, in Daybell, J., ed., Women and politics in early modern England, 1450–1700 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 6782; Allen, G., The Cooke sisters: education, piety and politics in early modern England (Manchester, 2013), pp. 126–36. For European courts, see, for example, Akkerman, N. and Houben, B., eds., The politics of female households: ladies-in-waiting across early modern Europe (Leiden, 2013); the early chapters of Bastian, C., Dade, E., von Thiessen, H., and Windler, C., eds., Das geschlecht der diplomatie: geschlechterrollen in den außenbeziehungen vom spätmittelalter bis zum 20. jahrhundert (Cologne, 2014); and the early chapters of Sluga, G. and James, C., eds., Women, diplomacy and international politics since 1500 (Abingdon, 2016).

9 L. Oliván Santaliestra, ‘Lady Anne Fanshawe, ambassadress of England at the court of Madrid (1664–1666)', in Sluga and James, eds., Women, diplomacy and international politics, pp. 68–85; F. Kühnel, ‘“Minister-like cleverness, understanding and influence on affairs”: ambassadresses in everyday business and courtly ceremonies at the turn of the eighteenth century', in Sowerby, T. A. and Hennings, J., eds., Practices of diplomacy in the early modern world, c. 1410–1800 (Abingdon, 2017), pp. 130–46.

10 Data on resident embassies is primarily drawn from Bell, G. M., A handlist of British diplomatic representatives, 1509–1688 (London, 1990), as well as Horn, D. B., British diplomatic representatives, 1689–1789 (London, 1932).

11 For Elizabeth Wallop, see John Wallop to Lord Lisle, 18 Dec. 1536, London, The National Archives (TNA), State Papers (SP) 3/8, fo. 45r; Mary Bassett to Lady Lisle, 17 May 1537, TNA, SP 3/1, fo. 129r. For Elizabeth Hutton, see John Hutton to Henry VIII, 17 June 1537, TNA, SP 1/121, fo. 136r.

12 For Livia Casali, see Fletcher, C., Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome: the rise of the resident ambassador (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 100–1. For Apollonia Harvel, see Brown, H. F., ‘The marriage contract, inventory, and funeral expenses of Edmund Harvel’, English Historical Review, 20 (1905), pp. 70–7, at p. 70. For Margarete Cranmer, see MacCulloch, D., Thomas Cranmer: a life (New Haven, CT, and London, 1996), p. 72.

13 For Anne Chamberlain, see J. Lock, ‘Chamberlain, Sir Thomas (c. 1504–1580)', Oxford dictionary of national biography (ODNB).

14 There is no evidence of Philippa Smith, Grace Mildmay, or Dorothy Parry accompanying their ambassador husbands to France. Evidence for all other Elizabethan ambassadresses in France follows below, with the exception of Margaret Paulet, for whom see Spedding, J., Ellis, R. L., and Heath, D. D., eds., The works of Francis Bacon (14 vols., London, 1861–79), ii, p. 670; and Dorothy Unton, for whom see Nichols, J. G., ed., The Unton inventories, relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. in the years 1596 and 1620 (London, 1841), p. lxvii.

15 For Eleanor Bowes, wife of Robert Bowes, see below. For Isabel Bowes, wife of William Bowes, see William Bowes to Robert Cecil, 16 June 1599, TNA, SP 52/64, fo. 83r.

16 For Beatrice Digby, Gertrude Aston, and Anne Fanshawe, see respectively Stoye, J., English travellers abroad, 1604–1667: their influence in English society and politics (London and New Haven, CT, 1989), p. 256; Hackett, H., ‘Unlocking the mysteries of Constance Aston Fowler's verse miscellany (Huntington Library MS HM 904): the Hand B scribe identified’, in Eckhardt, J. and Smith, D. Starza, eds., Manuscript miscellanies in early modern England (Farnham, 2014), p. 101; and below.

