Catalogue description Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, France

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Details of SP 78
Reference: SP 78
Title: Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, France

Mainly in-letters mostly to the Secretary of State from the English (later British) ambassadors, envoys, and ministers to France. The majority of the letters are dated at Paris or Versailles (after the seat of government was transferred there in 1682), but the series includes despatches from (amongst other places) Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau and Marly and from the British consuls or agents at Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lille and Bayonne. In addition, there are many letters from the Bishop of Strasbourg in the period prior to the seizure of Strasbourg by Louis XIV of France in 1681.

The series contains a number of intercepted letters, including those intended for the Marquis of Contades, the Commander of the French army on the lower Rhine in 1758 and 1759. Some of these letters are dated in Germany and the Low Countries (for example from Monsieur de Torcy at Cologne, the Count of Saint-Germain at Düsseldorf, Prince Charles de Rohan de Soubise at Cassel, d'Aubigny at Liège and d'Affry at The Hague). The papers are sometimes the original despatches, and sometimes copies, transcripts or extracts.

Other letters include those from the British ambassadors attending the Congress at Cambrai, the British plenipotentiaries at Soissons, and the British commissaries at St Malo regarding prizes taken after the cessation of hostilities in 1748 at the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, the Duke of Belleisle at Windsor while held a prisoner of war in England, the British governors of Barbados and Nova Scotia, and the French Governor of Martinique in 1750.

Many draft replies by the Secretary of State are also in the series, and a number of petitions, royal letters and printed papers. The royal letters are usually addressed to the the British monarch, and are often of a private nature.

Records relating to Sir Edward Herbert's tenure as British ambassador to France are in PRO 30/53

Further papers relating to the English embassy in Paris can be found in PRO 30/50

Date: 1577-1780

The series is generally arranged in chronological order, though some pieces contain undated papers, and there is some overlapping of dates (eg the despatches from the Count of Ponchartrain and those from Lord Polwarth and Baron Whitworth in Cambrai). The series concludes with miscellaneous supplementary papers, most of which ought more properly to be bound in the main body of the records.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and French
Physical description: 335 volume(s)
Publication note:

Selected documents dated before August 1589 are described in the Calendar of State Papers Foreign Series of the Reign of Elizabeth I ed A J Butler S C Lomas and R B Wernham (London 1901-1950). For references to the more important papers for the period August 1589 to December 1595 see the List and Analysis of State Papers Foreign Series Elizabeth I I-VI ed by Richard Bruce Wernham (London 1964-1993). Some transcripts or extracts of instructions to British diplomats going to France including some from this series are included in British Diplomatic Instructions 1689-1789 7 vols (The Camden Society 1922-1934). Please speak to staff at the Map and Large Document Room enquiry desk for the precise location.

Unpublished finding aids:

See also Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, France (formerly introductory note to SP 78)

Administrative / biographical background:

Diplomatic relations between Great Britain and France were ruptured for several lengthy periods (1689-1697, 1701-1713, 1744-1748 and 1755-1763).

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