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1. Interactions et transferts entre la France et les îles Britanniques, 1640-1660

Biographical Projects and the Reconstruction of Cross-Channel Lives: Progress and Challenges



Comparé au Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) du XIXe siècle, l’Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB) offre des informations plus complètes sur la vie des Britanniques à l’étranger, qu’ils y soient étudiants, voyageurs ou exilés, ainsi que sur l’expériences des immigrants ou visiteurs français au Royaume-Uni. La version électronique du dictionnaire propose des options de recherche avancée et permet d’obtenir des renseignements sur des groupes nés ou résidant temporairement à des endroits précis, de même que d’établir un premier bilan de l’impact de la circulation des personnes, des livres, des idées et de certaines professions. L’Oxford DNB et d’autres projets comme celui History of Parliament, qui travaille actuellement sur la vie des Membres du Parlement anglais entre 1640 et 1660, ont pu bénéficier de l’ouverture des archives à un public international, d’abord via la publication papier des archives, puis de la mise des catalogues et de nombreux documents. Ceci a permis de faire la lumière sur des vies et d’enrichir la connaissance. Toutefois, beaucoup reste à découvrir. Les carrières restent lacunaires quand les individus disparaissent d’une zone géographique. Le partage d’information entre les chercheurs travaillant sur des aspects distincts d’une période, ainsi que l’enrichissement des bases de données disponibles permettant de compléter les sources contemporaines imprimées sont deux aspects essentiels qui permettront de combler, vérifier et évaluer ce panorama encore impressionniste de ce phénomène d’interpénétration des cultures qui se révèle chaque jour plus important.

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1To an extent previously unimagined, the twenty-first century historian may both identify cross-Channel ties in the early modern period and plot their scope and significance. Digitisation of original sources and of archival and library catalogues means that the transfer of people and ideas may be more readily sought and found. A contemporary recognition of the importance of migration and cultural exchange provides further encouragement. But, as so often in scholarly research, widened horizons reveal unknown territory. Unfamiliar archives and administrative structures require local interpretation; pinpointing identities and locations requires contextual knowledge. The rewards of mastering a new milieu are potentially immense, but so are the hazards of overlooking or misunderstanding evidence. This applies especially to the 1640s and 1650s when in both France and Britain unrest, rebellion and war encouraged international traffic and disrupted normal life. What follows is a review of some avenues of Franco-British intercourse opened up by two major British historical projects, and suggestions of what more might be learned through future collaboration.

2The first of these projects is the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB), published in print and online in September 2004, and updated and expanded online thrice yearly thereafter (Matthew and Harrison; Goldman; Oxford DNB). Appointed one of the in-house research editors for the seventeenth century when work began on that section in January 1998, this author has had a continuing role with the dictionary since 2006 as associate research editor for that period and is currently collaborating on the inclusion of further entries, especially on notable men and women who travelled to and from Britain. The second major project to be considered here is the History of Parliament which, since 1964, has researched and published volumes devoted to particular periods, each containing biographical entries for every Member of Parliament who sat during that time and for every constituency, and also an introductory survey of parliamentary politics. Volumes devoted to 1604–1629, 1660–1690 and 1690–1715 have already appeared, and like the rest of the History’s published research are available online. The 1640–1660 section, for which this author is working, is still in progress (History of Parliament Online).

