Connoisseur and Diplomat

C.V. Wedgwood recounts the circumstances the Earl of Arundel’s Embassy to Germany in 1636 as recounted in William Crowne’s Diary, the Earl’s letters and other contemporary sources.

King Charles I was peerless among European sovereigns as a collector and patron of the arts. It was characteristic that in choosing an Ambassador to represent him at the Imperial Diet at Regensburg in 1636 he selected the Earl of Arundel, who enjoyed international fame as a connoisseur and had almost no experience of diplomacy.

The story of this embassy—fascinating as art history, deplorable as politics—has been put together by Dr. Springell with generous quotations from contemporary sources and fifty beautiful drawings by Wenceslaus Hollar who accompanied the mission.

The book throws much light on seventeenth-century methods of collecting and on Arundel’s generous and patriarchal conduct towards his proteges. But for all the effect his mission had on the international scene, he might just as well have stayed at home.

This was not Arundel’s fault. Charles I claimed to be concerned to bring about peace in Germany, one condition of which was to be the restoration of his nephew, the dispossessed Elector Palatine. But as he had neither the money nor the forces, still less the prestige, to back his demands, no one at Regensburg took them seriously. How far was Arundel, an imposing figure at the head of a splendid train of attendants, aware that his mission was futile? Not altogether, it would seem.

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