by Carol Chillington Rutter
Student. Secretary. Soldier. Spy. Scoundrel - the Elizabethan maverick who invented diplomacy
Born in 1568, Henry Wotton was always short of money, always willing to try unconventional ways of making some, and grew up to live a life of high adventure and low farce. Just as Shakespeare was getting started, Wotton launched himself into Europe and started acquiring skills that would pay off later.
He returned to England in 1594 and was taken on as an assistant by Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. He accompanied Essex in the famous raid on Cadiz and the disastrous campaign in Ireland. When Essex was beheaded in the Tower of London in 1601, Wotton fled to Italy from where he was sent in disguise on a bizarre mission to prevent the assassination of King James of Scotland. Soon after that James became King of England and rewarded Wotton's skills by giving him a knighthood and appointing him Ambassador to Venice.
The Privy Council regarded the Italians askance, but Wotton excelled himself reporting to the King not only on trade, taxation, piracy, and ships but also on the likes of murder, child abduction and contraband books. In the process he transformed the nature of international relations, inventing modern diplomacy.
Henry Wotton’s time in Venice, his adventures there and the liveliness of his exchanges with everyone he met - from the Doge downwards - are revealed in the copious private and diplomatic letters and documents he left behind, which have been fully transcribed for the first time in four hundred years. Wotton’s extraordinary life concluded with being appointed the Provost of Eton College.
Drawing on extraordinary archival research, Lying Abroad will be the first biography of this pivotal figure from the 1600s.