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.

Russia’s resonances in late Elizabethan England
Felicity Jane Stout

Chapter 5 A commonwealth counselled Russia’s resonances in late Elizabethan England That king that is not tied to the laws is a king of slaves. I have been in employments abroad. For the propriety of goods and of liberty, see the mischief of the contrary in other nations. In Muscovy one English mariner with a sword will beat five Muscovites that are likely to eat him. Sir Dudley Digges, Commons debates, 1628 Of the Russe Common Wealth presented the betrayal of God’s providence in Russia as a result of tyrannical government and false religion, rendering the

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
English mercantile and diplomatic encounters with Russia, 1553–88
Felicity Jane Stout

Chapter 1 An adventuring commonwealth English mercantile and diplomatic encounters with Russia, 1553–88 Wee shall keepe our owne coastes and Countrey, hee shall seeke strange and unknowen kingdoms. He shall commit his safetie to barbarous and cruell people. Clement Adams, ‘The newe navigation and discoverie of the kingdome of Moscovia, by the Northeast, in the yeere 1553’ The early history of the Muscovy Company was one of risk and exploration, negotiation and trade, commonwealth and corruption. It was a history that revealed the importance of contemporary

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

Chapter 4 A corrupted commonwealth Fletcher’s representation of Russia Above all things I would have you understand the manner of government of the place where you are, where the sovereignty is in one, as in a monarchy, in a few, or in the people; or if it be mixed, to which of these forms it most inclines. Next, what ministers of state and subalternate governors as council and magistrates. Thirdly by what laws or customs it is governed. And lastly, what is the exception of justice in peace, and their discipline in war. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex to Roger

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
Fletcher’s response to Russia
Felicity Jane Stout

Chapter 3 Creating a feigned commonwealth Fletcher’s response to Russia He that can feign a commonwealth (which is the poet) can govern it with counsels, strengthen it with laws, correct it with judgements, inform it with religion, and morals. Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries (1640) Fletcher’s Of the Russe Common Wealth (1591), which appeared first in manuscript and later in print, was a wide-ranging study of the land, government, society and policies of Russia and her colonies. Fletcher’s contemporary Jerome Horsey praised the account for recording ‘more

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
Abstract only
David Brown

could commence. On 17 August the entire incoming cargo of saltpetre belonging to the Second General Voyage of the East India Company, freighted in Maurice Thomson’s vessel, the Ruth , and commanded by William Thomson, was placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth. 9 Cromwell was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 22 June and in this capacity the Council of State wrote to him on 24 July advising him that seven EEIC ships had arrived home, containing a sufficient supply of saltpetre for at least another year. 10 To secure the supply, William Pennoyer was

in Empire and enterprise
Abstract only
Thinking with Russia, writing English commonwealth
Felicity Jane Stout

Conclusion Thinking with Russia, writing English commonwealth By tracing the evolution of Fletcher’s narrative of Russia from its first inception in the form of the notes of an Elizabethan ambassador in 1588 to its publication as a work of travel information, reference, political theory and counsel in 1591, we have discovered how Fletcher and his text encompass broader intentions, speaking to a wider public as a work of counsel for commonwealth, as well as advice on travel and trade to Russia. Fletcher’s writings sit comfortably and yet distinctively within the

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Abstract only
Felicity Jane Stout

to Russia, both his diplomatic reports to Elizabeth and the privy council and his published account of Russia, as well as his later poetry. By analysing the pervasive languages of commonwealth, corruption and tyranny found in the Muscovy Company accounts of Russia and in the works of Giles Fletcher, this monograph explores how Russia was a useful tool for Elizabethans to think with when they reflected on unfamiliar lands, types of government and the changing face of kingship in the late sixteenth century. It seeks to draw together and analyse the narratives of

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth