The Muscovy Company and Giles Fletcher, the elder (1546–1611)

This book tells the story of English relations with Russia, from the 'strange and wonderfull discoverie' of the land and Elizabeth I's correspondence with Ivan the Terrible, to the corruption of the Muscovy Company and the Elizabethan regime's censorship of politically sensitive representations of Russia. Focusing on the life and works of Giles Fletcher, the elder, ambassador to Russia in 1588, it explores two popular themes in Elizabethan history: exploration, travel and trade and late Elizabethan political culture. The book draws together and analyses the narratives of travel, the practicalities of trade and the discourses of commonwealth and corruption that defined English encounters in late sixteenth century. In the early stages of English mercantile contact with Russia, diplomatic negotiations took shape in the wake of developing trade relations and were made up of a series of ad hoc embassies by individuals. The embassy of Giles Fletcher in 1588, however, represented a change in diplomatic tack. Fletcher's writing of Russia reveals some shared Elizabethan images of the land on Christendom's periphery and fundamentally how Russia was used as a site to reflect on themes of cultural development, commonwealth, trade and colonisation. The extensive use in Fletcher's text of the language of anti-popery points to resonances with the anxieties that riddled the political and religious consciences of late Elizabethan England. His work engaged in cajoling the commonwealth to think with the image of Russia.

Abstract only
Felicity Jane Stout

Introduction Of the Russe Common Wealth or Maner of Governement by the Russe Emperour was published in London in 1591. This was a work concerned with describing the unfamiliar land of Russia to a late sixteenth-century English audience. It was written by Giles Fletcher, the elder, who had been commissioned as Elizabeth I’s ambassador to Russia in 1588 to represent the interests of her government and of the Muscovy Company in the Muscovite court of Feodor I. This study examines the early history of the Muscovy Company, Giles Fletcher’s experiences and responses

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Giles Fletcher’s early career and embassies
Felicity Jane Stout

Chapter 2 A commonwealths-man in Russia Giles Fletcher’s early career and embassies So the case standeth in a Common-wealth: and so it is in the consultations of Kings and Princes. If evill opinions and naughty perswasion cannot be utterly & quite plucked out of their hearts, if you cannot even as you would remedy vices, which use and custome hath confirmed: yet for this cause you must not leave and forsake the Common-wealth. Thomas More, Utopia (1539) Giles Fletcher’s mission to Russia was intended to combat the diplo­ matic ­disarray left by Sir Jerome

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Censorship, poetry and Fletcher’s later career
Felicity Jane Stout

Chapter 6 A controversial commonwealth Censorship, poetry and Fletcher’s later career A man of spirit and understanding, helped by learning and liberal education, can hardly endure a tyrannicall government. Giles Fletcher, Of the Russe Common Wealth (1591) The specific context of the late 1580s and early 1590s provided an environment ripe for a sensitised reaction against Fletcher’s Of the Russe Common Wealth, which could have been read as encouraging criticism of sacral monarchy and unreformed religion, and engaging with the particularly prickly issue of

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Abstract only
Thinking with Russia, writing English commonwealth
Felicity Jane Stout

). 6 G. Fletcher, The history of Russia, or, The government of the Emperour of Muscovia with the manners & fashions of the people of that country (London, 1656). Another edition with a new title-page was printed in 1657. For further discussion, see L. E. Berry (ed.), The English Works of Giles Fletcher, the Elder (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964), pp. 157–60. 231

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Fletcher’s response to Russia
Felicity Jane Stout

’s manuscript versions, or at least some detailed information about Fletcher’s text, clearly came into the hands of Richard Hakluyt very soon after Fletcher’s return to England in the early autumn of 1589. This is evidenced by the inclusion in Hakluyt’s The Principall Navigations (1589) of a brief summary of Fletcher’s embassy to Russia in 1588, the privileges that he had gained on behalf of the Muscovy Company and the queen and a note stating that ‘the said Ambassador Master Giles Fletcher as I understand, hath drawen a booke, intituled, Of the Russe Common Wealth’.94 This

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Fletcher’s representation of Russia
Felicity Jane Stout

Manners, Earl of Rutland (1595?) Giles Fletcher’s various writings on Russia crossed the boundaries between diplomatic and mercantile literature and the more descriptive travel narrative of unfamiliar lands, as well as encompassing political theory and poetic counsel. His writing of Russia reveals some of the shared Elizabethan images of the land on Christendom’s periphery and more fundamentally how Russia was used as a site to reflect on themes of cultural development, tyranny, commonwealth, trade and colonisation. These ideas are considered in more detail in this and

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Russia’s resonances in late Elizabethan England
Felicity Jane Stout

title suggested, but in content described rather its renaissance opposite – a tyranny. In discussing sixteenth-century understandings of the term ‘commonwealth’, Patrick Collinson has argued that the word ‘ “commonwealth” may be a neutral term, as in Giles Fletcher’s description of Muscovy, Of the Russe Common Wealth (1591)’.1 This chapter, however, demonstrates that the term 147 Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth ‘common wealth’ was, in Fletcher’s case at least, far from neutral and could have been read with both irony and political intent, in view of

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
James Doelman

Pasquill sent it to our Britany’.51 In this way, the English Protestant satiric attacks on the Church of Rome were connected with Pasquil and the whole tradition of epigrammatic critique from within Rome itself. Some Neo-­Latin polemical epigrams were disseminated through quotation in printed prose works of religious controversy. This happened repeatedly with the well-­known epigrams of Buchanan and Melville. However, a lesser known one by Giles Fletcher (the elder) (1546–1611) will serve as an example here. Fletcher was a significant diplomatic figure who wrote an

in The epigram in England, 1590–1640
English mercantile and diplomatic encounters with Russia, 1553–88
Felicity Jane Stout

-encounter narratives concerning the unfamiliar land of Russia. Such concerns with mercantile behaviour, virtue, corruption and the maintaining of civility abroad were later expressed in East India Company rhetoric of the seventeenth century.1 Exploring the Muscovy Company’s origins, priorities and ideology, through the concept of ‘commonwealth’ not only furnishes us with an essential piece of the puzzle to 15 Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth understanding the life and work of Giles Fletcher, the elder, during the time of his embassy to Russia in 1588–9, but also

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth