Printer Friendly

The Elizabethan "foreign office."

Although the British Foreign Office as it is known today was not established until 1782, a "foreign office" emerged in all but name at least two centuries earlier. The historian Garrett Mattingly maintains that "a first-rate diplomatic service" depends on the existence of a viable "foreign office," distinguished by a permanent staff, reliable archives, definite policies, and "the means of coordinating activities abroad." As late as the early seventeenth century, he argues, "it would be some time still" before European monarchies were able to create and maintain such an office. The administration of foreign affairs under Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), however, shows that a professional, efficient, de facto foreign office thrived in Elizabethan England.(1)

During Elizabeth's reign, the principal secretary of estate ran the large, multi-chambered office that supervised England's foreign and domestic security concerns. Like today's foreign secretary, the Elizabethan principal secretary sat on the Privy Council as the specialist on foreign affairs. He thus contributed significantly to the making of foreign policy, and was seen as the sole instrument for its execution. Elizabeth's three chief principal secretaries, Sir William Cecil (1558-72 and 1590-96), Sir Francis Walsingham (1573-90), and Sir Robert Cecil (1596-1612), found that their most arduous and time-consuming tasks were selecting, training, and directing the diplomatic corps, processing foreign correspondence and intelligence, accumulating and maintaining reliable archives, and safeguarding the territorial and religious integrity of an England whose interests they believed to be increasingly threatened by the Counter Reformation. Foreign affairs were so important in the administration of Elizabethan England that its diplomatic corps, according to one historian, came to be seen as the country's "true first line of defense," serving as "the vital early warning and defense system of the realm."(2)

Prior to Elizabeth, the secretary's post was largely what its holder made of it. From Edward IV's reign through that of Henry VIII, the secretary evolved from the monarch's personal household assistant, with some involvement in diplomatic affairs and control of the Signet, to "chief executive minister" under Thomas Cromwell (1534-40). As England's first principal secretary, Cromwell was no longer an intimate member of the Household, except in a purely formal sense. He filled the dual role of private secretary to the monarch and officer of state. He established precedents for office procedure, efficiency, and division of labor, and like Wolsey before him, used his office to lay hold of "almost all the affairs of the realm," thus planting the seeds of his own downfall. His tenure as secretary was too short, his innovations too precipitous, and his power too dependent on his personal abilities to establish a lasting foothold for the office. During Edward VI's troubled reign (1547-53), the secretary's power was seriously undermined, and Mary's heavy reliance on Archbishop Pole forced her secretaries to play only minor roles.(3)

Under Elizabeth, however, the demise of Privy Chamber government and her decision to concentrate power in the Privy Council created England's first unofficial "foreign office." Although a separate foreign office could not actually exist until the principal secretary was relieved of all domestic duties, events forced Secretary William Cecil, as chief officer of queen and council, to focus the resources of the Tudor state on foreign affairs. The principal secretary - whom one historian has called "the most truly professional bureaucrat among them" - was one of only three privy councilors who presided over a department of state, thus enjoying real executive and administrative power. When occasionally there were two principal secretaries, the junior dealt primarily with domestic and housekeeping chores, leaving the senior secretary free "to concentrate on the more delicate matters of foreign policy."(4)

Neither an intimate member of the Household nor a fully independent official of the bureaucracy, the secretary held a neutral position that allowed him to exercise almost dally influence with the queen while running an efficient office that was distinct from the Court, though located on the royal premises at Whitehall. Contemporaries Nicholas Faunt and Robert Cecil both emphasized the office's "variableness." The principal secretary's "liberty to negotiate at discretion at home and abroad, with friends and enemies, all matters of speech and intelligence," made him the chief link within Elizabethan administration.(5)

Royal business was divided between the Privy Council and the secretariat. The council was the unchallenged executive board of Tudor government, handling matters of arbitration, jurisdiction, domestic affairs, and the collection and disbursement of extraordinary revenues. The secretariat, under the watchful eyes of the monarch and the Privy Council, handled prerogative matters such as dynastic policies, religion, war, and diplomacy, all of which were joined under the rubric of "foreign matters." Domestic issues occupied the secretary as well, but, according to one historian, "they were . . . relatively unimportant," unless "the domestic problem was intimately related to the foreign one." The secretary remained involved in domestic duties because, aside from a meager [pounds]100 annual stipend, he was not well compensated for foreign office-duties alone. Thus no separate "foreign office" could emerge until the administrative reforms of 1782 provided him an adequate salary.(6)

As the most knowledgeable counselor in foreign affairs and the council's most regular attendee, the principal secretary controlled and often dominated its foreign policy discussions by setting agendas and speaking first on any new resolutions. He handled all but the most important matters of state, while subordinates handled the details. Elizabeth's interventions were "frequent enough to keep her ministers and officials on their toes, but not too frequent to hamper the workings of the government machine." Her principal secretary thus became the dominant figure in the daily administration of the foreign office. Elizabeth's three chief secretaries managed foreign affairs with conspicuous distinction and were among the first English statesmen able to separate their own personal interests, and their monarch's, from those of the English state.(7)