British-French interactions in the Oxford DNB

3Among several striking themes to emerge from seventeenth century entries in the Oxford DNB has been the extent of British-French interaction. French immigrants and visitors to British territories were prominent among the roughly 10,000 entries for this period, while travel and residence in France – as in the Low Countries and Italy – were recurrent features of the careers of politicians, artists, merchants, soldiers and scholars (Larminie, “Immigrants in the DNB”). In the online version of the dictionary data can be pinpointed within more than 68 million words of text. For example, a search within “1500” to “1700” reveals 7 subjects born in Rouen and 36 in Paris, with 22 educated at Montpellier and 19 at the Académie de Saumur (Oxford DNB; Larminie, “The Oxford DNB” 56). Results are imprecise, but still valuable. Adopting the premise that French people active in British life between 1640 and 1660 were probably born between 1580 and 1630, a “People” search with the terms “born” in “France” limited to these dates yields 21 results. These include people as different as Charlotte Stanley (née de la Tremoïlle), countess of Derby, Etienne Nau, violinist, and Jean Verneuil, a longstanding librarian in Oxford who was still living there in the 1640s when it was the royalist capital and a centre of international diplomacy and publishing. If “Paris” is substituted for “France”, there are seven hits, among them Queen Henrietta Maria and the physician Théophilus Garencières, active in interregnum and Restoration London, as well as Lewis du Moulin, Huguenot physician, Oxford history professor and controversialist, and his brother Peter du Moulin the younger, who became a clergyman in and apologist for his adopted Church of England. In the early days of the online version, the “Paris” search returned hits that the “France” search did not, including three of the four figures just mentioned. This shortcoming, as with other digitised sources, arose from limitations in the text encoding. A great effort was made to rectify these, but it cannot be guaranteed that all anomalies will have been eliminated – especially in view of shifting international frontiers, of which not all contributors and editors can be expected to be aware in every case – and thus results should be viewed as a jumping-off point, a stimulus to further searches.

4Full text searches sometimes reveal unsuspected themes or connections between people and places, and raise new questions. Typing “Mazarin” in the search field, yields references to 54 articles. Among them is John Brayne, clergyman and member of the Seeker religious sect. In 1649 this visionary, who had links with members of the Rump Parliament, not only “revealed” that General Sir Thomas Fairfax was the avenging angel of the book of Revelation, but welcomed as another sign of impending Armageddon the overthrow of Cardinal Mazarin, “the first of the foolish virgins” (“John Brayne”, Oxford DNB). Searching with the term “Fronde”, the Fifth Monarchist John Tillinghast emerges in 1654 proclaiming a similarly apocalyptic schema, grouping the upheavals in France with those in England and the Netherlands (“John Tillinghast”, Oxford DNB). The writings of both men demonstrate the extent to which news of events in France was appropriated into the worldview of relatively obscure radicals. Meanwhile, a full text search for “Charenton”, the protestant Temple on the outskirts of Paris, gets 38 hits, mostly on worshippers there in this period. Among them is the staunch royalist clergyman William Stampe, who became chaplain to Prince Charles in exile and apparently preached there regularly. Stampe had a reputation for “vain and peevish humours” (“William Stampe”, Oxford DNB). What impact did he have on the French congregation? Could he speak their language?

5Reviewing the content of biographies on people with cross-Channel links, it becomes clear that there has been significant progress since the original Dictionary of National Biography was published in the nineteenth century (Stephen and Lee). There is greater balance, deeper context and more geographical precision. But advances in knowledge and understanding have been patchy. Notable progress has been made with Roman Catholic clergy and religious who came from abroad and lived clandestinely in Britain, or who went to France and, among much else, supported the royalist exiles. Serial publications, work on the manuscripts of religious orders, and research in Rome have enhanced the international lives of many figures, like William Ballantine and Robert Barclay (1611/12–1682). Equally, migrant Protestant ministers have been illuminated by record publications (notably those of the Huguenot Society of London); native and immigrant protestant clergy who suffered for their royalism in the 1640s and 1650s or for their nonconformity after the Restoration have been identified (Matthews, Calamy Revised; Matthews, Walker Revised); and the record of admissions to and degrees from Cambridge, which in the 1890s had not yet been collated, is now available (Venn and Venn). Consultation of the subject’s published works – something original DNB contributors, lacking the facility of Early English Books Online, tended to omit – often establishes geographical location and sketches networks of friendship and patronage, thereby demonstrating the very important contribution of French ministers to worship and polemic in Britain (EEBO).

The Case of Jean Despagne

  • 1 Jean Despagne’s will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and can be downloaded from t (...)

