23 February 2022 - 23 February 2022
5:00PM - 6:00PM
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Sociability has increasingly been recognised as the key to successful diplomacy in early modern Europe. The day-to-day infrastructure, strategies and implications of social diplomacy, however, have not been the subject of systematic analysis. How did envoys and ambassadors posted in France nurture and exploit their French networks, what challenges did they face, and how did their social diplomacy interact with their private interests? At Louis XIII's court, diplomatic agents frequented popular stomping grounds of the court nobility, haunted churches and deployed hospitality to cultivate their ties with the French elite, enhance the reputation of their masters, to discuss policy in informal settings, and to promote personal interests.
Female spaces of the court provided unique challenges: in a court where the traditional locus for audiences was the bedchamber, even ordinary diplomatic activity could engender scandal when these ambassadors were meeting with women. Ambassadors' wives could help to alleviate the problems created by gendered spaces. Often absent from their husbands' voluminous correspondence, they nonetheless fulfilled numerous functions in the embassies they accompanied. They were increasingly the focus of ceremonial audiences, informally attended ceremonies and festivities which their husbands were compelled to avoid due to precedence disputes, and could become an important social presence in the female circles of the court. In investigating these different strands, this paper will shed new light on the diplomatic process and how sociability was navigated at the French court.