Cecil's 1572 appointment as Lord Treasurer Burghley forced him to limit his involvement in foreign affairs to major policy decisions. When he did volunteer advice to the new secretary Walsingham, he begged the latter to "make no account of my writing, but I cannot forbear to scribble privately to you." Although Burghley on occasion later prepared diplomatic instructions for the ailing Walsingham, he always asked the secretary to peruse them. Some historians suggest that Burghley's resumption of the secretary's duties after Walsingham's 1590 death was "hardly suggestive of bureaucracy." But only Burghley proved sufficiently experienced to fill the pivotal office in that crucial period of Elizabethan history. Clearly, the secretary "had come to stay as the hub of the administrative process."(8)

The Elizabethan secretariat was adjacent to the Privy Council chamber in the thousand-room, twenty-three-acre Whitehall Palace. It had six official subdivisions: the council clerks "ordinary" and "extraordinary," the Signet clerks, the French and Latin secretaries, the keeper of the state papers, the keepers of the council chest and chamber, and the master of the posts. Each subdivision maintained its own unofficial secretariat of copy clerks, messengers, and other personal assistants. These secretariat staff members were attached to their departments, not to the principal secretaries under whom they served.(9)

The importance of the council clerks in foreign affairs stemmed from their unique relationship to the council and the principal secretary. Chosen specifically to serve the needs of the former, they were placed under the direction of the latter, making them something like undersecretaries of state for foreign and domestic affairs. The clerks who specialized in foreign affairs had served diplomatic assignments. With access to most of the vital information that the monarch and Privy Council enjoyed, of all the secretary's staff they alone participated in the deliberations of the Privy Council. They were appointed by letters patent and dismissed only at Elizabeth's and the council's orders. More qualified in foreign affairs than most privy councilors, yet equal to the principal secretary in social standing, they were second only to him in "knowledge and official capacity."(10)

During council sessions, a council clerk usually read foreign dispatches to the assembled lords and took rough notes of decisions reached and diplomatic correspondence to be sent. He further influenced foreign policy by his answers to the lords' questions, and he formulated rough drafts of the secretary's council agendas and foreign dispatches, since the principal secretary had neither the specialized knowledge nor time to prepare the contents of all agendas, instructions, position papers, and letters.(11)

Council clerks Thomas Wilkes, Robert Beale, William Waad, Daniel Rogers, and Thomas Edmondes together served a total of thirty foreign diplomatic assignments. Such men were the logical choice when pressing international situations demanded an informed troubleshooter, and they also negotiated with European diplomats in London, whose instructions they were occasionally ordered to discover before the diplomats could present them to an unprepared Queen Elizabeth. For example, when the Danish ambassador arrived to complain that his government had received no reply to its protests against English piracy on the North Sea, Beale was ordered to intercept and counsel the ambassador before the latter reached Elizabeth. When Walsingham was out of the country on assignment, senior council clerk Robert Beale took over his duties as acting secretary.(12)

Unsalaried council clerks "extraordinary" held their posts in reversion, without fees, and learned the duties of the ordinary clerks in hopes of replacing them some day. The secretaries of the French and Latin tongues translated all the queen's, council's, and principal secretary's formal foreign correspondence. The Signet chamber bordered the council clerks' office. There four Signet clerks transformed the queen's foreign correspondence and formal instructions to ambassadors into Signet letters. All assisted the principal secretary and the council clerks when their foreign office paperwork became too burdensome. The keepers of the council chamber and chest served under the council clerks, controlling access to the office complex and keeping its personnel supplied with writing materials. When the portable council chest became filled with completed registers and letters, its contents were emptied and stored with an ever-increasing archive of state papers in three adjacent storage rooms. In an "outer chamber" or waiting room, the mass of daily petitioners waited to be invited into the second-level secretariat and council chamber by the keeper of the council chamber.(13)

The secretaries' personal, unofficial secretariats added to the boiler-room atmosphere of the foreign office. Their numbers ranged from three to five under William and Robert Cecil to ten under Walsingham. They were divided between principal assistants and those undergoing training, between specialists and generalists, and between foreign and domestic experts. The foreign-affairs specialist always served as the chief clerk within all three personal secretariats. The master of the posts, Thomas Randolph, who supervised approximately thirty post riders, also represented a part of the Elizabethan foreign office.(14)

All told, the Elizabethan chancellery contained a staff of from fifty-five to sixty-five. Even assuming the occasional absence of several clerks or assistants at one time, a minimum of forty men still worked on any given day. In addition, the almost dally appearances of six to ten lords of the Privy Council, plus a host of petitioners, agents of foreign ambassadors, departing or returning English diplomats and their staffs, couriers, posts, and other messengers doing business with the secretariat or council, show that the office was impressive in its size and organization. Departmental routine had to be highly organized to maintain order in such a complex office. If "continuity and the division of labor are the hallmarks of bureaucracy," then surely bureacracy existed in the foreign secretariat of Elizabethan England.(15)

