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Imperial Ambassadresses between the Courts of Madrid and Vienna (1650-1700): Diplomacy, Sociability and Culture

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17th Century ambassadors' wives and their impact

An analysis of the diplomatic and cultural role of the imperial ambassadresses sheds light on the diplomatic activities they carried out.

Industrial Technologies

The second half of the 17th century was a period of foreign relations between the Spanish Monarchy and the Holy Roman Empire. Wives of the ambassadors, known as ambassadresses, supported their husbands' networks and initiated diplomatic strategies such as patronage or mediation. They acted as cultural agents, exporting works of art and books as well as lifestyles, body cultures and sociabilities. However, history dedicated to the early modern period has paid little attention to the wives of ambassadors. AMBASSADRESSES (Imperial ambassadresses between the courts of Madrid and Vienna (1650-1700): Diplomacy, sociability and culture) was an EU-funded project dedicated to showing the power ambassadors' wives had in diplomatic affairs. Among other topics, the work looked at the ways in which ambassadresses conducted this diplomacy, whether or not there were gender-specific diplomacy and collaboration strategies. The study included ambassadresses from the Holy Roman Empire to Madrid in the second half of the 17th century. Researchers examined both diplomatic and non-diplomatic sources. These included images, portraits, furniture, paintings, jewels, dresses, plans, recipes, personal correspondences, diaries, memories, perfumes, inventories, plays and novels. New methodologies were applied and a gender perspective was included in the research. Work was conducted in various European archives, libraries and museums. Main research findings indicate that ambassadresses from the Holy Roman Empire to Madrid exercised diplomatic, social, cultural and ceremonial power during their husbands' missions. Additionally, it was found that they worked in collaboration with their husbands as a main strategy, but they also engaged with the social and cultural customs of the court where the mission took place. The research can serve as a launch pad for future gender studies in the field of foreign relations as well as empower the social sciences and humanities.


17th century, Spanish Monarchy, Holy Roman Empire, AMBASSADRESSES, diplomacy

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