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Itinerant Ambassador

Itinerant Ambassador: The Life of Sir Thomas Roe

Michael J. Brown
Foreword By A. L. Rowse
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Itinerant Ambassador
    Book Description:

    Thomas Roe, born near London in 1580 or 1581 was a notable and influential figure in the England of Elizabeth and of the early Stuarts. In his wide-ranging career, he came into contact with an array of famous seventeenth-century persons ranging from Sir Walter Raleigh to Archbishop William Laud and from Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia to the Great Mogul Emperor of Hindustan. Roe was one of the most capable diplomats of his time and his career was associated with developments of great importance: colonial and commercial expansion, the beginnings of empire, foreign relations, religious movements, domestic dissent. This sparkling, first full biography of Sir Thomas Roe delineates the unusual range of the ambassador's experiences and the importance of his career against the complex background of that spirited age. Dedicated to the view that England should be actively involved in Europe, Roe worked tirelessly toward the attainment of that goal.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6227-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    A. L. Rowse

    There is a certain charm that lies upon many of the figures, as of their writings, of the early seventeenth century—those halcyon years of internal peace before the Civil War, of which Clarendon wrote so movingly in his Autobiography. It is partly a question of style, both of life and manner, as expressed in their letters no less than in their poetry and painting. The long peace at home, ensured by the wise rule of Elizabeth I, enabled characters to grow up well rounded and civilized, to develop their own idiosyncrasy and tastes.

    Of such was Sir Thomas Roe,...

    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER 1 The First Adventure
    (pp. 1-20)

    In Elizabethan days London enjoyed an ascendancy over the rest of England even greater than it exercises today. It was a colossus whose actions were felt in every corner of the island. More than ten times as populous as the next largest city, it aroused both wonder and resentment in the people of other towns who often complained that London was taking away their trade and attracting their ambitious young men. By 1600 London handled seven-eighths of England’s trade; it provided most of the country’s industrial capital, and it constituted by far the biggest single market in the land.


  6. CHAPTER 2 John Company’s Man
    (pp. 21-48)

    When Thomas Roe was an impressionable boy less than ten years old, one of the epic battles of history took place. The defeat of the Spanish Armada had ended King Philip’s hope of invading England and had given to the English sailor a new confidence that he would win the struggle for supremacy at sea. The victory of 1588 had the effect of making it appear to English merchants that the seas of the world now lay open to receive their commerce. Accordingly, in October 1589, less than a year after the defeat of the Armada, a number of London...

  7. CHAPTER 3 At the Court of the Mogul
    (pp. 49-76)

    The emperor’s title, “Conqueror of the World,” was something of an exaggeration; but for all that, Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy to India did come at a time when that country was near the peak of its power. The Mogul Empire was almost a hundred years old at the time of Roe’s arrival and it was still enjoying the golden age made possible by the constructive genius of Akbar the Great, the father of Jahangir. The empire covered a vast area; its territories included what would now be called Afghanistan, much of western Pakistan, and all of northern and central India....

  8. CHAPTER 4 Building Foundations
    (pp. 77-107)

    During the first year of his embassy Roe had directed most of his energy toward the negotiation of a binding commercial treaty. But there were many other obligations that demanded his time and attention. His instructions had made it clear that he was expected to do what he could to remedy some of the shortcomings of the factor system by which the East India Company carried on its trade. Although he was not given any power to command the factors, it was anticipated that he would use his influence to give some cohesion and unity to the activities of the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 To the Ottoman Porte
    (pp. 108-137)

    Upon his return from India Sir Thomas Roe was faced with the problem of making a living. He had some resources—accrued investments in East India Company stock and the modest salary that the company had agreed to pay for the benefit of his advice. But these were wholly inadequate for the support of one who had been a courtier and recently held the title of royal ambassador. Dignity was a most expensive commodity in the seventeenth century, and although Roe was never in danger of starving, he had a constant struggle to support himself in a style appropriate to...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Pirates, Princes, & Patriarchs
    (pp. 138-169)

    The objective of his mission to Constantinople in which Sir Thomas took the greatest personal interest, and one of greater import than disputes over precedence, centered around the plight of his countrymen who were the captives of the Barbary pirates. Roe, on his way to Constantinople, had obtained the release of a small group of prisoners and sent them back to England at his own expense. Further evidence of his interest in this problem is provided by a letter he wrote to the bishop of Lincoln, then Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, in April 1622. Sir Thomas suggested to...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER 7 A Northern Mission
    (pp. 170-185)

    While Sir Thomas Roe had been away in Constantinople, England had been unusually active in the field of foreign affairs. The unpopular marriage negotiations with Spain had broken down in 1623 and the two countries had gone to war. But parliament’s suspicion about royal intentions—and especially of the commanding role of Buckingham—caused the members to approve only a maritime war and to withhold the funds that would have made possible all-out intervention in Europe and perhaps resulted in the restoration of the Palatinate. As a consequence, Prince Charles and Buckingham, now the effective rulers of England, had turned...

  13. CHAPTER 8 English Interlude
    (pp. 186-208)

    At first, Sir Thomas was quite content to accept his exclusion from the affairs of state, for after so many travels he was ready to “come to an anchor” and establish a proper home.¹ As a matter of fact, he divided his time among several residences. When in London he stayed at his house in St. Martin’s Lane. This was a very fashionable address. Close to Whitehall, the street was lined with large, newly built houses, each with stables and a coach house.² Among his neighbors were some of the outstanding figures of the day, and while Roe was there...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Hamburg & Westminster
    (pp. 209-235)

    The diplomacy in which Sir Thomas Roe was now to become involved was part and parcel of the tortuous intricacies that characterized European politics during the Thirty Years War. Sir Thomas had a personal interest in the course of the war because of his warm attachment to the queen of Bohemia. Ever since he had been sent to Constantinople in 1621 he had sorrowfully watched the decline in the fortunes of Elizabeth and her family.

    That decline had really started in 1619, the year in which Elizabeth’s husband, Frederick the Elector Palatine, had unwisely accepted the crown of Bohemia, offered...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Last Journey
    (pp. 236-259)

    In 1641, when Sir Thomas Roe took his leave of the House of Commons, the war in Germany had entered its last and most cynical phase. All pretense of fighting for principle had long since been abandoned, and Germany’s anguish was being prolonged by the selfish ambitions of France, Sweden, and some of the German princes. Reasonable solutions to the religious and constitutional troubles of the empire had been achieved by the Peace of Prague, which had settled the issue of the ownership of church lands, decreed the dissolution of all armed leagues, and arranged territorial settlements that were soon...

  16. CHAPTER 11 An Unhappy Ending
    (pp. 260-278)

    Roe left The Hague with a heavy heart. He usually looked forward to getting home, but this time it was different. His loyalties in the conflict now beginning were terribly divided, and he saw that the mere act of going home would put him in the position of having to make a choice between the two sides. His friend the elector joined his daughter in trying to persuade him to stay in Holland, but he refused.¹ He felt that he should go to England and try to put himself between the forces of king and parliament, praying God to heal...

    (pp. 279-290)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 291-302)