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The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

Most Italian countries are experiencing changes in European political landscape over which they have very limited influence, and London is one of places where decisions are made and news and diplomatic gossip spread.

On other hand, this period saw rise of Savoy State as a regional power, in which relations between courts of Turin and London played a decisive role.

One factor that stands out is perception of UK, or rather England, often with little emphasis on Scotland and even less on Ireland, as a country with an unusual constitution and a country of wild, wildly volatile political life.

Diplomats with less experience of British political way of life are naturally more confused, including ambassadors whose stays in London are often shorter than years spent by agents, secretaries and envoys.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

Even veterans, however, expressed bewilderment, Giuseppe Riva, who had lived in England since 1715, ever since he had been acting official envoy of Duke of Modena since beginning of 1718, but when he left country in 1729 to present his final report to his master, he painted a rather disturbing picture of British polity.

In Kingdom of England, a shapeless monster shows that monarchy is dependent on nobles, a king who cannot legislate.

A parliament that can do anything while it exists, but cannot exist if king does not want it to exist, a state that makes no laws or burdens unless state itself imposes them, has sovereignty, but has no real control.

Riva sees Britain as a country distinct from any traditional form of federation, and language of his commentary echoes Samuel Pufendorf's description of the Holy Roman Empire.

It is "a wrong body, looking like some kind of ugly monster, measured by common political rules and civic prudence."

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

This may help explain why Riva's confusion is greater than most of his colleagues are willing to exploit, even though it expresses a general uneasiness.

Italian diplomats often struggled to understand British constitution and political system, sometimes alternating between bewildered admiration and hopeless distrust, and they were not only bewildered by interplay of many hostile political forces.

These rival political forces are much more complex than they are used to in their respective countries, and changing political landscape makes their task even more difficult.

The King of Sicily, Victor Amadeus II, tried to repeat this phrase to every newcomer he sent to London: England was "a country of frequent mutations", and if wind changed, you must be prepared.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

1706, Alvise Mocenigo returned to Venice after an embassy and declared to duke and senators that it is always difficult for foreign governments to give right idea.

The author argues that: parliament, as a nest of parties and factions, underlies this feeling of instability and even danger, which was especially strong at turn of century and until 1720s, but when this feeling does not disappear with tighter control.

The experience of William III, who in eyes of some Italian envoys became a political hostage of Parliament after being hailed as messiah in 1688, reinforced view that Parliament of Westminster was a machine for exercise of real power. , including monarch, must accept it.

After explaining in detail organization of Queen Anne's court, influence of Senior Treasurer and Duke and Duchess of Marlborough on Queen, and role of Privy Council, Mocenigo emphasizes that any power is "limited and subject to powers of Parliament".

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

However, accepting this reality was not easy when Venetian ambassador later stressed that influence of royal family and royal prerogatives are enormous. Only under certain conditions can supplies be secured to king.

The resulting controversy was exacerbated by monarch's desire for great power and jealousy of party, so civil unrest was a likely outcome.

Unsurprisingly, parliamentary business is usually dominated by weekly letters to courts from Italian agents, with dispatches showing a seasonal pattern: when parliament is not in session, politics seems to stop and diplomats are forced to turn to it because of gossip or wild speculation about their actions when Parliament meets again.

Reports on Parliament take on different forms and levels of detail, depending on political environment and attitudes of individual diplomats, many of whom, such as Tuscan secretary Vincenzo Pucci or Genoese secretary Domenico Maria Vicheti, constantly made sure that was happening in Westminster.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

They provide facts about most important bills and proposals under discussion and explain their political significance, sometimes they give numerical results of key controversies, sometimes they refer to speakers in debate or state positions they have taken.

For a while, Pucci even included a kind of rough parliamentary diary, a daily record of affairs of parliamentary operations, usually with an even balance of attention between House of Commons and House of Lords: < strong>Providing It seems, if anything, that House of Representatives is more concerned with difficult challenge facing courts.

Parliamentary action can help to understand policies of king and government, or attitudes of both chambers, such as speeches from throne and commendations often attached to original text or translation of diplomatic letters.

On one hand, they apparently acted as a barometer of political weather, and on other hand, through them Italian government received valuable information about agenda of ministry and hints at difficulties it faced.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

Similar acts are often considered by mail, but only occasionally attached to mail, are proposals passed or rejected in each house, or protests recorded in diary of House of Lords, content of a particular bill that constitutes any Accessory part is very unusual, although there are exceptions.

The focus on Parliament and realization of how easy it is to change balance between two chambers has prompted Italian diplomats to think carefully about political parties.

This is mainly done to weigh strengths of parties and assess whether court can implement its policies, but sometimes it also focuses on ideological underpinnings of two factions, and sometimes discusses popular support for different positions, although how correctly assessment is open to discussion.

However, representatives of Italian states were generally skeptical about sincerity of politicians and described transition from Tories to Whigs as a struggle for power, money and honor.