17 For Anne Carleton and Anne Wake, see below; for Anne Feilding, see Brown, R. et al. , eds., Calendar of state papers relating to English affairs in the archives of Venice (CSP Venetian) (38 vols., London, 1864–1947), xxiii, 1632–6, p. 348.

18 For the Low Countries: for Elizabeth Winwood, see Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC), eds., Report on the manuscripts of the duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (3 vols., London, 1899–1926), i, p. 93; for Anne Carleton, see below; for Margaret Boswell, see Vaughan, R., The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and the state of Europe during the early part of the reign of Louis XIV (2 vols., London, 1839), ii, pp. 379–80; for Anne Morgan Strickland's connections to the Low Countries, see T. Venning, ‘Walter Strickland (1598?–1671)', ODNB; and ‘Warrants of the Council of State', 28 June 1652, TNA, SP 25/29, p. 50. For the Spanish Netherlands: for Magdalen Edmondes, see below; for Deborah Trumbull, see HMC, Report on the manuscripts of the marquess of Downshire (5 vols., London, 1924–88), iv, pp. 6, 14, 185, 229; for Dorothy Temple, see Parry, E. A., ed., Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, 1652–1654 (London, 1888), p. 322; for Marie Bulstrode, see J. D. Davies, ‘Bulstrode, Sir Richard (1617–1711)', ODNB; for Maria Eckart, see ‘Allowance of the account of Maria Spierinck', 24 Mar. 1692, TNA, SP 44/341, fo. 287r. For the Hanse towns: for Utricia Swann, see below; for Isabella Wyche, see the earl of Conway to the commissioners, 29 Aug. 1681, TNA SP 44/56, p. 52.

19 For Anne Glover, Jane Wych, Anne Bendish, and Katherine Trumbull in Turkey, see below; for Eleanor Roe, see Brown, M. J., Itinerant ambassador: the life of Thomas Roe (Lexington, KY, 1970), p. 166; for Mary Crowe, see Fissel, M. C. and Goffman, D., ‘Viewing the scaffold from Istanbul: the Bendysh–Hyde affair, 1647–1651’, Albion, 22 (1990), pp. 421–48, at p. 430; for Elizabeth Brydges, see Elizabeth Brydges to Mary Brydges, 1686, London, British Library (BL), Additional MS 42180, fo. 14r; for Mary Hussey, see ‘Additional instructions to Francis Wheler', 20 Nov. 1693, TNA, SP 44/205, fo. 91r.

20 Burton, J., Traffic and turning: Islam and English drama, 1579–1624 (Newark, DE, 2005), pp. 155–6.

21 Foster, W., ed., The travels of John Sanderson in the Levant, 1584–1602 (London, 1931), p. 10.

22 See, for example, Robert Southwell to Lord Arlington, 20 Aug. 1666, TNA, SP 89/7, fo. 212r; idem to idem, 5 Feb. 1667, TNA, SP 89/8, fo. 44r.

23 For Anne Carleton, see below.

24 See, for example, Machiavelli, N., ‘Advice to Raffaello Girolami when he went as ambassador to the emperor’, in Machiavelli, N., The chief works and others, trans. Gilbert, A. (3 vols., Durham, NC, and London, 1965), i, pp. 116–19.

25 T. Birch, An historical view of the negotiations between the courts of England, France and Brussels, from the year 1592 to 1617 (1749), p. 318.

27 CSP Venetian, xii, 1610–13, p. 39.

28 Anne Bendish to Lady Baker, 10 Oct. 1649, Chelmsford, Essex Record Office, MS D-DHf O25, unfoliated.

29 For diplomacy as a ‘world of paper', see, for example, Senatore, F., ‘Uno mundo di carta’: forme e strutture della diplomazia sforzesca (Naples, 1998).

30 See Roosen, W., ‘Early modern diplomatic ceremonial: a systems approach’, Journal of Modern History, 52 (1980), pp. 452–76.

31 For the development of diplomatic ceremonial for post-Restoration ambassadresses, see Kühnel, ‘“Minister-like cleverness”’, pp. 134–8.

32 J. Hotman, The ambassador, trans. J. Shawe (1603), sigs. D5v–D6r.

33 For secretarial endorsements, see Daybell, J., The material letter in early modern England: manuscript letters and the culture and practices of letter-writing, 1512–1635 (Basingstoke, 2012), p. 218.

34 ‘Lady Cobham at the French court', Feb. 1580, TNA, SP 78/4A, unfoliated.

35 F. C. von Moser, L'ambassadrice et ses droits (Berlin, 1754), pp. 37–8; TNA, SP 78/4A, unfoliated.

36 See Loomie, A. J., ‘The conducteur des ambassadeurs of seventeenth-century France and Spain’, Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire, 53 (1975), pp. 333–56.

37 CSP Venetian, xx, 1626–8, p. 7.

38 A. de Wicquefort, The embassador and his functions, trans. J. Digby (1716), pp. 183–4; von Moser, L'ambassadrice.

39 See, for example, Jansson, M., ‘Measured reciprocity: English ambassadorial gift exchange in the 17th and 18th centuries’, Journal of Early Modern History, 9 (2005), pp. 348–70; Heal, F., The power of gifts: gift exchange in early modern England (Oxford, 2014), pp. 149–79.

40 Loftis, J., ed., The memoirs of Anne, Lady Halkett and Ann, Lady Fanshawe (Oxford, 1979), p. 186; Jacobsen, H., Luxury and power: the material world of the Stuart diplomat, 1660–1714 (Oxford, 2012), p. 60. For Louis XIV's presentation of diamonds, see Richefort, I., ‘Présents diplomatiques et diffusion de l'image de Louis XIV’, in Bély, L. and Richefort, I., eds., L'invention de la diplomatie: moyen âge-temps modernes (Paris, 1998), pp. 263–79.

41 Loftis, ed., Memoirs, p. 186.

42 Hotman cited in Jansson, ‘Measured reciprocity', p. 368. See also Fletcher, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome, pp. 145–67.

43 CSP Venetian, xx, 1626–8, p. 214; Loftis, ed., Memoirs, p. 174.

44 Mary, Queen of Scots, to Anne Throckmorton, 13 Aug. 1561, TNA, SP 70/30, fo. 30r.

45 Throckmorton to Elizabeth I, 11 Sept. 1561, TNA, SP 70/30, fo. 26v.

46 For food gifts, see Heal, The power of gifts, pp. 35–43, 173.

47 HMC, Report on the manuscripts of the marquess of Downshire, ii, p. 69.

48 CSP Venetian, xxxiv, 1664–6, p. 259.

49 Anne Fanshawe, ‘Recipe book', London, Wellcome Library, MS 7113, fos. 154r–155v; Loftis, ed., Memoirs, p. 176.

50 Malcolm, N., De Dominis, 1560–1624: Venetian, Anglican, ecumenist, and relapsed heretic (London, 1984), p. 44.

51 Loftis, ed., Memoirs, p. 186.

52 Ibid., p. 157.

53 HMC, The manuscripts of J. M. Heathcote, esq., Conington Castle (Norwich, 1899), p. 239.

54 T. Gainsford, The glory of England, or a true description of many excellent prerogatives and remarkeable blessings, whereby she triumpheth over all the nations of the world (1618), p. 35.

55 J. B[ulwer], Anthropometamorphosis: man transform'd: or, the artificiall changling (1653), p. 547.

56 MacLean, G. and Matar, N., Britain and the Islamic world, 1558–1713 (Oxford, 2011), p. 38.

57 See the Italian proverb that one went to ‘Vienza [for] wine, Treviso tripes, Padua bread, and Venice whores': J. Howell, Italian proverbs of the choicest sort, in J. Howell, Paroimiographia: proverbs, or, old sayed savves & adages, in English (or the Saxon toung) Italian, French and Spanish (1659), sig. A4r.

