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Claude de Mesmes, Count d'Avaux (1595–1650): The Perfect Ambassador of the Early 17th Century

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image of International Negotiation

In the 17th century there was no professional diplomacy: a mission as envoy or ambassador was part of a broader political or administrative career. Many politicians still neglected the importance of permanent diplomacy. Thus, there was no training, and few ambassadors had solid experience in foreign traditions and languages or in methods of diplomatic negotiations. It was rather accidental when a man from a well established Parisian family, like Claude de Mesmes, Count d'Avaux (1595–1650), served France abroad for more than 20 years. At the climax of his career, at the Congress of Westphalia, he was in many ways what we today think a good diplomat should be: open minded, smooth, compromising. In the 17th century, however, these were no criteria for the choice of an ambassador. Moreover, French governments prior to Louis XIV allowed their ambassadors to influence foreign affairs, and d'Avaux could even establish a network of his confidents in the diplomatic service. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 was thus a result not only of governmental orders, but of a competition between d'Avaux and his rival and coambassador Abel Servien.

Affiliations: 1: Philipps-Universität Marburg, Seminar für Neuere Geschichte, Wilhelm-Röpke-Str. 6c, 35032 Marburg/Lahn, Germany


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