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Edmund Poley papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 1
Scope and Contents

The Edmund Poley Papers consist of six boxes of correspondence and related diplomatic papers documenting aspects of English history and foreign policy in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The papers span the dates 1645-1707, but the bulk of the material covers the period 1680-1705.

Series I, Correspondence (Boxes 1-3), primarily contains letters sent to Poley by cabinet officers, undersecretaries of state, and clerks at Whitehall, with a smaller quantity of letters from English diplomats in Europe and copies of letters of European monarchs, diplomats, and soldiers. The correspondence covers four distinct periods of Edmund Poley's career. The first major section contains letters written between October 1680 and January 1685, when Poley was English resident at Berlin, Frankfurt-am-Main, and Ratisborn (Regensburg). The second group of letters, written while Poley was in Stockholm, begins July 1687 and continues to December 1688. Another group of letters covers the period of his service at the court of Savoy in Turin from October 1691-November 1696, while the January 1704-October 1705 letters concern the time that Poley was at the court of Hanover.

For the period between October 1680 and January 1685, the prominent English correspondents are Sir Leoline Jenkins, Secretary of State for the Southern Office, 1680-84; Sidney Godolphin, his successor; the Earl of Conway, Secretary of State for the Northern Office, 1681-83; the Earl of Sunderland, Conway's successor; the Earl of Middleton, Secretary of State for England; and secretaries and clerks at Whitehall, William Blathwayt, Edward Chute, John Mountsteven, Rowland Tempest, Owen Wynne, and Robert Yard. Although the cabinet officers sometimes discussed domestic English politics, as when Jenkins reported on December 7, 1680 that the House of Lords had sentenced Lord Stafford to death for treason, their letters usually focus on international affairs and terms and conditions of diplomatic appointments.

The letters of the clerks and secretaries often contain detailed information on English politics, events abroad, news from London, and life at the court of Charles II, including such subjects as the King's difficulties with Parliament, the Titus Oates affair, the exclusion crisis, the Rye House Plot, and the reform of city charters in order to make municipal governments more amenable to the wishes of the crown. For example, royalist Owen Wynne reported on December 7, 1683 that "Algernon Sidney was beheaded this day upon Tower-Hill. He dyed as he lived of a surly temper." The Prince of Hanover, the future George I and unsuccessful suitor for the hand of Princess Anne, was described in a letter of December 28, 1680 as "a well accomplished Prince not 20 years old." Other letters discuss the May 1683 visit of Prince George of Denmark.

The letters of English diplomats Thomas Barker (Danzig), Thomas Chudleigh (The Hague), Viscount Preston (Paris), Henry Savile (Paris), Henry Sidney (The Hague), Bevil Skelton (The Hague and Hamburg), and Philip Warwick (Stockholm) contain news from European capitals.

This first group of letters ends in January 1685, and the correspondence does not resume until July 1687, when Poley had taken up his post in Stockholm. Thus the collection contains no information on the death of Charles II, the accession of his Catholic brother James, the Monmouth Rebellion, or the events of the first two and one half years of the reign of James II. News from England is found in the letters of John Cooke, first clerk in the office of the Secretary of State for the Northern Department; Owen Wynne, Cooke's assistant; and in numerous unsigned Newsletters. The letters discuss the purging of English corporations, the royal favors given to Roman Catholics and Catholic converts, the "great and glorious news" of the birth of a Catholic heir to the throne in June 1688, and the threat posed to James II by the Prince of Orange. George Etherege (Ratisbon), Sir Gabriel Sylvius (Copenhagen), and Peter Wyche (Hamburg) primarily report on events in the Empire and Germany and the struggle against France, but their letters also discuss the birth of the Prince of Wales and the response of William of Orange, who was "contriving a Manifesto ag[ain]st ye supposed Prince of Wales" (Peter Wyche, August 21, 1688).

