How the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Rech Pospolita the ambassadors met

How the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Rech Pospolita the ambassadors met
Since ancient times, international relations were affected to a great extent by adherence to the rules of diplomatic ceremonial.
The diplomatic ceremonial of Rech Pospolita was based on the rules and customs that were common for all European states of those times. But as long as Rech Pospolita was sort of a bridge between East and West (due to its unique geopolitical position), its court ceremonials adopted features of both West European tradition and Moscow-style customs.
Moscow and Istanbul are main vectors of diplomacy
The grandeur of foreign guests’ reception depended on relations that were installed between the two states.Rech Pospolita stated relations with Moscow and Turkey as priority directions in its diplomatic activity. Consequently, the receptions of delegations from these states were notable for their splendor and magnificence.The king and grand prince usually accepted Moscow ambassadors in person.
The reception was held in a grand atmosphere. Besides the monarch, senators and gentry of Rech Pospolita were presented. When the audience entered the chamber, ambassadors were to take off high hats, but they could leave skullcaps. Approaching the throne, ambassadors introduced themselves to the king in turn, made a low bow, and kissed his hand (after taking a skullcap off). If the king wanted to show a special favour, he listened to ambassadors standing on his feet.
Only the most privileged ambassadors were sent to Moscow and Istanbul. They were often so numerous, that looked like a march of a small army rather than a diplomatic mission.
In 1600 the embassy of Lev Sapega, the Grand Chancellor of GDL (the Grand Duchy of Lithuania), went to Moscow. The suite consisted of 400 servants and up to 700 common people. But the embassies of the second half of the 17th century were the most numerous.
For example, the seym (parliament) of 1677 decided n sending delegations to Turkey and Moscow. The seym assigned the following ambassadors: Jan Gninski — to Turkey, Mikhal Chartoryski, Kazimir Sapega and Hiero-nymus Komar — to Moscow.
According to the diary of Berngard Tanner, the butler of prince Chartoryski, the total number of people dele gated to Moscow was about 1500. The pompous suite hac to testify the importance of mission and the greatness of Rech Pospolita.Chartoryski and Sapega equipped the mission for their own money By the way, Sapega had to pledge a couple of his villages to make it happen.
Watch ambassador like a hawk
Royal Household was warned about the ambassador’s arrival in advance through messengers. A special police officer (who was also a supervisor) welcomed the ambassador at the border, and then he had to accompany the delegation to the capital, standing guard and providing them with whatever was necessary. Besides, the police officer had to keep his eye on ambassadors, so that they wouldn’t spy.
Who was assigned the supervisor depended on the level of honour, that the monarch wanted to express to the ambassador and, consequently, to the state. Besides special police officer, chief executive officers sometimes went to meet the ambassadors.
Military escort, counting dozens or sometimes even hundreds of people, accompanied the embassy to the place of residence with a formal ceremony.
The embassy sent a messenger to the court to inform about their arrival and to agree on a date and conditions of ceremonial entry. Ambassador waited for decision near the capital or incognito in the city.