It is not true, as one historian has claimed, that with "the departure of one secretary and the arrival of another, the office staff . . . normally changed completely." Other than the unofficial personal secretariats of the principal secretary's foreign office, all staff and their assistants held permanent posts, continuing to serve even when the principal secretary died or received a promotion. The same held true with a change of monarch. Elizabeth retained her sister's three council clerks, Bernard Hampton, Francis Allen, and William Smith, and on her death, James I retained Robert Cecil and the entire staff of his secretariat. Thus a foreign office with a "permanent staff" dearly existed in Elizabethan England.(16)

Mattingly's third requisite - "reliable archives" - became increasingly necessary in the political and religious turmoil of the sixteenth century. The numerous but impersonal medieval diplomatic records began to be supplanted "by the less formal and increasingly numerous letters of the type found in the state papers . . . letters that conveyed information, advice, admonition, and informal orders; documents that were not bound by the rigid formularies of legal requirements." Historic treaty documents, whether ancient or recent, were stored in the Treasury of the Exchequer in Westminster Abbey. More current documents usually remained in the custody of the department that produced them.(17)

Early modern state papers commenced in Henry VIII's reign and were housed in Whitehall Palace under the supervision of one of the more senior Signet or council clerks. In the seventeenth century, Keeper of the State Papers Sir Thomas Wilson summarized the pre-Elizabethan history of the state papers:

I heard that when papers and writing in King Henry the eight his tyme grew to a great bulk that then this office was created and Secretary pagett . . . had the custody of them before he was a clerk of the consell; and after[wards] my lord burghley when he came . . . from Cambridg (he [in] the Duke of Somersettes seruice) gat the keeping of them; and afterward one Borne (he was after secretary of state in Queen Maries tyme).

This misleading statement suggests that twelve years before Elizabeth's accession there existed a distinct "state paper office" constantly manned by official "keepers" whose sole responsibility was the oversight of these valuable records. Instead, Paget's, Cecil's, and Bourne's stints in this position were interrupted and separated by lengthy periods when each of the men served elsewhere. Furthermore, during their brief tenures as state paper clerks, their chief duties were as Signet or council clerks, and in the case of Cecil, as personal secretary to Somerset. Supervision and organization of the state papers was casual at best. From 1547 to 1858 the state papers suffered from "mid-sixteenth century neglect and confusion."(18)

Elizabeth's choice of William Cecil as principal secretary inaugurated a new chapter in the history of the state papers. The stability of Elizabeth's reign, a belated awareness that thousands of priceless medieval manuscripts had been lost after the dissolution of the monasteries, and the developing sense of nationality inspired by the break with Rome, all combined to create an intense interest in recovering and preserving government papers. This goal required the appointment of an individual whose sole responsibility was the care of the state papers. Consequently, in the early 1560s the job of overseeing the English state papers officially became a salaried office. Doctor of Civil Law Thomas Wilson served as England's first official keeper of the state papers, at a salary of [pounds]40 per annum. Wilson's nephew later recalled seeing the State Paper Office in 1575, when he was sixteen:

It is forty-five years since I knew it, an office then established under the great seal, and in the custody of Doctor Willson, . . . myselfe being then in his house att Saint Katherine's, before my going to Cambridge, a boy of sixteen years old, whom he employed in wryting and bundeling of such papers as wer then and now are heer in this office.

Wilson's scholarly inclination for organization soon bore fruit. Previously the state papers had been filed chronologically in domestic and foreign sections, with "no pretense at arrangement by country" for the latter documents. Wilson rearranged the foreign papers chronologically by country, "irrespective of language." The quantity of Tudor state papers dating from his tenure attests to his success in the office. He also collected the state papers of earlier reigns; the work of the State Paper Office during the reign of Elizabeth preserved many Edward VI-era documents.(19)

Promoted to the state secretaryship in 1578, Wilson relinquished his keeper's post to the queen's physician, John James. Under James' management the office created an inventory of all the state papers of Walsingham's secretariat. Later dubbed "Walsingham's Table Book," it attempted to systematically catalogue all data on state papers foreign, domestic, and Irish. In 1588 James examined the recently deceased Earl of Leicester's papers, some of which he apparently deposited in the State Paper Office. The state paper collection would have become even larger had Lord Burghley not found the aggressive collection tactics of late-Elizabethan antiquaries threatening to his papers. He turned over most of his manuscripts to his son, then-principal secretary Robert Cecil, who combined them with his own at Cecil House. Even so, the state papers provided diplomats with an increasingly thorough archive. In 1590 the State Paper Office gave the English ambassador to Denmark and the Hanse towns a three-page "Compendium Ansiaticum" that summarized all the negotiations with the Hanseatic League since Edward VI's reign - essentially, a historical brief of Anglo-Hanseatic relations.(20)

