- Walsingham, Sir Francis
- Letter book from his embassy to France
Beginning with his instructions and comprising copies of letters received from the English court and letters sent by Walsingham, with principal correspondents including Queen Elizabeth, Lord Burghley and the Earl of Leicester, from August 1570 to April 1573, in more than one scribal secretary hand, contemporary foliation, with one page of notes in a seventeenth-century hand at the end of the volume, c.470 pages, plus blanks, folio (360 x 230 mm), watermark of the crowned arms of France and Navarre with initials "GBOY" [?] (similar to Heawood 660), first half of the seventeenth century. Contemporary limp vellum with remains of blue silk ties, "Lres in Sr Francis walsinghams Negotiations" written on spine and "116" on upper cover in red crayon; stained.
[with:] loosely inserted, a summary of the letters (3 pages) and a note from the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts dated 1970
Robert Montagu, 3rd Duke of Manchester, 1710-1762 (armorial bookplate) — thence by descent to the 10th Duke of Manchester (sold, Sotheby's, 24 March 1970, lot 419). acquisition: Purchased at the foregoing sale through Bernard Quaritch
Historical Manuscripts Commission, Eighth Report: Appendix, Part II (1881), p.27 (number 116)
An early copy of important ambassadorial correspondence. Sir Francis Walsingham's first embassy to Paris was dominated by the proposed marriage of the Queen to the Duc d'Anjou, and by increasing English entanglement in the revolt against the Spanish in the Low Countries. These policies depended upon fostering a close alliance with France, but the relationship was abruptly sundered by the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre in August 1572, when thousands of Protestants were murdered on the streets of Paris and across France. Walsingham was recalled the following May having proved his worth to his Queen and was to remain a pillar of Elizabeth's government until his death in 1590.
Walsingham was one of the most acute politicians of his generation and his correspondence provides a remarkable and full insight into the French court and Anglo-French relations at this dangerous moment. Walsingham's original correspondence during this embassy was somehow obtained by Sir Robert Cotton, who recognised its importance. This manuscript is one of a number of copies of the letters that were made, presumably after the letters reached Cotton's library. The bulk of the correspondence was published in 1655 (not from this manuscript) as The Compleat Ambassador, the first printed collection of diplomatic papers in English.