6This is exemplified in Jean or John Despagne. The cursory 1888 article in the DNB hardly justifies his inclusion. He wrote a treatise against duels, quarrelled with other Huguenot immigrants and received support from the House of Lords, but seemingly did nothing of significance. But having pieced together references in readily available journals, calendared sources and electronically catalogued manuscripts, and by reading his publications and his will, one encounters a notable figure in mid-seventeenth century religious life.1

  • 2 For others using the Prayer Book, see e.g. “John Fell”, “Anne King” and “Robert Skinner”. Oxford DN (...)

7As the reforms of the Long Parliament silenced many ceremonialist English clergy and eventually proscribed the Prayer Book, Despagne presided over a congregation which followed the outlawed liturgy in French. Others used it privately in provincial obscurity, but Despagne employed it publicly at Westminster under Parliament’s nose, and with its approbation.2 Unauthorised services which he had conducted in 1642 at the house of Lady Annandale alienated the French consistory in Threadneedle Street, but, in response to the latter’s complaint, the House of Lords pronounced on 21 January 1643 that Despagne’s sermons were “rather an advantage than an inconvenience” (JHL 566). That year he was invited to officiate at Durham House, the London residence of Philip Herbert, fourth earl of Pembroke (d.1650), then a leading parliamentarian (“Jean Despagne”, Oxford DNB; Cottret 132–3). Dedicating to the earl his 1646 study of the Lord’s Prayer, Despagne likened him to the Gentile centurion in the Gospels who assisted the Jews: “he loves our nation and hath built us a synagogue” (Despagne. The Use of the Lord’s Prayer 8). Pembroke was not alone in his affections. Services attracted not only immigrants like Isaac de Caus, the designer and architect, and Nicholas Briot, the engraver, but also other members of the English élite like John Egerton, second earl of Bridgewater (d. 1686), who attended to hear twenty-four expositions of Calvinist doctrine and was presented by the author with a copy of his Nouvelles Observations sur le Symbole de la Foy (Hamilton 414–19; Despagne, Nouvelles Observations, title page annotation). Mirroring the views of his chief patrons (see, for example, New Observations upon the Creed sig. A3), Despagne became a spokesman for those moderate parliamentarians who in 1648 sought an accommodation with the king. His sermon on 12 September, a fast day for the proposed treaty, acknowledged faults and responsibilities on both sides and exhorted them “to out-goe one another in benignitie, honour and pietie” in order to “restore the Church to its lustre, to the Lawes their vigour, to the Common-weal an happy peace” (Despagne, An Abridgement 21). Like Peter du Moulin for Charles I, Despagne also became a conduit for the dissemination of partisan apologetic to a European audience: in March 1648 he was employed to translate into French the declaration of both Houses of Parliament in response to the Scots’ papers on addresses to the king (CSP Dom. 1648–1649: 28).

