The Birth of Diplomacy through Factions at Power: the Catholic-Spanish Party in the Imperial Court (1556–1659)

Dr. Rubén González Cuerva

The project aims to explain pre-modern diplomacy through the personal action of power elites. The researcher is concerned with a simple verification: if there is currently a widespread consensus that early modern political designs were made in the court and by courtiers, the courtier organization and acting may be scrutinized for understanding diplomatic decisions. In this respect, the proposal is as clear as it is ambitious: it endeavours to offer the first general work on the dynamics of the Imperial court of Vienna in the first modern phase, from the abdication of Charles V to the peace of the Pyrenees, 1556–1659. The hypothesis is that the confessional polarization and the weak authority of the Emperors allowed the main court force to be a Catholic faction leaded by the King of Spain and (to a lesser extent) by the Pope. Both patrons provided confessional identity, material patronage and protection to leading courtiers in exchange for diplomatic influence. This implies a radical rethinking of diplomacy, instead of the State and institutions, court patronage and informal influence were the key for international politics.

Four specific objectives will be taken into account:
1. What constituted a faction or network in the Austrian Court
2. How the Austrian Court worked and evolved in general
3. Who were the members of the faction and why
4. Which policies did they take and how

The old common court culture is a European intangible patrimony of cosmopolite nature, which went beyond the concept of nationality and heralded a “European citizenship”. Dynastic interdependence is studied in this project as a complex factor in the process of Europeanization. The cultivation of relationships among these aristocrats fostered contacts, perceptions, transfers and learning processes among families that lived far from one another. These effects in turn contributed to the creation of networks that supported gradual assimilation among the involved families at a European scale.