The late 1640s and 1650s in England witnessed a growing popular interest in letters of state, attested by collections such as Cabala, Mysteries of State, in Letters of the great Ministers of K. James and K. Charles (1653), which promises that ministers of state will be “presented naked, their Consultations, Designs, Policies … exposed to every mans eye.” Then in 1655, Cabala stationers Bedell and Collins arranged for the printing of another volume focused more closely on ambassadorial correspondence: The Compleat Ambassador, which centered on Queen Elizabeth’s potential marriage to successive ducs d’Anjou and negotiations that followed the abandonment of those marriages, as discussed in letters written in 1569–73 and 1581 by Francis Walsingham, Thomas Smith, Henry Norris, and others, often in correspondence with Lord Burghley. The title page describes the Ambassador as having been “Faithfully Collected by … Sir Dudly Digges Knight, late Master of the Rolls.” However, this survey of seventeen of the twenty-six or more extant manuscripts containing the same material raises questions about the work’s connection with Digges. The article shows how the printed book derived from letters that had been widely copied in manuscript long before their dissemination in print. It also discusses unique letters and passages that were omitted from the book and no longer survive in the State Papers. English diplomacy abroad built paper embassies at home, within England, well before the publication of this seminal volume in 1655.
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Research Article| September 01 2020
Building Paper Embassies: A Prehistory of The Compleat Ambassador
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2020) 50 (3): 541–564.
Jason Powell; Building Paper Embassies: A Prehistory of The Compleat Ambassador. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2020; 50 (3): 541–564. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-8626198
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