8Orthodox French ministers who viewed him as a schismatic were apparently astounded at Despagne’s self-confidence and his support in high places (Cottret 132). That both weathered the eclipse of the moderates at Westminster, the untimely dedication of a 1648 work to King Charles, the much-lamented death of Pembroke and the advent of the republic, as well as the hostility of Huguenots whose mode of worship accorded more closely with what was then legal in English, is certainly striking (Despagne. Popular Errors sig. A2; Abbrege du Sermon Funebre sig. A2). It doubtless owed something to the assiduity with which Despagne strove to please those to whom he owed “grandes obligations”, but the fact that he chose to flatter in French, as in addressing Bulstrode Whitelocke in September 1653, indicates an awareness that he had acceptable currency to give in exchange (Whitelocke papers XIII, f. 215). Whitelocke at this juncture had the impetus of imminent departure on foreign embassy to prompt him, “when he could have time … [to study] the french & latin to renew his languages”, and recorded with evident satisfaction that he was “att the French [Church], & had great respect”, but there was clearly a large constituency of the élite who found it congenial to practise their linguistic skills under Despagne’s pulpit (Whitelocke 293). Herbert patronage probably continued, judging by the dedication of the 1652 edition of New Observations on the Decalogue (sig. A3). The congregation flourished. Helped by members of the council of state and the Rump Parliament, it moved to new premises at the Savoy chapel at Somerset House in 1653, and was accorded a guard placed by Major-general John Lambert to quell any disturbance to worship (CSP Dom. 1652–1653: 343). Here Despagne dedicated work to Oliver Cromwell and paid tribute to assistance received from Pembroke and Whitelocke, as well as MPs and councillors Gilbert Pickering and Walter Strickland (Despagne. Shibboleth, ou Reformation sig. A2v–A3; Shibboleth, of the Reformation sig. A2). Yet at the same time he preached to French and English of rather conservative political outlook, including John Evelyn the diarist and the physicians Sir Théodore Turquet de Mayerne, Jean Colladon and Théophilus de Garancières (Evelyn 3: 181, 202; “Jean Despagne”, Oxford DNB; Despagne, Sermon Preached). Thanks to Whitelocke and others, not only did the congregation – numbering “about 600 souls” – survive a threat that Somerset House chapel would be sold by the committee administering the late king’s houses, but in April 1657 Despagne himself was awarded an augmentation of £20 a year on his salary by the council of state (BL Add. MS; CSP Dom. 1656–1657: 331). Given that this church also formed the nucleus of the Restoration congregation at the Savoy which in 1662, to great fanfare and egress of nobility and gentry, pre-empted the outcome of the Savoy Conference taking place in the same building in its affirmative use of the Book of Common Prayer, its clientele and influence merits further investigation (“John Durel”, Oxford DNB). As it is, the once shadowy Monsieur Despagne has emerged further into the spotlight since the appearance of the dictionary thanks to the relative ease with which relevant new publications can be located (“Jean Despagne”, Oxford DNB).

9Easier availability of sources has enhanced coverage in Oxford DNB of the French in Britain. On the whole, the same cannot be said of Britons in France. There are exceptions. “Henrietta Maria” published in DNB in 1891 was contributed by S. R. Gardiner, a distinguished historian who made an enormous contribution to that edition of the dictionary. As appears in his note on his sources, he had an excellent command of relevant material in the British Museum and Public Record Office and in memoirs available in published form in England. However, the new article, by a scholar who has made a particular study of the Caroline court and its context, makes far greater use of French material, both published and archival (“Henrietta Maria”, Oxford DNB).

Mapping British Presence in France – Shortcomings and Opportunities

10But lack of recourse to foreign archives is in fact the rule. It is frustrating, but perhaps unsurprising. Two key surveys of royalists in our period have no index references to non-British places and hardly any to non-British people (Hardacre; Underdown). Published fifty years ago, they are probably testament to the insurmountable challenges to scholars of Britain that then existed in accessing continental material. Sadly, even now distance, unfamiliarity, linguistic shortcomings and competing professional commitments pose formidable barriers to accessing foreign archives. For instance, Geoffrey Smith’s otherwise very useful study of The Cavaliers in Exile, which appeared too late to be used by contributors to Oxford DNB as published in print in 2004, cites excellent sources in the British Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford, but neither foreign archives nor non-English language published material (Smith). Pioneers who still labour in the field have done indispensable service in highlighting what might be achieved. One might cite, for example the University of Ghent project on the English abroad which was organised by Professor Jean Pierre Vander Motten and Dr Katrien de Gelder, or for a later period the study of relations between Britain, the Netherlands and France in the reign of Louis XIV (Englishmen Adrift; Levillain). However, practical problems continue to impede easy transnational research.

