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  • Diplomatie et espionnage: Les Ambassadeurs du roi de France auprès de Philippe II du traité du Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) à la mort de Henri III (1589)
  • Matthew Vester
Jean-Michel Ribera. Diplomatie et espionnage: Les Ambassadeurs du roi de France auprès de Philippe II du traité du Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) à la mort de Henri III (1589). Bibliothèque Littéraire de la Renaissance 68. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2007. 734 pp. index. tbls. map. chron. bibl. €135. ISBN: 978–2–7453–1449–9.

During the 1950s and 1960s scholars began to practice a new style of diplomatic history that gave more attention to the social and practical contexts in which Renaissance diplomats functioned. More recently, historians of international politics have broadened their analysis of this environment, looking at the unofficial actors who played key international roles, the importance of clientele networks in diplomacy, and even the overlap between artistic brokerage and negotiations among rulers. This book, a version of a doctoral thesis defended at the University of Toulouse in 2004, examines the missions of the five French ambassadors to the court of Spain between 1559 and 1589. It has been informed by this historiography and illustrates many of the themes that are now solidly ensconced in the scholarship. The chief contribution of Ribera’s work is to point out the role played by those rulers’ consorts who are also members of sovereign foreign dynasties in securing stable diplomatic relations. In this case, Elisabeth of Valois, married to Philip II in 1559, was crucial to the maintenance of an alliance, albeit a superficial one, between the crowns of France and Spain. Her death in 1568 was a watershed.

Ribera’s main sources are the letters of the French envoys to Spain, interspersed with correspondence of the Spanish envoys to France and other actors, including monarchs. The book’s first two parts deal with the material and social [End Page 553] structures of sixteenth-century diplomacy and the quotidian activities of diplomats, and the second two describe the key political events of this thirty-year period. Part 1, “Le métier d’ambassadeur au XVIe siècle,” has chapters on the emergence of permanent diplomacy, the French ambassadors to Spain during the period in question, the function and practices of an ambassador, and the Spanish envoys to France during the late sixteenth century. The second part looks in particular at the French embassy in Madrid, with chapters on the construction of a network of informers and spies, the expenses of operating the embassy, letter-writing, cryptography, and courier services, and popular images of the French in Spain and vice versa.

The next two parts discuss diplomatic events. The key figures here are the French ambassadors themselves: Sébastien de l’Aubespine (1559–62), Jean Ébrard de Saint-Sulpice (1562–65), Raymond de Rouer de Fourquevaux (1565–72), Jean de Vivonne de Saint-Gouard (1572–82), and Pierre de Segusson de Longlée (1582–89). Part 3 focuses on the years of Elisabeth’s presence at the Spanish court. Given that this presence is so central to Ribera’s story, it is surprising that he devotes only ten or so pages of a long book to an analysis of the queen’s court, and has little to say about the relationship between her courtiers and other political networks in Madrid and beyond. One of the interesting assessments in this section is that, contrary to most accounts, King Francis II was really quite vigorous in his defense of the sovereign claims of the French crown during his short reign. Franco-Spanish relations immediately following the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, the arrangements surrounding the meeting between Elisabeth and the French court at Bayonne in 1565, and the conflict between the two crowns over French expeditions to Florida, followed by the massacre of French Huguenot colonists there by Spanish forces, are all examined in part 3. Part 4, “Le temps des hostilities voilées (1568–1589),” begins with a chapter on the death of Elisabeth, followed by one on the crisis of the Portuguese succession and another on the Franco-Spanish cold war of sorts provoked by French support...


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pp. 553-554
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Archived 2009
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