Walsingham's "Fable Book" also sheds light on council clerk Robert Beale's misleading statement that after Walsingham's death, "all his papers and bookes both publicke and private were seazed on and carried away." The statement has led many to believe that Elizabethan record collection and storage were haphazard at best. But the "Table Book" reveals that Beale referred not to formal state papers, but to the less official, highly secret papers that Secretary Walsingham obtained "by his private industrie and charge" and stored in his private study in London. These documents were composed mainly of incoming intelligence and correspondence from people who wished to communicate with Walsingham confidentially. His wife Ursula may have sold the documents to collectors in order to pay off her deceased husband's large debts.(21)

Sobered by the loss of some of the rough drafts of Walsingham's official state papers, the council in May 1591 wrote to John James about "divers letters, papers and writings amongst the late Sir Fraunces Walsingham's that do very much concerne the advauncement of her Majestie's service." The council ordered James

to repaire unto such place and places as you shall understand any of the writings, bookes or letters of the said Sir Fraunces to be remaining, and . . . to require sight of the said writings and bookes of such as have them in their custodie, and . . . take the same into your owne custodie, to be disposed of according to such order as hath bin formerly given you herin.

One historian concluded that by the reign of James I, officials collected and deposited most of Walsingham's scattered state papers in the State Paper Office. By October 1597 the mass of state papers had grown so large that James and Thomas Lake were authorized to secure estimates for constructing new storage space for "the bestowing of her Majesty's records."(22)

Following James' death in January 1601, Thomas Lake was appointed keeper and spent the remaining two years of Elizabeth's reign organizing the state papers. Only later, under James I, did the "notorious pilferings of the public records" by Sir Robert Cotton and his friends and competitors thwart the keeper's efforts. The British Library manuscript collections of Cotton and Harley today have large numbers of documents that originally were stored in the State Paper Office, but later illicitly removed. Thus it is not true that "the survival . . . of the Elizabethan state papers is the result rather of failure to destroy than of any very positive purpose to preserve." Judged by the standards of the sixteenth century, Elizabethan England maintained a surprisingly serviceable archival system.(23)

Elizabeth also had a definite foreign policy evident in her unchanging, though seemingly confused, stance toward the Netherlands, and toward French interests and the Spanish military presence there. The queen desired a restoration of the historical status quo in those provinces. She always defended the rights of monarchs, whether her own or others'. Unwilling to accept as a legitimate policy the creation of a Protestant state in Scotland, France, or the Netherlands, she sought to support liberty of conscience and freedom from persecution. As an historian has noted, "The tortuous negotiations between Elizabeth and Spain over the Netherlands between 1572 and 1585 and her peculiar manner of assisting the Dutch between 1585 and 1603 only make sense if her desire to obtain toleration and home rule under Philip II's sovereignty are accepted." In the Netherlands, the focus of all west European diplomacy in the years after 1567, she sought security by risking the "wrath of a strong neighbor for the sake of a weak one."(24)

From the start, Elizabeth and her principal secretaries recognized the value of applying diplomatic pressure at crucial points. Unable to match the power of Spain or France, they hoped to cut off Spain's lifeline to the Netherlands by controlling the English Channel, and to threaten France by pursuing contacts with Huguenots and Protestant German princes. Thus Elizabeth became the first to successfully practice a Continental balance-of-power policy made possible by "the perpetual rivalry between Spain and France, which had been the best guarantor of English safety in the past." Both nations had to pay serious attention to her maneuvers. Eventually the debilitating effects of religious civil war made it impossible for France to play its normal role in this European power balance. But Henri IV's 1593 "conversion and the consequent erosion of the Catholic League" led to "the re-establishment of a Continental balance of power," with France "once again a counter weight to Hapsburg power." Elizabeth was again freed to throw England's small but critical mass on the side of whichever power should become the weaker.(25)

Diplomacy became Elizabeth's chief weapon in this war of nerves. She knew instinctively that England's best policy lay in "no serious foreign commitments and the cultivation of enough nuisance value on the continent to keep the greater powers at a respectful distance." She and Cecil harbored no "martial ambitions" and repeatedly expressed their "skepticism about the efficiency of affordable military operations." Unlike the French and Spanish, Elizabeth never went to war for motives of honor, or dynastic and territorial ambitions. She went to war for such vital issues of national interest as trade, religion, and territorial integrity - interests that were threatened by the presence of Philip II's army in the strategic Low Countries. "Secure behind its seas," one scholar states, "England could now take as much or as little of war as it liked. No commitment was more than tentative, no alliance irrevocable, and at each new shuffle in the diplomatic game the other players had to bid all over again for England's friendship or neutrality."(26)

Elizabeth's policies emerged as the carefully considered products of compromise. The queen met almost daily with her principal secretary to discuss foreign correspondence and to formulate policy. Although she "kept ultimate decisions in her own hands, she rarely conceived, initiated, or shaped the specific politics to which she gave the force of her royal assent." These were left to her council and secretariat. Despite the fact that decisions came only after a series of complicated and often confusing maneuvers, historians must not fail "to distinguish between the course she set and the track she had to follow." Organized to maintain the status quo, not to threaten it, her foreign office's strength lay in the extent of its influence, not the scope of its authority. That she never changed the direction of her foreign policy after 1572 is proof that Elizabeth had a definite foreign policy. For nearly thirty years, as a result of the mutual jealousies between France and Spain, the "politics of continuous tension," and the sophistication of its diplomatic machinery, Elizabethan England enjoyed an uneasy peace. When war ultimately came, England, as "lord of the Channel," was prepared for it.(27)

