Thursday, October 4, 2012
Restoring Catholic England: Lord Castlemaine’s Mission to Papal Rome
Eoin Devlin, current Beinecke Visiting Fellow
Location is wheelchair accessible
In 1685 James II became the Catholic king of Protestant England, the first Catholic to rule for more than 130 years. His four year reign was one of the most radical and ambitious in early modern history. This talk will explore the embassy sent by the king to formally restore diplomatic relations with the popes and the Catholic Church. This mission, led by Roger Palmer, earl of Castlemaine, exposed tensions between the king and the Catholic ecclesiastical elite. In light of the collapse of James’ reign in 1688 it has usually been considered a failure, but if read on its own terms within a sophisticated understanding of early modern diplomacy, the intention and effect of the mission can be re-considered. This paper will argue that Castlemaine’s mission was an important attempt in James’ project to return England to the Catholic fold, and reveals a great deal about the competing understandings of counter-reformation Catholicism at the end of the seventeenth century. In particular, it will explore how Castlemaine attempted to acclimatise to Rome’s baroque public culture, using public ceremony, opera and literary writings to construct a narrative rejecting the consequences of the Reformation, and celebrating the renewed relationship between England and the Catholic world.
Eoin Devlin is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge. He was previously a student at University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin before completing his PhD at Cambridge. His current research focuses on Anglo-European social and cultural exchange in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, and English responses to baroque culture. As part of this project he is investigating British ambassadorial correspondence held by the Beinecke. Eoin teaches early modern British and European history, and is currently working on his first book, a study of James II’s relationship with the popes in the 1680s and 1690s.