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Viaud, Aude. Correspondance d'un Ambassadeur Castillan au Portugal dans les annees 1530: Lope Hurtado de Mendoza.

Viaud, Aude. Correspondance d'un Ambassadeur Castillan au Portugal dans les annees 1530: Lope Hurtado de Mendoza. Lisbon/Paris: Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, 2001. ISBN 972-8462-22-0. Pp. 653. Bibliography, Indices, Tables, Illustrations, Charts, Maps.

Lope Hurtado de Mendoza's first ambassadorial posting in Portugal lasted a lot longer than he had expected, or wished. Sent to Almeirim in February 1528 to negotiate a diplomatic settlement between Spain and Portugal over the Mollucas, Lope Hurtado was ready for his next posting by April 1529. The Mollucas affair reached a stalemate, and the Spanish diplomat was anxious for a new assignment, but he did not return to Madrid before December 1532, after having followed, observed, and reported on the intrigues of the Portuguese royal court for nearly five years.

It is these observations and official reports that supply the foundation for the insightful book put together by Aude Viaud. A total of 144 letters found in the Archivo General de Simancas have been collected, deciphered, organized, and published for the first time, providing a splendid source for students and scholars of Iberian history and culture in particular, and of early modern European diplomatic history in general. As Aude Viaud points out, much of Lope Hurtado's correspondence from his second mission in Portugal in the 1540s was published in the Corpus Documental de Carlos V. Thus, the present work focuses on his first diplomatic station in Portugal, about which relatively little is known.

The book is divided into two sections, the largest one reserved for the documentary corpus. Making up more than half of the entire book, 360 pages in all, the letters from the ambassador are published in their entirety in Spanish, headed with a synopsis in French highlighting the main themes covered in each letter. This makes the documentary evidence all that more accessible to readers of differing linguistic skills. Accessibility to the archival sources is further facilitated by the invaluable historical context that Viaud provides in the first section of her book. In it Viaud examines the main concerns that Lope Hurtado de Mendoza dealt with on behalf of his superiors, starting with a chronology of some major events in the reign of Carlos V from January 1528 to December 1532. This is followed by six chapters that outline the interconnectedness of an array of events as disparate as the attack on Rome in 1527 by disenchanted mercenary soldiers, the sought-after annulment by England's Henry VIII of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and French hostilities toward Iberia due to the latter's monopoly of the spice trade.

All of this comes to life in Viaud's meticulous and thoroughly enjoyable account that sets the stage for the diplomatic correspondence of Lope Hurtado de Mendoza. The majority of his letters were addressed to the Emperor Carlos V and to the Empress D. Isabel, and in them he revealed his primary functions while stationed in Portugal: he represented and negotiated on behalf of his master and mistress, and he acted as their informant about the goings-on in the Portuguese court. In the process, Lope Hurtado left behind records that enhance our understanding of the often contentious relations between Carlos V and D. Joao III, and the necessity for the intervention of their respective wives, D. Isabel, sister of the latter, and D. Catarina, sister of the former.

Not surprisingly, the correspondence contains fascinating details about the political manoeuvres between Spain and Portugal, as well as other regions vying for power in the emerging European stage, including the Pope and his attempts to curb the ambitious Carlos V, and France's Francis I who attempted to obstruct both. Equally interesting, however, are the particulars about Lope Hurtado's own situation, including his frustration with the run-around he often got from Portugal's D. Joao III, and his feelings of isolation and neglect from his own superiors. Part of the problem was in the time it took for mail to reach its destination, a problem that was exacerbated by the constant move of Carlos V in one part, the Spanish court under the regency of D. Isabel on the other, and the moves of the Portuguese court as well. As Viaud points out, from 1528 to 1532, Carlos V lived in Spain for fourteen months only, spending most of his time consolidating his Holy Roman Empire, from Genoa to Antwerp to Vienna. For his part, Lope Hurtado was also forced to follow the numerous movements of the Portuguese court and/or of D. Joao III.

To better illustrate her points, Aude Viaud provides useful charts, maps, and pictures, including portraits of the four major political actors in Lope Hurtado's correspondence: Carlos V, D. Isabel, D. Joao III, and D. Catarina. The author laments the lack of a portrait for Lope Hurtado himself, but her sketch of his work, written with sensitivity and dedication, puts a human face on the only Spanish ambassador to have been hailed by Gil Vicente. This book is a labour of love, and has much to offer to those who are enamoured by European diplomatic history in the first half of the sixteenth century.

Darlene Abreu-Ferreira

University of Winnipeg
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Author:Abreu-Ferreira, Darlene
Publication:Portuguese Studies Review
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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