The Elizabethan foreign office's means of "coordinating activities abroad" were surprisingly extensive. The long tenures of the queen's three great secretaries provided a continuity in foreign affairs that fostered success. England's gentrified diplomatic corps allowed the queen and her principal secretaries to maintain tight control over the actions of their diplomats. Rarely free to make significant on-the-spot decisions except within the parameters of their instructions, the queen's diplomats knew she would repudiate their unauthorized actions and even destroy their careers if they stepped out of line. Among the council clerks, a cadre of experienced ambassadors-at-large were ready at a moment's notice to rush off to Europe to defuse threatening international situations. Reliable post and courier services kept important information flowing to and from Westminster, while the keeper of the state papers worked steadily at collecting and organizing diplomatic correspondence.(28)

With an eye on the future, Elizabeth occasionally selected from lists of Oxford and Cambridge graduates for new diplomatic apprentices. Her secretariat kept updated rosters of potential appointees, divided between noblemen and gentlemen who had and had not served. The lists of those who served demonstrate the professionalism of the diplomatic corps. No churchmen appear on the lists, reflecting the new policy that such men were no longer the best diplomats in a religiously divided Europe. The absence of royal favorites and other courtiers also indicates that Tudor diplomacy had entered a more professional era. Most of the noblemen listed served only ceremonial missions, as their arrogance could be better employed for parade than for negotiation. Furthermore, the existence of such lists shows that Elizabeth's government recognized that the diplomatic corps represented not only a new class of professional civil servants, but also an extension of the foreign office.

The true workhorses of the Elizabethan foreign office were these experienced diplomats of gentry status, who set the tone of English diplomacy well into the seventeenth century. The Elizabethan foreign office consciously selected intelligent, highly educated, widely traveled men, exceptionally proficient in foreign languages, and rigorously apprenticed in the trains of England's finest diplomats. Their selection was not "capricious," nor did "their training for diplomacy only begin with their actual service." When not serving abroad they held complimentary domestic offices such as clerks of the council, Signet, and Privy Seal, or master of the posts, which kept them immersed in foreign-office affairs.(29)

For the first time in English history the country had a significant corps of professional, non-ecclesiastical career diplomats, such as Sir Henry Cobham, Sir Thomas Wilkes, Robert Bowes, Thomas Randolph, Daniel Rogers, Sir Henry Killigrew, Sir William Davison, and Sir Edward Stafford. These men no longer divided their loyalties and responsibilities between church and state, and their government careers focused principally on foreign affairs. The Elizabethan secretariat thus reflected a rational and systematic approach to building and maintaining a professional diplomatic corps.(30)

Elizabeth's foreign office administered Europe's finest intelligence network. Official staff members, particularly the council clerks, were chosen with an eye to prior diplomatic experience and future overseas service. The office assisted departing English diplomats in choosing staffs and thoroughly briefed their envoys on the political and social background of the court to which they were sent. Diplomats read all recent correspondence and visited compatriots who had recently served at that court, and often helped draw up their own instructions. After receiving a letter of appointment, credences, written permission to go abroad, introductory letters, instructions, and cipher tables, the diplomat met with the queen for final words of instruction. For the principal secretary, a "huge amount of work was connected with foreign negotiations." As foreign affairs increasingly occupied the secretary's office in the second half of Elizabeth's reign, he farmed out more and more of the routine duties connected with foreign affairs to subordinates. Nicholas Faunt's "Discourse" shows that the principal secretary's chief confidential clerk was to be "chiefly charged with Forraine matters . . . both to keepe his lettres of negotiacions that dayly come in from Forraine partes . . . to answere them when need shalbe . . . [and] to deliuer messages of greate importance to Embassouders or other forraine ministers that are sent hither." The clerk stood "in much the same relation to the principal secretary as the latter stood in relation to the crown." A second confidential clerk was used "for the dispatch of ordinarie matters, and chiefly for Continuall attendant in the Chamber, where the papers are . . . to reduce them into a fewe heads."(31)

Exchequer manuscripts and recent studies demonstrate that among all the diplomatic personnel of the European monarchies, Elizabethan diplomats alone were paid regular and adequate per diems and reimbursed for all expenses on officially sanctioned missions. By serving repeatedly and spending wisely they could even profit significantly from such royal perks as loans, cash gifts, duty-free export licenses, and cathedral deaneries. That diplomats customarily expected such gifts is compelling proof of Elizabeth's generosity to them. Foreign courts occasionally assumed a portion of the resident diplomat's living expenses and presented gifts such as gold chains, silver plate, or even a knighthood on a diplomat's departure. After returning home, the diplomat could expect offices, grants of wardship, leases on crown lands, and monopolies. Diplomats' frequent complaints of fiscal hardship constituted an accepted procedure for wrangling additional remuneration from England's frugal queen. Indeed, one scholar has shown that in numbers of diplomats appointed, time served abroad, and money expended, Elizabeth displayed a greater commitment to diplomacy than any other English monarch from Henry VIII to James II. This attention to diplomatic emoluments attests to the modernity of Elizabeth's foreign office.(32)