11The consequences for lives in the Oxford DNB are not just that they are truncated, but that opportunities to explore connections are missed. The article on “Sir Peter Osborne” is typical of many. His years as an exile at St Malo pass without elaborative comment: was this genuine obscurity, or was he part of a settled community constantly augmented by British and Irish travellers passing through the port? The Irish in Europe project, which got underway too late for many dictionary contributors, will supply complementary detail online, but what of non-Irish who went to Brittany, and how did they all interact with locals? An Oxford DNB online search for people resident in Rouen between 1640 and 1660 yields ten hits, not including Prince Charles, who held court there for a while, and different from the list supplied by Geoffrey Smith (Smith 74). As my former colleague Tim Wales pointed out, the most recent Visitation of London volume reveals there was a long term Anglo-French mercantile presence there in the Samborne/Le Bas family, but the dictionary mentions nothing of this (Wales and Hartley 484-8). It reveals the nucleus of a significant community, but no clue as to how it operated. From 1643 it included the merchant and financier Sir Peter Rycaut and the diplomat Sir William Becher, who used it as a base for gun-smuggling. Among residents a little later were Sir Hugh Chomley MP and Francis Cottington, first Baron Cottington; by early 1660 Sir Robert Long MP is found there following an eight year blank in his career after falling out with royalists in Paris. Meanwhile, the poet Edmund Waller, MP, and the physician Thomas Winston are returned by the electronic search for Rouen even though there is absolutely no mention in the article of their being there. How many such people lived at some point in the town, where exactly did they lodge, how did they finance their stay and what were they doing there?

  • 3 A point I owe to my History of Parliament colleague Dr David Scott.

12On the face of it, it should be easier to answer such questions in relation to Paris, but it is striking that Oxford DNB contributors and History of Parliament researchers have been unable to do so. Of the hundred or so “residents” in “Paris” uncovered by a search of the dictionary, in only a handful of cases do their articles go beyond mere stating of the fact. For instance, among these, Sir Lewis Dyve was a member of the Louvre group caught up in the Fronde; William Faithorne the engraver became involved in the international print trade during a five year exile on the city; Thomas Hanmer MP, the gardener and former cup bearer to the king, turned traitor in 1646 and from Paris supplied the English Parliament with information about Charles’s negotiations with the French and Scots. Beyond the frequent statement that they quarrelled and/or experienced financial hardship, others’ activities are much more obscure. They either lived in an (unlocated) royal or aristocratic household, or in even more shadowy circumstances apart from it. The diary of herald and historian Sir William Dugdale indicates that he was in the city for five weeks in June and July 1648 and saw, as he put it, the monument at St Denis, the Cardinal’s palace and the aqueduct. It is clear that he was collecting material for later publications on French religious houses in England, but filling out further detail can pose apparently insuperable problems even for a modern biographer working from England (Dugdale 95; Parry 220; personal communication from Dr Jan Broadway). Potentially one of the most significant silences is about the Parisian exile of William Cavendish, marquess of Newcastle, between about April 1645 and summer 16483. British historians know Newcastle engaged in experiments and debates with Thomas Hobbes and Marin Marsenne but not who his friends were at the French and the queen’s court, who he entertained at his residence, where he worshipped, or if anyone was giving him a pension (“William Cavendish”, Oxford DNB). Given what is emerging about his stay at the Rubenshuis in Antwerp and the importance of his and his wife’s political, literary and artistic circle in the Spanish Netherlands, his time in Paris cries out for more attention (The Rubens House).

13As in England, places of worship offer a way in to religious, social and political nexuses. As indicated, some exiles turn up at the Charenton temple. Another venue which would probably repay closer attention is the chapel at the residence of ambassador Sir Richard Browne, to which many Britons abroad allegedly repaired. John Evelyn describes an occasion there in 1651 when Thomas Sydserf, Arminian bishop of Galloway, ordained two Channel Islanders to the priesthood according to the rite of the Book of Common Prayer (Evelyn 3: 8–9). One of these was Jean or John Durel. His previous ministry in Jersey, after education at a Huguenot académie, was apparently insufficient to qualify him to officiate for Britons in Paris. Yet the laying on of hands by a Scottish bishop in France was seemingly sufficient to allow him to preside at synods in Normandy and pass seamlessly into the Church of England at the Restoration (“John Durel”, Oxford DNB). It was he who used Prayer Book worship at the Savoy Chapel in French before it was technically legal in English (CSP Dom. 1660–1661: 529). Given Durel’s place as an Anglican apologist, mediating the church described to him as l’église anglico-gallicane, probing Browne’s congregation and its role in the preservation of Prayer-Book liturgy and episcopal order, seems potentially rewarding (Durel 70; Larminie “The Oxford DNB”: 59-60). The Oxford DNB article on a figure in this circle which uniquely explores relationships with French protestant clergy, that on the notorious ceremonialist and erstwhile dean of Durham John Cosin, finds him using the Prayer Book burial service at the Charenton with the support of its ministers (“John Cosin”, Oxford DNB). The parallels with England are illuminating.

