Sir Robert Southwell

Sir Robert Southwell.Waterlogue

Diplomat and government official Sir Robert Southwell (1635 – 1702) graduated from Queen's College, Oxford in 1655, travelled around Europe between 1659 and 1661. His travels took through France, the Netherlands, and parts of central Europe into Italy, where he had extended stays in Florence, Bologna and Rome, meeting grandees, mathematicians, astronomers, and antiquaries. 

On his return home, although Southwell's father wanted him to find a position that would keep him in Ireland, he picked up a series of government appointments including a secretaryship to the commission of prizes and one of the four clerkships of the privy council before his linguistic abilities took him abroad again.

In November 1665 he was sent to Portugal to assist with peace negotiations between the Portuguese and Spain. Success there resulted in a knighthood and a return visit to Portugal in 1666 for talks that led to the peace of Lisbon, signed on 13 February 1668. A longer stay to negotiate a commercial treaty between England and Portugal that left him financially embarrassed preceded an appointment as British ambassador in Brussels.

By 1672, Southwell was back in England, winning a seat in Parliament and a succession of administrative appointments that established him as a diligent and efficient administrator.

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© Ian Hughes 2017