England's foreign office suffered a serious but temporary setback after Robert Cecil's death in 1612, as James I increasingly ignored his principal secretaries. Looking at the gilded chambers of Whitehall during his reign (1603-25), it would appear that few lasting changes resulted from Cromwell's administrative precedents or from the half-century of achievement by the Cecil and Walsingham secretariats. But the vestiges of Elizabethan organization carried England to 1782, when the office was divided between two principal secretaries of state, one "with the sole direction of the Department for Foreign Affairs" and the other "for Domestic Affairs and Colonies."(33)

Foreign office procedures became institutionalized during Elizabeth's reign. The Elizabethan secretariat was the headquarters of English diplomatic activity. The principal secretary's oversight of all foreign and some domestic matters was both more logical and more convenient than the later practice of dividing foreign affairs between two secretaries in separate northern and southern departments. Furthermore, Counter-Reformation politics did not reduce England's international contacts, but merely made them more complex. The issues between Protestants and Roman Catholics became so serious and the possibilities of unending religious war so frightening that England's international contacts actually expanded during the second half of the sixteenth century. Elizabeth understood from the beginning that, given her limited resources, she could accomplish more through diplomacy than with arms.(34)

Elizabeth's foreign policy had a steadiness and consistency that would have done her cautious grandfather proud. Her government took a giant step away from the dynastic past, with its aggressive pursuit of royal ambitions, and toward the creation of an early modern bureaucratic state. Elizabeth established a rational, efficient, and highly bureaucratized secretariat that set England apart not only from its own past but from its royal neighbors, whose struggles for power were governed by the overpowering demands of honor and personal ambition.

1 Garrett Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy (Baltimore, 1964), 192; Wallace T. MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I: War and Politics, 1588-1603 (Princeton, 1992), 20-21, 25. Sir John Tilley, chief clerk at the Foreign Office from 1913 to 1918, concluded that while "the Foreign Office as a separate department of State, and under that name, dates from 1782 . . . an office, or offices, in which the business of 'foreign affaires' was carried out had existed long before that." See John Tilley, The Foreign Office (London, 1933), 1.

2 Charles Hughes, "Nicholas Faunt's Discourse Touching the Office of Principal Secretary of Estate, Etc.," English Historical Review 20 (July 1905): 499-508; Gary M. Bell, Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives, 1509-1688 (London, 1990); Idem, "Elizabethan Diplomatic Compensation: Its Nature and Variety," Journal of British Studies 20 (Spring 1981): 10-11.

3 Geoffrey R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government: Administrative Changes in the Reign of Henry VIII (Cambridge, 1963), 32, 59, 117, 369, 415-417; Penry Williams, The Tudor Regime (Oxford, 1979), 43; Alan G. R. Smith, The Government of Elizabethan England (New York, 1967), 47; D. A. L. Morgan, "The House of Policy: The Political Role of the Late Plantagenet Household, 1442-1547," in The English Court from the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War, ed. David Starkey (New York, 1987), 60; David Starkey, "Introduction: Court History in Perspective," and "Intimacy and Innovation: The Rise of the Privy Chamber, 1485-1547," in ibid., 20, 73.

4 Florence M. G. Evans, The Principal Secretary of State: A Survey of the Office from 1558 to 1688 (Manchester, 1923), 276-77; MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I, 26; Great Britain Public Record Office (hereafter cited as PRO), Calendar of State Papers Domestic Series of the Reign of Elizabeth I, 1598-1601 (London, 1869) (hereafter cited as Cal. S.P. Dom.); Ibid., 1595-97, 425-426; PRO, Acts of the Privy Council 1599-1600 (hereafter cited as APC) (London, 1905), 314; Evans, Principal Secretary, 68, 80, 104 n. 4, 157; Cal. S.P. Dom., 1611-1618, 305.

5 Bell, Handlist, 11; John Murphey, "The Illusion of Decline: The Privy Chamber 1547-58," in The English Court, 145; Starkey, "Court History in Perspective," 15, 20-21; Hughes, "Nicholas Faunt's Discourse," 499-508; Robert Cecil, "Treatise," in Evans, Principal Secretary, 58-59; Williams, Tudor Regime, 43-44.

6 Conyers Read, Mr. Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth (Cambridge, 1925), 1:271; John C. Sainty, Officials of the Secretaries of State, 1660-1782 (London, 1973), 1; Samuel Gammon, Statesman and Schemer: William, First Lord Paget, Tudor Minister (London, 1973), 79.

