Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, Holy Roman Empire
Correspondence and papers of the Secretary of State concerning the Holy Roman Empire (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, etc.).
The records are mainly in-letters and despatches (with some copies) from the British representatives (often designated envoys extraordinary or ministers plenipotentiary) at the court of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The letters are usually dated at Vienna, though there are a number from Prague, particularly during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II (1576-1612) who made Prague his principal residence.
Some letters or copies of letters from other special envoys or agents acting on behalf of the British government are included, together with a number of draft letters or letters in copy form from the Secretary of State. Several original letters or memorials from the Emperor's court, from generals, and other prominent and less prominent persons within the Empire are amongst the papers, particularly during the turbulent years of the Counter Reformation and the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). During these years the Emperors were often in conflict with their Protestant princes, who looked for support from the British monarch.
Many despatches contain military intelligence, or plans or maps.
The records are arranged generally in chronological order.
The Thirty Years' War devastated Germany. By the Peace of Westphalia 1648, the Emperor's powers and area of jurisdiction were much reduced, and the Empire became a loose collection of semi-independent states under his nominal authority.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Imperial title and the German kingship were virtually hereditary in the Austrian House of Habsburg (Habsburg-Lorraine after 1740), although the formal procedure of electing the King of Germany (and hence the Emperor) was maintained.
Within the period 1578-1780, in addition to Germany, the Empire included Austria, Styria, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and parts of Hungary and Croatia on the frontier with the Ottoman Empire. The Emperor had nominal authority for certain other territories besides the aforementioned (eg the Swiss Confederation before 1648). For much of the period there was a military threat from the Turks who in 1683 were able to reach and besiege Vienna. The Empire was dissolved in 1806, the last Emperor being unable to defend his title against Napoleon's ambitions.
Robert Keith, the British Minister Plenipotentiary, was recalled as a consequence of the insult to King George II by the Imperial Resident Minister, Count Colloredo, departing from the Court of St James without taking leave of the King. It appears that the relationship between Vienna and London was always a difficult one and ambassadors were rarely sent to Vienna, envoys or ministers being appointed instead. After the recall of Viscount Stormont (1772), the post reverted to a legation.
Found an error? Suggest a correction to help improve our descriptions.
Users have not yet tagged this record
Use the form below to include your knowledge of this record. If your description includes any citable references, please add these to the "Citable References?" field on the right, remebering to seperate each reference with a comma, for example (FO 176/1/1, FO 178/2/1, and so on...)
- SP Records assembled by the State Paper Office, including papers of the Secretaries of...
- State Papers Foreign
- SP 80 Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, Holy Roman Empire