Following English MPs abroad

14Biographical research on men who sat in Parliament between 1640 and 1660 reveals that a significant proportion had previously travelled or been educated abroad. Furthermore, a surprising number of MPs elected from the mid 1640s, that is at period when their defining characteristic should have been freedom from suspicion of royalism, had recently spent time in the hardly neutral air of France. For example, Sir Richard Lucy, elected in 1647, had been in France between March 1643 and mid 1644, while former parliamentarian army officer Thomas Hatcher, elected to three Protectorate parliaments, had been given a pass to go to France for his health in June 1649 and probably returned only in 1653: some of this is evident in their Oxford DNB entries (“Sir Richard Lucy”; “Thomas Hatcher”). Sir Francis Norreys, MP for Oxfordshire in 1656, had survived nomination by the king in 1642 as a commissioner of array to become a very respectable Protectorate justice of the peace, but as Parliament sat he was exploiting his close ties with Queen’s College, Oxford, a nexus of royalist contacts, to support his son’s prolonged education in Paris, Blois and Saumur (CSP Dom. 1655–1656; CSP Dom. 1656–1657 passim). By 1659 Parliament contained the French-educated sons of prominent 1640s royalists, men like Harry Cary, fourth viscount Falkland, veteran of ostentatiously dissipated behaviour at Blois in 1650 and Paris in 1656, and (probably) Sir Henry Lee (Verney and Verney 3: 16–7; CSP Dom. 1656–1657: 580; CSP Dom. 1653–1654: 438; “Henry Wilmot, first earl of Rochester”, Oxford DNB; CCSP 4: 166).

15It is reasonable to assume, as contemporaries did, that foreign travel had a long-term impact on the worldview and behaviour of those who undertook it. A youthful French tour by Henry Marten, later MP and regicide, saw him “much impressed with the French stoical philosophers” (“Henry Marten”, Oxford DNB). According to Anthony Wood, another regicide and MP, Thomas Chaloner, returned “a well-bred gentleman, but tinged with anti-monarchical principles” (“Thomas Chaloner”, Oxford DNB). But pinning down exactly where such men had been, who they had encountered and the influences to which they had been exposed is an elusive business, and hasty conclusions may be utterly misleading. For example, Edward Hyde credited Nathaniel Fiennes, MP, with having imbibed Genevan clericalism, but instead he attended Erastian Basel (Hyde 1: 247; Wackernagel 3: 351). One starting point is the evidence of passes to go abroad and examinations of incomers, but the scattered and fragmentary sources make for slow returns. Without ready access to French sources, or knowledge of appropriate methodology, what are British historians missing?

16Perhaps, quite a lot. The intertwined lives of two MPs, Sir John Danvers and his son-in-law Robert, serve to illustrate this. Both were men who, as a result of their longstanding French connections, were in a position to do the English government both much harm and much good. English evidence alone does not allow us to determine which it was. A former gentleman of the privy chamber, Sir John had a relatively low profile during the first civil war, and probably favoured accommodation (“Sir John Danvers” draft biography, History of Parliament Online, Commons 1640–1660). Elected to Parliament in 1645, he then actively supported the army, signed Charles I’s death warrant in 1649 and served for a year on the republic’s council of state. Throughout he maintained contact with numerous royalists, at home and possibly abroad. He was also regularly called upon by Parliament to entertain foreign ambassadors, with whom he doubtless communicated very effectively. As a boy at the end of the sixteenth century he had spent several years in France, Italy and the Low Countries, of which almost nothing is known, but which were clearly formative. Thereafter, in addition to cultivating a wide and distinguished acquaintance in England, he had maintained correspondence with an international circle of botanists and an interest in continental architecture and gardening (CSP Dom. 1595–1597: 288; Bekkers 16; Loomie 250; JHCs 6: 124a, 522b; Huygens 40, 41, 57, 61, 70, 92).

