Gábor Bethlen’s Diplomats at the Protestant Courts of Europe
This paper addresses the phenomenon that the contacts of Prince Gábor Bethlen with non-neighboring rulers were almost exclusively maintained through diplomats who came originally from a foreign country and had very little to do with the Principality of Transylvania. Through a reconstruction of ten diplomats’ biographies, I identify several categories. The Czech/Palatinate group consists of three people (Ehrenfried von Berbisdorf, Jan Adam Čejkovský z Víckova and Matthias Quadt), the Silesian group of two (Weikhard Schulitz and Heinrich Dreiling), and three of Bethlen’s envoys could be identified as “wandering diplomats,” displaying certain facets of an adventurer’s character (Jacques Roussel, Charles de Talleyrand and Lorenzo Agazza). The remaining two (Zygmunt Zaklika and Hermann Beckmann) seem to be a category unto themselves, one having a Polish background, the other coming with Catherine, the prince’s consort, from Berlin.
The biographies of the diplomats show certain similarities, especially those within the Czech/Palatinate group, who had to leave their original country due to the collapse of the rule of Frederick of the Palatinate after the Battle of the White Mountain, and served several rulers in the years to come. Their loyalties lay primarily with the Protestant or the Palatinate cause and they served the rulers who seemed to be able to support this – sometimes even assuming tasks from several of them during one and the same journey.
The custom to employ foreigners for the Transylvanian diplomacy with non-neighboring lands must have been motivated by the fact that they were expected not so much to negotiate specific issues as to map out possibilities for cooperation and give general information concerning the prince’s intentions. Although the system changed in the later decades of the seventeenth century, this may be the result of the fact that in this period far fewer politically engaged emigrants came to Transylvania than in the 1620s.