Marginal diplomatic spaces during the Jacobean era, 1603–1625

Anderson, R (2016) 'Marginal diplomatic spaces during the Jacobean era, 1603–1625.' In: Rivere de Carles, N, ed. Early modern diplomacy, theatre and soft power: the making of peace. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 9781137436924


This chapter examines the ways in which ambassadors to the court of James VI & I found occasions for private speech with the king: time away from the hustle and bustle of court life. It will take as a case study the Ordinary Ambassador from the United Republic of the Netherlands, Sir Noel de Caron. The diplomacy of the United Provinces at the beginning of the seventeenth century was still relatively uncomplicated: a proto-nation in an on-going rebellion against the Spanish world power could not enjoy the advantage of a long tradition in international affairs. Prior to the Revolt, foreign policy had been the exclusive prerogative of the Habsburg princes, and the only consistent policy of the Provinces had been to financially support as little as possible the Habsburg adventures. The province of Holland, which dominated the policy of the rebels, had previously cultivated only one main foreign interest: that of free fishing and trade rights in the North Sea and the Baltic - in short, the safety of the seas for the Dutch sailors, fishermen and merchantmen. The Dutch only had two ordinary ambassadors in London during the years of James’s reign. Of these two men, Sir Noel de Caron and Albert Joachim, de Caron served twenty-two years and Joachim only a few months, prior to the King’s death. Throughout his embassy de Caron was supported by three Extra-ordinaries and thirty-four commissioners who came to England on various missions but which were mostly concerned with the trading and fishing problems that arose between the two states. We have evidence that on many occasions the king and his entourage would descend on the ambassador at his home in South Lambeth. However, the object of these visits was not, apparently, to discuss affairs of state but to sample the Dutch cherries that de Caron grew in his garden. The ambassador’s fruit gardens were well known; in the Privy Purse Expenses for Prince Henry are several payments made in 1610 to ‘Sir Noel Carones man’, for fruit brought to the Prince. The Prince’s father was renowned as something of a fruit addict and visited the ambassador on a regular basis to sample the different varieties he grew in his extensive fruit gardens. These frequent, rather private and unofficial visits, which arose from a shared interest, allowed a certain degree of intimacy to develop between the king and de Caron which gave the ambassador a distinct advantage over his rivals. A cold collation and a stroll around de Caron’s well-stocked picture gallery invariably followed the fruit tastings providing the ambassador with the opportunity to introduce foreign visitors and Dutch traders, who would not normally have been granted the honour, to the king. On one occasion, for example, the young Constantine Huygens, the ambassador’s special protégé and the son of the First Secretary of State to the United Provinces, was introduced to James. Huygens was a fine lute player and had provided the customary background music to the meal. James was so impressed by the young man’s talent he invited him to perform at Bagshot whence he was to travel the following day. It was in this and similar settings that ambassadors were able to have the ear of the king, without the necessary formalities which were essential to diplomatic business at the court.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section

Part of the 'Early modern literature in history' series.

Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DJ Netherlands (Holland)
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2016 09:08
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 15:50
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