The correspondence for 1691-96, when Poley represented William and Mary at the court of Savoy, includes letters from English correspondents such as the Earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State for the Southern Department, 1689-93; Blathwayt; David Eger; Richard Warre, civil secretary to Blathwayt; and Robert Yard, plus letters from English diplomats like Sir Paul Rycaut (Hamburg) and Alexander Stanhope (Madrid). It also contains a series of letters from Poley to Nottingham (1691-92) describing events at the court and campaigns against the French in the Italian theater of the War of the Grand Alliance. In addition, this section contains copies of the correspondence between William III and Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, which ended when Savoy signed a separate peace with France in the Treaty of Turin (1696), and letters between Victor Amadeus on one part and Emperor Leopold I; Frederick I, King of Prussia; and Maximilian II, Duke of Bavaria on the other part. Victor Amadeus's 1692-95 letters pledge support for the common cause against French aggression, while his 1696 letters stress Savoy's need for peace, despite his continued protestations of loyalty to the Grand Alliance. Also included are copies of letters written in 1696 between French Marshal Catinat and Carlo-Guisseppe Carron, Marquis de St. Thomas, of Savoy concerning possible terms for peace. For additional material on the treaty between France and Savoy, see Box 5, folders 194-97.

For the period from November 1696 to January 1704, the collection contains just two copies of one letter from the Elector of Hanover to the Elector of Brandenburg (Frederick I, King of Prussia) concerning the duchy of Holstein.

The final group of letters covers the period January 1704-October 1705. Almost two-thirds of these were written between January and April 1704, in the critical months before the great allied victory at Blenheim in the War of the Spanish Succession. Poley, posted to the court of Hanover, received numerous letters from English correspondents John Ellis, first clerk in the Northern Office, John Tucker, and Richard Warre; from Adam Cardonnel, secretary in attendance to the Duke of Marlborough; and from diplomats William Aglionby (Zurich), Charles Davenant (Frankfurt), Richard Hill (Turin), John Robinson (Danzig), Alexander Stanhope (The Hague), George Stepney (The Hague), Thomas Strafford, Earl Raby (Berlin), George Tilson (Berlin), James Vernon (Copenhagen), and Baron Whitworth (Vienna). Their letters concern affairs in England, the Dutch Republic, the German States, and the Empire prior to the 1704 campaign. Aglionby reported on February 20 that the "walls of Augsbourg are ordered to be demolished and the french are marching towards the head of the Danube." Stanhope noted on April 15 that the allies were going to abandon the Upper Rhine, and Cardonnel wrote on May 4 that Marlborough "declared his Resolution of going up to the Moselle" and that allied troops had begun to march out of their garrisons. The papers, however, contain little more news of the 1704 campaign, except for a copy of a June 1704 letter from Marlborough to the States General announcing an allied victory over the forces of the Elector of Bavaria and a copy of an August letter by an unidentified French marquis recounting French losses at Blenheim. The 1705 letters discuss such topics as the poor health of Edmund Poley's brother Henry, the death of the Queen of Prussia, parliamentary elections, and Poley's departure from Hanover.

Series II, Related Papers (Boxes 4-6), contains a variety of chronologically arranged documents. The two earliest, dated 1645 and 1660, appoint Edmund Poley, father of the diplomat, "Master of the Harriers" to Prince Charles and clerk of the Privy Council. Box 6, folder 213 holds a copy of a bill to exclude James, Duke of York, from the English throne, and Box 4, folder 173 contains the vote of the House of Lords in the treason trial of Viscount Stafford, Catholic victim of the Popish Plot. Among those voting to condemn the unfortunate Catholic peer were the Earls of Shaftsbury and Sunderland, the Duke of Monmouth, and Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine. Other items include a copy of a July 1685 address to Louis XIV urging him to extirpate heresy in France, a 1688 list of "Nobility and Principal Gentry Said to be in Arms with the Prince of Orange," and three 1704 lists of French, English, and Lüneburg officers killed and wounded in the Blenheim campaign. Most of the other papers are diplomatic in character. They include a 1680 analysis of the revenues and military potential of the three branches of the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Box 4, folder 174) and the 1703 credentials of Poley to the court of Hanover, plus diplomatic memorials and drafts of conventions and treaties.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Edmund Poley Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The entire collection, except for a handful of miscellaneous items, was purchased in 1973.

3.25 Linear Feet (6 boxes)
Related Names
Poley, Edmund, 1655-1714
Language of Materials