Limning as Gift-Giving: Embellishing Letters to “Eastern Princes” and “Remote Kings” by Anne-Valérie Dulac

Posted on July 4, 2022


A text by Anne-Valérie Dulac (Delegation in the LARCA) for the blog Hypotheses Marges, histoires et monde anglophone XVIe-XXIe. 

A Royal Warrant dated 10 March 1631 mentions Edward Norgate, one of the clerks of the Signet Extraordinary as having “for many years been employed in preparing for the Royal signature letters to the Emperor and Patriarch of Russia, the Grand Signor, the Great Mogul, the Emperor of Persia, and Kings of Bantam, Macassar, Barbary, Siam, Acheen, Fez, Sus, and other remote kings and princes”. This rather long description makes it clear that diplomatic correspondence with “remote kings and princes” was a matter of specific artistic concern and care. From 1661 onwards, the garnishing of “letters to eastern princes” even became an official appointment. Such discriminate treatment may be due to the fact that “England’s relations with Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Asia were established primarily to further the interests of its merchants. The exchange of royal letters was crucial to the maintenance of such relations; little wonder that establishments such as […] the East India Company, were asked to contribute to the cost of embellishing these missives”.