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Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World$
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Tracey A. Sowerby and Joanna Craigwood

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198835691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198835691.001.0001

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Diplomatic Writing as Aristocratic Self-Fashioning

Diplomatic Writing as Aristocratic Self-Fashioning

French Ambassadors in Constantinople

(p.190) 12 Diplomatic Writing as Aristocratic Self-Fashioning
Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World

Christine Vogel

Oxford University Press

Taking French ambassadorial reports from the reign of Louis XIV as an example, this chapter argues that in their letters to their superiors, French ambassadors expressed themselves not primarily as professional diplomats, but as eminent members of French court society and potential aspirants to even higher charges and honours. First and foremost, early modern diplomats abided by the ethos of patronage. Far from home, the ambassador still obeyed the social logic of court factions, clientele networks, and competition for prestige. His letters had to compensate for his physical absence from Versailles, as his only currency in the French court society’s economy of honour. The ambassador therefore used his letters as a specific means of displaying his skills and abilities, and distinguishing and expressing himself. He could fashion himself as honnête homme, noble warrior, or pious man of letters—or whatever aristocratic virtue seemed appropriate. In this sense, his letters were genuine self-narratives, and diplomatic history could therefore benefit greatly from methods and concepts elaborated in the dynamic research field of early modern ego-documents. By understanding diplomatic writing as noble self-fashioning and analysing diplomatic correspondence as self-narratives, this chapter reassesses the proper role and specific functioning of diplomacy in early modern political culture.

Keywords:   diplomatic correspondence, France, Ottoman Empire, self-narratives, cross-cultural diplomacy, Pierre Girardin

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