Giving presents was an indispensable part of reception of ambassadors from Moscow state. Ambassadors in turn presented their gifts to the king and grand prince.
Grand clerk of GDL announced the names of the givers according to the list.
When ambassadors were coming back, the king passed with them his gifts to the monarch of Moscow.Some conflict situations occurred from time to time, when Moscow delegation thought that dignity of their tsar was violated. For example, tsar Michael I of Russia passed his gifts to king Wladyslaw IV Vasa to congratulate him on his wedding with Archduchess Cecilia Renata of Austria. Moscow ambassadors didn’t like that the gifts were piled beside the throne; they demanded that the gifts should be accepted in a decent manner. Then the king ordered the noblemen (who were standing nearby) to accept the presents.
Presenting gifts to Moscow tsar was a tradition too. For example, in 1600 the embassy of Lev Sapega, the Grand Chancellor of GDL, brought to Moscow the gifts from the king and grand prince and the magnates. There was a special register that was later read at the audience of mon archs. The diary of Lev Sapega’s delegation gave us the full list of presents and people on whose behalf the gifts were presented. The list usually included bloodstock horses, arms, silver cups, carriages decorated with carvings. Variety and richness of presents could guarantee to a certain extent success in fulfilling the ambassadorial mission.
As the official part of ceremonial was over, the negotiations part entered into force.
The duration of negotiations depended on the importance of the subject. In some cases the diplomatic practice demanded delay of the process.
As a rule, negotiations between Rech Pospolita and Moscow representatives were carried in the form of ambassador congress. After having elaborated final terms of a contract, the final document was signed.But it came into force only after ratification by the monarch of Rech Pospolita and Moscow tsar.
Albrycht Stanislaw Radziwill, the Grand Chancellor of GDL, left us the description of ratification procedure of The Peace Treaty of Polyanovka in 1635.
According to him, the king was taking his oath in the lavishly-decorated Catholic church in the presence of courtiers, senators, ambassadors and many guests.
After having said a prayer, the king sat into his chair. Then the primate delivered a sermon. Marcjan Trizna, the referendary of GDL, brought the text of the oath to the king. The monarch read it aloud and kissed the golden cross. Then contract documents were given to the head of Moscow delegation.
As the call, so the echo…
When relations between two states became more strained, receptions also underwent a substantial change.In 1650 tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich (Alexis of Russia) sent a grand delegation to Rech Pospolita led by Grigory Pushkin.Moscow ambassadors encountered a highly unfriendly welcome on their way to Rech Pospolita, which was the result of poor reception of Rech Pospolita ambassadors in Moscow.
Moscow ambassadors were delayed near Warsaw, because the king didn’t have enough senators to accompany him.Having arrived at the end of January, Moscow delegation got permission to enter the capital only on the 16th of March. The grand chancellor of GDL accepted the embassy documents and assigned the date of meeting with senators. The ambassadors weren’t granted an audience with the king.
Military defeat of Rech Pospolita in the war with the Cossacks diminished considerably its authority in the eyes of Moscow state.It hampered negotiations significantly.
Besides, Moscow delegation advanced openly territorial claims and threatened to abrogate all previous conventions.In the situation given, king John II Casimir sent a complaint about ambassadors with a messenger to Moscow tsar. He prohibited people to buy goods from ambassadors under threat of punishment; the ambassadors were prohibited to leave their residence. A hundred of soldiers watched the suite of ambassadors.The conflict was settled only after the messenger came back from Moscow and brought a document from tsar that proved preservation of previous relations between the two states. At the end of July, when the treaty was confirmed, Moscow embassy left Warsaw accompanied by the king’s guards.
You can’t get anywhere without ceremonies
Rech Pospolita also kept in touch with West European countries — France, Vatican, Austria. The list of ambassadors included as many noble men of the state as possible.In those times, when peoples knew little about each other, ambassadors were responsible for giving a decent presentation of their home culture, traditions and wealth.As a rule, delegations to Europe weren’t as numerous as those to Moscow and Turkey. But in exceptional cases embassies were equipped with unbelievable pomp and luxury. In 1633, the delegation led by Jerzy Ossolinski, the Grand Chancellor of Poland, was sent to Pope Urban VIII to Vatican.

The delegation left indelible impression on locals due to its wealth and splendor.
Stefano della Bella, eyewitness of those events, depicted the official entry of Rech Pospolita ambassadors in six etchings.The suite numbered about 300 people, who were exceptionally well-dressed; the horses were shoed with golden horseshoes; the line of carriages accompanied the embassy.The ceremony of reception of papal nuncios in Rech Pospolita was special too.
King and great prince greeted the nuncio at the entrance of the castle and accompanied him personally at the audience hall. The monarch stayed with uncovered head during all the reception, which emphasized special relations with Vatican.But more often ceremonial of reception of western states wasn’t notable for being so distinguished and pompous.European ambassadors weren’t accompanied by special police officer from the border to the place of their residence.For example, Jan van den Honert, Ambassador Extraordinary of the Netherlands, arrived in Warsaw in 1659.
The chansellor Mikolaj Prazmowski replied to the messenger, who came to report about the ambassador’s arrival, that the ambassador could enter the capital at any time.The ambassador handed credential letters to the chancellor and inquired about the date of the audience. Honert was accompanied to the audience by a chancellery worker. The king received him personally without gathering dignitary and high officials of the state.Ambassador considered such reception to cause damage to the prestige of his state.
The problem was fixed only after recurrent audience, when the king rendered all the prescribed honours to Honert.Ambassadors, being the representatives of monarchs and states, always stood guard and defended national dignity, that’s why they controlled the observance of ceremonial so ardently.

Acerca de Olga Lazorkina

Doctora en Historia por la Universidad Estatal de Bielorrusia. Especializada en servicio diplomático y en diplomacia corporativa.