Anglo-French Relations and the ‘Protestant Party’: The Earl of Leicester and His Circle, 1636-41

Dickinson, Fraser John (2021) Anglo-French Relations and the ‘Protestant Party’: The Earl of Leicester and His Circle, 1636-41. Doctoral thesis, University of Buckingham.

Dickinson, Fraser Feb2021 - Anglo-French Relations and the ‘Protestant Party’ The Earl of Leicester and His Circle, 1636-41.pdf
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This thesis considers the foreign policy of Charles I of England towards the France of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu between 1636 and 1641 in the context of the Paris embassy of Robert Sidney, second earl of Leicester, the English King’s extraordinary ambassador to the French King and a leading Caroline Protestant diplomat. Against the background of the Thirty Years War, the earl was dispatched to Paris in May 1636 to negotiate an anti-Habsburg Anglo-French alliance. The objective of such a league would be to secure the restitution of Charles’s nephew, the dispossessed Charles I Louis, the Prince Elector Palatine, to the dignities and lands that his father, Frederick V, had lost in the early 1620s. The primary argument of the thesis is that, contrary to traditional historical thinking, Charles’s foreign policy was not directionless or consistently pro-Spanish throughout the 1630s, but that, between May 1636 and October 1639, he made a serious attempt to forge an alliance with Spain’s great continental rival, France. This thesis will also contend that the realization of an Anglo-French league represented the English King’s main diplomatic objective in the period between February 1637 and October 1639. Charles’s commitment to an alliance with France, therefore, persisted well after mid-1637 or 1638, challenging the current orthodoxy on Caroline foreign policy in the later 1630s. It was only the political and strategic revolution brought about by Spain’s defeat at the Battle of the Downs in the autumn of 1639 that prompted the English King to revert to a pro-Spanish stance. The primary sources used to substantiate these contentions are the three surviving Anglo-French treaties of 1637 and Leicester’s diplomatic correspondence, totalling more than 500 letters, the latter probably representing the largest body of unexamined manuscript material relating to Caroline foreign policy during the second half of the 1630s, if not the whole decade. Neither of these original sources has been subject to comprehensive study. Leicester’s embassy is examined in nine chapters and six appendices. Chapter 1 sets out the European and English background to the earl’s mission. It considers the historiography regarding the embassy and states the main arguments that the thesis will advance. It also looks at the history of the Sidney family and the earl’s career preceding his embassy to Paris in 1636. The negotiations surrounding the Anglo-French treaties of 1637 and their provisions and (immediate) fate are examined in chapters 2, 3 and 4. Chapters 5 and 6 deal with the continuing treaty talks with the French, and how these discussions impacted Charles’s foreign and domestic policies in the later 1630s as well as analysing Charles’s further instructions to Leicester of April 1639. Chapter 7 investigates the impact on the earl’s mission in particular, and on Caroline foreign policy more generally, of Spain’s naval defeat by the Dutch at the Battle of the Downs in October 1639, the English King’s loss to the Scots in the Second Bishops’ War in August 1640 and the revolts suffered by Spain in the Iberian Peninsula in that year. Chapter 8 assesses the final phase of the earl’s mission – his embassy concluded in October 1641 – against the background of the opening session of the Long Parliament, the Anglo-Dutch marriage alliance of May 1641, Leicester’s appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in June and the Anglo-Scottish Union of August. The conclusions of the thesis are presented in chapter 9. Appendix 1 sets out the chronology of the key developments regarding the Anglo-French treaties of 1637 and the significant proceedings in England and Europe between May 1636 and June 1637. Appendices 2 to 6 contain the essential primary sources relating to Leicester’s mission, including the original manuscript texts and modern English translations (commissioned by myself) of the three extant Anglo-French treaties of 1637. The bibliography provides details of the primary (manuscript and printed) and secondary sources used in the writing of the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Charles I ; Robert Sidney second earl of Leicester ; Thirty Years War ; Caroline foreign policy
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Depositing User: Rachel Pollard
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2021 12:05
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2021 12:05

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