Indeed, when they come to conclusion that a ministry can expand its support in parliament, they often attribute it to patronage, and under their description of political struggle lies notion that parliament is a powerful machine that creates opportunity to exercise great power, but at same time it resembles Wheel of Fortune.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

Successful politicians are pressured by those who seek power, but once they are in power, it is their turn to feel under siege. As Venetian ambassador Nicolò Tron cynically remarked in 1716, there were simply not enough positions in government to satisfy everyone.

This volatile and potentially volatile situation has also generated continued interest from opposition, typically diplomats expressing support for incumbent government in their letters, and sometimes politicians opposing trial, mentioned in official letters described in negative terms. and not than encrypted emails.

This may of course be a matter of prudence, as letters run risk of being intercepted, but there is also realization that any desired stability in British political system can only be ensured by a long-term government.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

However, most professional or intelligent agents of Italian states knew that in long run it would be a grave mistake to ignore MPs who were on side of government, and they knew that Britain must expect overthrow of government or a strong opposition. Politicians in ministry may decide to join ministry at a later date.

Perhaps their masters explicitly advised them to do so, as in case of Victor Amadeus II. It is worth noting that language used to describe opposition has also evolved, sometimes using neutral labels, usually "party against court". ".

However, "discontent" was most common expression, and over time most diplomats switched to "opposition" and then to "opposition circle", sometimes capitalized . Oh.

It may also reflect a move away from viewing members of parliament from opposition as spoilers of royal politics to acknowledging that they are part of a larger political game.

Of course, when reverse interest factor is a factor, as it was during reigns of Georges I and II, there is a major incentive to keep lines of communication open, since Prince of Wales"be master once", as diplomat wrote from Modena in 1737.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

The tactics of both sides of political divide are often openly discussed in diplomatic correspondence, and some also know how parliamentary process can be used to achieve political goals, for example, during reign of King William, House of Commons tried to pass unacceptable measures "attached" to Act about supplies to impose on House of Lords and Crown.

In 1712, Venetian ambassador Pietro Grimani similarly discussed a possible break after Queen Anne had created 12 nobles, or Queen's decision to have Parliament negotiate peace terms.

Vercetti notes that on December 22, 1711, a cunning move by Whigs made possible introduction of a bill in favor of Elector of Hanover and adoption of a proposal for peace negotiations in House of Lords. Taking advantage of fact that most Tories thought matter was over at time, they left House after Law of Provisional Correspondence received royal assent.

Instead, next spring, calls by House of Representatives for impatient MPs to return home were put on hold until government could show Parliament results of Utrecht talks.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

Each change in composition of two Houses of Parliament was seen from perspective of one faction, and it is not surprising that Queen Anne created Twelve Peers in 1712 to change balance of power in House of Lords. but in 1716 Seventy Years Act 1719 and Nobility Act 1719 held same view.

As for Italian diplomats, this was interpreted as a ploy by Whigs to avoid defeat in upcoming elections. Thrun wrote that he would do everything possible to remain in his post.

Pucci said that Conservatives understood that this would be a "death blow" and they feared that passage of bill could lead to a further renewal of current Parliament in seven years if king and a majority in House of Commons , it will repeat.

However, Italian diplomats knew that Whigs were taking risks, and according to Pucci, national mood was against bill, which was passed by Parliament at breakneck speed to prevent too many petitions from accumulating from all over country. .arrival.

The decision to introduce bill in House of Lords, despite questionable results, was explained by tactical reasons, even if defeat of bill was not so much a political retreat, but a defeat in House of Lords after its passage in House of Commons.

Moreover, Whigs could pretend that they agreed only with decision of House of Lords, and thus, hopefully, annoy their constituents less.

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

The passage of Law of Seventy was considered a victory for Whigs, and proposal for Lords' Law was a sort of Plan B for them to secure a majority in House of Lords when George II came to power. throne.

But diplomats are aware of problems bill raises, both at constitutional and parliamentary levels, as House of Commons is very reluctant to pass it.

Pucci noted that this is why Judicial Party initially decided to "reject" bill in upper house, rather than risk losing it in lower house, after struggling to muster enough members to pass it.

Remarkably, decision to reintroduce bill in late autumn 1719 after it was rejected before summer holidays was interpreted by some diplomats as evidence that government was now confident that it would be passed .

The confusion of Italian diplomat in British political life: a shapeless monster

At time, Pucci had just arrived from Rotterdam after a horrendous seven-day crossing of rough waters, and it was suspected that he was still ill when he wrote to Grand Duke of Tuscany about his mistake in country. well informed by British politicians. For those who know, it is unusual: "Everything will be done in accordance with wishes of courts, whether in these reigns or abroad."

Regarding bill,"Those who want and support this bill should take action to pass it, because they won't raise it again unless they are sure of success."

As it turns out, House of Commons voted against bill, and Pucci tried to justify his mistake in a subsequent communication. He mentioned that there was general agreement that bill would pass, but above all he emphasized "the uncertainty of those discussions which depended on so much and such a variety of humour", so that result was largely to blame for character of Parliament.


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