7 Smith, Government of Elizabethan England, 100; Wallace T. MacCaffrey, "Elizabethan Politics: The First Decade, 1558-1568," Past and Present 24 (April 1963): 33; Richard B. Wernham, The Making of Elizabethan Foreign Policy 1558-1603 (Berkeley, 1980), 7.

8 Read, Walsingham, 1:264. Evans, Principal Secretary, 58; Alan G. R. Smith, "The Secretariats of the Cecils, circa 1580-1612," English Historical Review 83 (July 1968): 501; David Kynaston, The Secretary of State (Levenham, 1978), 60; Williams, Tudor Regime, 43.

9 Sainty, Officials of the Secretaries of State, 19.

10 Michael B. Pulman, The Elizabethan Privy Council in the Fifteen Seventies (Berkeley, 1971), 157; F. Jeffrey Platt, "the Elizabethan Clerk of the Privy Council," Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 3 (1982): 126-128; Kynaston, Secretary of State, 105; Dale E. Hoak, The King's Council in the Reign of Edward VI (Cambridge, 1976), 162.

11 PRO, Calendar of State Papers Foreign Series of the Reign of Elizabeth, 1586-87 (London, 1880), 2:17 (hereafter cited as Cal. S.P. For.); Platt, "The Elizabethan Clerk," 134-135.

12 British Library (hereafter cited as BL), Additional Ms. 48115: 338-45; PRO, State Papers 12/229, fol. 105; Dudley Digges, ed., The Complete Ambassador (London, 1655), 359; Cal. S.P. For., 1579-80, 463-64; Ibid., 1584-85, 217, 434; PRO, Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs, Preserved Principally in the Archives of Simancas, 1580-86 (London, 1896), 190-91; APC, 1589-90, 37, 433; Ibid., 1590-91, 58; Ibid., 1591, 446-47; Ibid., 1597-98, 175; Ibid., 1598-99, 393-94; Ibid., 1599-1600, 118-119, 599-600; Cal. S.P. Dom., 1598-1601, 136-36; PRO, List and Analysis of State Papers Foreign, 1590-91 (London, 1970), no. 268; Evans, Principal Secretary, 50 n. 2; Read, Walsingham, 1:349, 3:349, 427; Historical Manuscripts Commission, The Manuscripts of HIS Grace the Duke of Rutland (London, 1880), 1:140; Idem, Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury, Preserved at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, 1597 (London, 1899), 404 (hereafter cited as Salisbury Ms.); Platt, "the Elizabethan Clerk," 128-129, 135.

13 Evans, Principal Secretary, 337; Starkey, "Court History in Perspective," vi; Salisbury Ms., 1590-94, 439; Ibid., 1597, 431; APC, 1586-87, 385; Platt, "The Elizabethan Clerk," 132-133; E. R. Adair, "Privy Council Registers," English Historical Review 50 (1915): 704; Salisbury Ms., 1597, 431.

14 Smith, "Secretariats," 481-504; Read, Walsingham, 1'349, 427, 2:261, 336, 372, 3:387; Evans, Principal Secretary, 155-157, 179.

15 PRO, Calendar of Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 1545 (London, 1907): 2:422; Francis S. Thomas, Notes on Materials for the History of Public Departments (London, 1846), 26-27; Smith, "Secretariats," 481-504.

16 Elton, Tudor Revolution, 304, 417; Williams, Tudor Regime, 44.

17 Cal. S.P. For., 1569-71, 26; APC, 1550-52, 362, 419; Ibid., 1558-70, 270; John Nichols, Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (London, 1788), 1:87 n. 1; Williams, Tudor Regime, 53; Francis S. Thomas, A History of the State Paper Office (London, 1849), 6-7.

18 Hoak, King's Council, 332 n. 113; Richard B. Wernham, "The Public Records of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," in English Historical Scholarship in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. Levi Fox (London, 1956), 20; Hubert Hall, Studies in English Official Historical Documents (Cambridge, 1908), 33; Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 1917), 3:1316, 15:60; PRO, Appendix to the Thirtieth Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (London, 1868), 224.

19 Hall, Studies, 33; Edward Edwards, Libraries and Founders of Libraries (London, 1864), 180; Albert J. Schmidt, "Thomas Wilson, Tudor Scholar-Statesman," Huntington Library Quarterly 20 (May 1957): 209; Keith Eubank, "Great Britain," in The New Guide to the Diplomatic Archives of Western Europe, ed. Daniel H. Thomas and Lynn M. Case (Philadelphia, 1975), 137; G. R. Elton, The Sources of History: England, 1200-1640 (Ithaca, 1969), 66; E. M. Tenison, Elizabethan England (Lemington, 1933), 1:xxvi; Hoak, King's Council, 23.

20 Salisbury Ms., 1607, 506; Evans, Principal Secretary, 176, 177 n. 1; Cal. S.P. For., 1586-88, 2: 95; P. W. Hasler, ed., The House of Commons 1558-1603 (London, 1981), 2:374; Salisbury Ms., 1601, 25; Ibid., 1607, 506.; Wernham, "The Public Records," 24-25; Cal. S.P. Domestic Addenda, 1580-1625, 647; Smith, Government of Elizabethan England, 502.