17In 1646 Sir John took under his wing a youth then called Robert Villiers, who was in the process of renouncing his Catholicism and compounding for his royalism (CCC 1075). Villiers, who was the illegitimate son of the duke of Buckingham’s sister-in-law Lady Purbeck, had also spent a significant part of his childhood abroad, probably partly with his mother in Paris, allegedly returning to England only in 1642 (CSP Dom. 1635–1636: 78, 217; Complete Peerage; JHC 7: 602b–603a). By the late 1640s Danvers was seeking suitable employment for his protégé and considering options abroad (JHC 6: 141a; Burton 3: 242). In October 1650 and in January 1652 Villiers obtained passes to go beyond the seas (CSP Dom. 1650: 653; 1651–1652: 548; Aubrey 2: 97). On the second occasion the pass specified Flanders as the destination, but in May royalists in Paris discovered that Villiers had been there negotiating with the French king. He had been arrested, Hyde reported, but released once the government announced that he was an official envoy; he had subsequently left for England with a French agent, Chantillet (CCSP 2: 135). No evidence of his mission has come to light on the English side of the Channel, but in the 1659 Parliament Robert, who had by this time repudiated his birth parents, denied his royalist past and changed his name to Danvers, revealed himself as a dishonourable liar, capable of all manner of subterfuge (Burton 2: 242–53). Had his jaunt to Paris been the official employment of a suitably experienced agent or the private machinations of a disaffected grandee trying to undermine the Commonwealth from within? Did it – the object of the 1650 trip being unknown – represent the tip of an iceberg?

Cross-Channel investigations – challenges and potential

18Only an exchange of international scholarly expertise can address questions such as these. But how can this be accomplished? As observed at the outset, print and the internet have opened up new vistas in the last century. Dissemination of knowledge of existing resources is critical. A basic guide to conducting research on foreigners in the Archives Nationales is not available in at least two of the leading scholarly libraries in Britain (Dubost; Digital Manuscripts Catalogue; SOLO). British historians who use the online manuscript catalogues of the National Archives at Kew (including “Access to Archives”, the gateway to provincial holdings), the National Archives of Scotland and the British Library are probably unaware of French equivalents. Habitués of British History Online may not know where to seek parallel topographical, political or administrative information in France. What are the essential sources for studying residents and sojourners in cities like Paris, Montpellier, Lyon, or Saumur? There is a bibliographical survey of sources for the fluid European student population and an electronic database of English-speaking medical (and other) students, but neither seem well-known and both are almost certainly incomplete (Asche; English Speaking Students of Medicine at Continental Universities).

19Oxford exemplifies both the challenges to and the potentialities of cross-Channel investigation. The Bodleian, where Verneuil was under-librarian, has underused riches. Three manuscript collections in particular – Rawlinson, Tanner and Carte – throw great light on government and foreign relations between 1640 and 1660. But neither Rawlinson nor Tanner have fully searchable catalogues – although a useful start has been made with Early Modern Letters Online –, and apart from a preliminary electronic version of the Carte catalogue for the period from 1660 (The Electronic Calendar of the Carte Papers), one is otherwise reliant on a vast and inaccurate nineteenth century handlist. Research in Oxford is difficult and for those based abroad, next to impossible. The collection continues to hide material not just on Anglo-Irish relations, its major strength, but also on the continental connections of the circle of James Butler, marquess of Ormond, and the whereabouts of numerous English, Scottish and Irish exiles.