58 CSP Venetian, xx, 1626–8, p. 557.

59 Santaliestra, ‘Lady Anne Fanshawe', p. 73.

60 Wicquefort, The embassador, p. 183.

61 Scudamore to Coke, 28 May 1638, TNA, SP 78/105, fos. 335r–338v; Atherton, I., Ambition and failure in Stuart England: the career of John, first Viscount Scudamore (Manchester, 1999), p. 207.

62 Sowerby, T. A., Renaissance and reform in Tudor England: the careers of Sir Richard Morison (Oxford, 2010), p. 207.

63 Allen, Cooke sisters, p. 140.

64 Loftis, ed., Memoirs, p. 186.

65 Moser, L'ambassadrice, p. 184.

66 Allen, Cooke sisters, pp. 139–40.

67 Martin, C. T., ed., ‘Journal of Sir Francis Walsingham from December 1570 to April 1583’, Camden Miscellany vi, Camden Society, 104 (1871), pp. 6, 8, 1113.

68 Powle to Eleanor Bowes, 30 Apr. 1583, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Tanner MS 309, fo. 96r.

69 Loftis, ed., Memoirs, pp. 169, 174–5, 180.

70 For Anne Cobham, see TNA, SP 78/4A, unfoliated. For Douglas Stafford, see Stafford to Elizabeth I, 2 May 1584, TNA, SP 78/11, fo. 86r.

71 See the Bodleian copy of J. Sanford, Propylaion, or An entrance to the Spanish tongue (1611), Wood 310 (3), dedicated to Beatrice Digby on sigs. A2r–A4r.

72 W. Seaman, ‘The epistle dedicatory', in H. Sadeddin, The reign of Sultan Orchan, second king of the Turks (1652), 4th unpaginated page.

73 See, for example, Anderson, M. S., The rise of modern diplomacy, 1450–1919 (London, 1993), pp. 1213; Fletcher, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome, pp. 105–21.

74 For Anne's letter, see Anne Cobham to Leicester, 13 May 1580, BL, Cotton Caligula MS E. vii, fo. 204r–v. For Henry Cobham's letters, see Cobham to Walsingham and Wilson, 8 Apr. 1580, TNA, SP 78/4A, fos. 43r–44v; Cobham to Walsingham and Wilson, 3 May 1580, TNA, SP 78/4A, fos. 66r–67v.

75 HMC, The manuscripts of J. M. Heathcote, p. 116.

76 For an example, see ‘Bill of travelling and other expenses', 1566, BL, Additional MS 18764, fo. 1v.

77 Allen, Cooke sisters, pp. 139–40.

78 Bain, J., ed., The Hamilton papers: letters and papers illustrating the political relations of England and Scotland in the XVIth century (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1890–2), i, pp. 560–1.

79 Ibid., pp. 569–70. For Ellen Sadler's background, see Slavin, A. J., ‘Parliament and Henry VIII's bigamous principal secretary’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 28 (1965), pp. 131–43.

80 Dale to Burghley, 5 Mar. 1575, TNA, SP 70/133, fo. 135v.

81 TNA, SP 78/11, fo. 86r.

82 Stafford to Elizabeth I, 1 Dec. 1583, BL, Cotton Galba MS e/vi, fo. 186r.

83 Stafford to Elizabeth I, 26 Dec. 1583, BL, Cotton Galba MS e/vi, fo. 194r.

85 For ambassadorial dissimulation, see Woodhouse, J. R., ‘Honourable dissimulation: some Italian advice for the Renaissance diplomat’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 84 (1994), pp. 2550; Fletcher, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome, p. 77.

86 Walsingham to Stafford, 1 Dec. 1583, TNA, SP 78/10, fo. 95r; Leimon and Parker, ‘Treason and plot', p. 1141.

87 Leimon and Parker, ‘Treason and plot', p. 1157.

88 For Lionel Fanshawe, see Loftis, ed., Memoirs, p. 180.

89 Ibid., pp. 180–1.

90 HMC, The manuscripts of J. M. Heathcote, pp. 231, 234–5.

91 For Anne's request, see ibid., p. 227. For the cipher itself, see ibid., p. 228.

92 CSP Venetian, xxxiv, 1664–6, p. 259.

93 Dewhurst, M., ‘The double edged sword: William Cavendish's political career 1644–1660’, in Edwards, P. and Graham, E., eds., Authority, authorship and aristocratic identity in seventeenth-century England (Leiden, 2016), p. 239; Pal, C., Republic of women: rethinking the republic of letters in the seventeenth century (Cambridge, 2012), pp. 60, 254.

94 Utricia Swann to Williamson, [before Nov. 12/22] 1673, TNA, SP 82/12, fo. 88r.

95 Ibid., fo. 88v.

96 For the political nature of the harem, see Peirce, L. P., The imperial harem: women and sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford, 1993). For establishing contacts with the harem, see Pedani, M. P., ‘Safiye's household and Venetian diplomacy’, Turcica, 32 (2000), pp. 932.

97 ‘Journal of William Trumbull in Paris and Constantinople’, 1685–92, BL, Additional MS 52279, fos. 133v, 157r. For Katherine in Istanbul, see also Ghobrial, J.-P., The whispers of cities: information flows in Istanbul, London, and Paris in the age of William Trumbull (Oxford, 2013), pp. 50, 83, 119–20.

98 BL, Additional MS 52279, fo. 157r; Ghobrial, The whispers of cities, p. 120.

99 See Machiavelli, ‘Advice to Raffaello Girolami', p. 118.

100 Allen, Cooke sisters, p. 140.

101 Marcus, L. S., Mueller, J., and Rose, M. B., eds., Elizabeth I: collected works (Chicago, IL, 2000), p. 389.

102 Margery Norris to Cecil, 12 May 1569, TNA, SP 70/107, fo. 28r. See also Mather to Cecil, 27 May 1569, TNA, SP 70/107, fos. 52r–53r.

103 TNA, SP 70/107, fo. 28r.

104 For Margery's intelligence, see Henry Norris to Cecil, 19 Dec. 1569, TNA, SP 70/109, fo. 49r–v.

105 Margery Norris to Cecil, 18 Dec. 1569, TNA, SP 70/109, fo. 45r.

106 For intelligence reaching Henry Norris, see idem to Cecil, 22 Dec. 1569, TNA, SP 70/109, fo. 56r.

107 Rogers to Cecil, 7 Mar. 1569, TNA, SP 70/106, fos. 19r–22r; Margery Norris to Cecil, 7 Mar. 1569, TNA, SP 70/106, fo. 27r.

108 TNA, SP 70/106, fo. 20r.

109 TNA, SP 78/4A, unfoliated.

110 Throckmorton to Cecil, 4 Aug. 1559, TNA, SP 70/6, fo. 38r.

111 Anne to Nicholas Throckmorton, 10 July 1562, TNA, SP 70/39, fo. 21r.

112 Burghley to Walsingham, 25 Sept. 1572, BL, Harley MS 260, fo. 335v.

113 Jacobsen, Luxury and power, p. 58.

114 See, for example, de Vivo, F., Information and communication in Venice: rethinking early modern politics (Oxford, 2007); and articles in the special edition, van Gelder, M. and Krstić, T., eds., ‘Cross-confessional diplomacy and diplomatic intermediaries in the early modern Mediterranean’, Journal of Early Modern History, 19 (2015), pp. 93259.

115 BL, Cotton Galba MS e/vi, fo. 194r.

Aspects of this article were given to seminar and conference audiences in Bristol, Cambridge, London, and Plymouth and I am grateful for all their insights and suggestions. I would also like to thank Susan Brigden, Rosalind Crone, Jonathan Healey, and Sarah Ward Clavier for their assistance, and I am particularly indebted to Felicity Heal, Tracey Sowerby, and the journal referees for their valuable comments on drafts of this article. All pre-1800 works were published in London unless otherwise stated.

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