'Losing My Best Days': Charles Whitworth, First British Ambassador to Russia

Janet Hartley describes the trials and tribulations of life for ‘our man’ in Peter the Great’s Moscow.

A diplomatic career in the early eighteenth century brought neither great material reward nor prestige. Postings at the heart of diplomatic activity – particularly in Paris or The Hague – could be a useful stepping stone for a ministerial career at home; postings to Italian cities such as Venice or Florence could at least bring the benefits of a pleasant climate and the prospects of the congenial company of aristocrats who were making the grand tour. But the more remote and inhospitable cities of Europe were of little attraction. Charles Whitworth (1675-1725), who was offered the post of envoy to Russia in 1704, lacked the patronage to secure a more prestigious post elsewhere and lacked the wealth (he was the eldest of six sons of Richard Whitworth of Staffordshire) to turn the offer down.

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