20Meanwhile, the city has plenty of avenues to offer the historian of Anglo-French contacts open to international co-operation. One is the background to the translation commissioned from local scholars by Charles I during the royalist occupation of Davila's Historia delle Guerre di Francia, an Italian view of the French civil wars: this had what has been described as a “huge and very visible” influence on Edward Hyde’s account of the conflicts in Britain (“Edward Hyde”, Oxford DNB). Another is the activities of French ambassadors and spies who came to Charles’s temporary capital. One such was the mysterious Monsieur du Moulin, an agent in England and Ireland of some two decades standing, who lodged in St Aldate’s parish before returning to London to dispatch his reports to the Comte de Brienne (Young and Toynbee 223-4, 268). Even after Oxford fell to Parliament, it continued to see more interesting foreign visitors than has been appreciated, attracting Frenchmen like Abraham Huard alias Lompre, once of the University of Caen, created doctor of medicine in March 1649, “by virtue of the chancellor’s letters, which say that his affections to the cause of parliament have exposed him to sufferings”. Anthony Wood did not state their nature but he vouched for Huard’s “quality and sufferings” by citing communication from various unnamed gentry and physicians “as also … one Mr John Despagne, one of the French ministers of London” (Wood 2: 115). Circles of trans-national friendship and public service clearly had ripples far beyond the seat of government.

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British Library, London, Add. MS 32,093, f. 314

Longleat House, Wiltshire, Thynne MSS, Whitelocke papers (microfilm).

Websites and Digitised Resources

“Access to Archives”. The National Archives. The National Archives, n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.

“Discovery – our catalogue”. The National Archives. The National Archives, n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.

British History Online, version 4.0. University of London & History of Parliament Trust. 2013. Web. 14 March 2014.

Calendar of State Papers Domestic Series (CSP Dom). Public Record Office, 1858-1938. Print and digitised in British History Online.

Digital Manuscripts Catalogue. British Library, n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.

Early English Books Online (EEBO). Proquest LLC. 2003-2014. Web. 14 March 2014.

Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO). Cultures of Knowledge, 2011. Web. 10 March 2014.

English Speaking Students of Medicine at Continental Universities. Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 2014. Web. 12 June 2014

Englishmen Adrift. The English Presence in the Southern Netherlands. University of Ghent, 2006. Web. 10 June 2014.

History of Parliament Online. History of Parliament Trust, n.d. Web. 10 March 2014.

Irish in Europe Project. Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, n.d. Web. 14 March 2014.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB). Oxford University Press, 2004-2014. Web. 14 March 2014.

SOLO – Search Oxford Libraries Online. Bodleian Libraries, 2013. Web. 12 June 2014.

The Electronic Calendar of the Carte Papers, 1660-1687. Bodleian Library, n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.

The National Archives of Scotland. The National Records of Scotland, 2014. Web. 12 June 2014.

The Rubens House. City of Antwerp, n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.

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1 Jean Despagne’s will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and can be downloaded from the Discovery catalogue of the National Archives website.

2 For others using the Prayer Book, see e.g. “John Fell”, “Anne King” and “Robert Skinner”. Oxford DNB.

3 A point I owe to my History of Parliament colleague Dr David Scott.

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Vivienne LARMINIE, « Biographical Projects and the Reconstruction of Cross-Channel Lives: Progress and Challenges », E-rea [En ligne], 11.2 | 2014, mis en ligne le 15 juillet 2014, consulté le 16 février 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/erea.3703

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Senior Research Fellow, 1640–1660 section, History of Parliament
Originally a historian of gentry in the English midlands, Vivienne Larminie taught for several universities before becoming a research editor on the seventeenth century section of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. She remains an associate of the dictionary but since 2006 has been working on the 1640–1660 House of Commons section of the History of Parliament. Besides British religion and politics, her interests extend to immigration, Huguenots, Anglo-Swiss relations, and religion and culture in the Pays de Vaud, Switzerland, between the reformation and the 1798 revolution.

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