21 Robert Beale, "Treatise on the Office of a Councellor and Principall Secretarie to her Ma[jes]tie," in Read, Walsingham, 1:431; Williams, Tudor Regime, 45; Cal. 8.P. Domestic Addenda, 1580-1625, 647.

22 Cal. S.P. Dom., 1598-1601, 241; APC, 1590, 52; Ibid., 1591, 95-96; Wernham, Making of Elizabethan Foreign Policy, 9; Salisbury Ms., 1597, 431; Cal. S.P. Domestic Addenda, 1596-1603, 239.

23 Read, Walsingham, 3:455-456; Elton, England, 1200-1640, 67; S. R. Scargill-Bird, A Guide to the Principal Classes of Documents Preserved in the Public Record Office (London, 1896), xxxvi, 20, 64, 91-95, 146; Cal. S.P. Dom., 1611-18, 332, 359, 373, 375, 382, 425; Cal. S.P. Domestic Addenda, 1598-1601, 241; Ibid., 1580-1625, 214; Wernham, Making of Elizabethan Foreign Policy, 19; Idem., "The Public Records," 15-16.

24 Simon Adams, "The Queen Embattled: Elizabeth I and the Conduct of Foreign Policy," in Queen Elizabeth I: Most Politick Princess, ed. Simon Adams (Trowbridge, 1984), 41; MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I, 562; Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy, 79.

25 MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I, 64-65, 73-74, 112, 121, 137, 140, 232, 496, 555, 559-562, 573-74; Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy, 146.

26 Ibid., 112, 121, 158; Adams, "The Queen Embattled," 38-41.

27 MacCaffrey, "Elizabethan Politics," 33; Idem, Elizabeth I, 22; Wernham, Making of Elizabethan Foreign Policy, 3-7; Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy, 82, 161.

28 Ibid.; E. John B. Allen, Post and Courier Service in the Diplomacy of Early Modern Europe (The Hague, 1972), 107-135; Platt, "The Elizabethan Diplomatic Service," Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 9 (1988): 95-112; Bell, Handlist, 11-13.

29 BL, Lansdowne Ms. 683:48-49; BL, Stowe Ms. 570:129; Abraham van Wicquefort, The Embassador and his Functions, trans. John Digby (London, 1716), 47-48; Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy, 162, 203-205; Montagu Burrows, Worthies of All Souls (London, 1878), 105.

30 Bell, Handlist.

31 Evans, Principal Secretary, 153, 182-183; Hughes, "Nicholas Faunt's Discourse," 501-502.

32 PRO, Exchequer, 403:2420-2425, 2559-2560, 2597, 2655, 2657; Ibid., 404:229, 477, 511; Ibid., 405:2421; PRO, 70/17, fol. 128; BL, Lansdowne Ms. 62:49-50, 192-93; Ibid. 68:171-172; Ibid. 155:432-34; Ibid. 683: 11, 24; BL, Stowe Ms. 570:94; BL, Egerton Ms. 5753:225; PRO, 12/136, fol. 135; Ibid., 12/225, fols. 93, 95, 145; Ibid., 12/252, fol. 115; Ibid., 12/260, fols. 70-73; APC, 1597-98, 602-603; BL, Winchester College Ms. 4970; PRO, Signet Office Docquets, 1, Ind. 6800:.542, 570; Ibid., Patent Rolls C. 66:1451, m. 35-38; Cal. S.P. For., 1559-60, 836; Ibid., 1579-80, 315; Ibid., 1582, 156; Ibid., 1583, 170; Bell, "Elizabethan Diplomatic Compensation," 1-25; Idem, "Sir Thomas Chaloner's Diplomatic Expenses in Spain," Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 53 (May 1980): 118-27; Platt, "Elizabethan Diplomatic Service," 105; PRO, Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1558-60 (London, 1939), 93; Ibid., 1569-72, 2436, 3140; Ibid., 1566-69, 691, 918; Cal. S.P. Dom., 1591-94, 181; Ibid., 1585-97, 48; Ibid., 1601-03, 109, 267; Cal. S.P. For., 1563, 847; Bell, Handlist, 1-25; Read, Walsingham, 2:340.

33 Starkey, "Introduction," 21; William R. Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution (Oxford, 1907), 2:i, 165-166. Mark A. Thompson, The Secretaries of State 1681-1782 (Oxford, 1932), 161.

34 Tilley, Foreign Office, 20, 26; DeLamar Jensen, "Power Politics and Diplomacy: 1500-1650," in The Meaning of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Richard L. De Molen (Boston, 1974), 350.

F. Jeffrey Platt is associate professor of history at Northern Arizona University.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Platt, F. Jeffrey
Publication:The Historian
Date:Jun 22, 1994
Words:6849
Previous Article:Antislavery politics and the Pearl incident of 1848.
Next Article:Revolution from Above, Rebellion from Below: The Agrarian Transvaal at the Turn of the Century.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters