In view of the large number of financial complaints in Tudor diplomatic correspondence, it is entirely understandable why compensation might be considered a central problem of sixteenth-century foreign service. The feeling conveyed by the diplomats is that their pay was haphazard in its conception, irregular in its distribution, and utterly insufficient in its magnitude; that is, it was thoroughly unsatisfactory in every respect. So consistent and so forceful did these envoys make their case that today it is virtually axiomatic for historians to assume that compensation was chaotic, and that service abroad was always financially debilitating. “Upon none of the royal servants did the disorder of sixteenth century fiscal administration bear harder [than upon the ambassadors],” Professor Mattingly notes. Moreover, “for an ambassador, the chance of financial embarrassment was almost a certainty.” Sir John Neale, another of only a few who have addressed this issue directly, is persuaded that, “it was not exceptional for an Elizabethan ambassador to get into financial straits … generally ambassadors had to face making inroads into their private estates.” Or: “His [the ambassador's] was not a happy lot. His profit and loss account was a statement in two terms of which one was never operative …. Their pay was often irregular and never adequate, and they were lucky if their private estates were not hopelessly mortgaged at the end of an embassy.” Other historians, making only passing reference to diplomatic compensation, simply assume the worst.
Yet the diplomats of Elizabeth served, frequently for extended periods, and often repeatedly as well.
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