An Instrument of French Foreign Policy: The Secret Treaty of Dover
In my book the theme that guided me was Anglo-French relations. These were evident in a familial form but also in matters of state. With King Charles II familial relationships were inter-twined with matters of state policy. Mixed in with this was the issue of religion. Charles was a protestant as were the majority in parliament and the country. Charles’s brother and French mother were Catholic, as was most of the French court. Louis XIV was Charles’s first cousin. With the ‘Secret Treaty of Dover’ all these elements came together to produce direct French influence on England’s foreign policy and religion. It was interesting to discover how this treaty evolved, and also the roles of the different parties involved, not just in the initial negotiations, but during the two decades subsequent to the treaty.
As a result of this treaty, King Louis XIV paid King Charles II to pursue foreign policies that supported his own strategic requirements. These payments were not disclosed to the English parliament, and they in effect permitted Charles to operate without reference to parliament. The negotiations, treaties and payments, and the rewards for those involved, provide a fascinating insight into diplomacy at that time.
With France increasingly intent on pursuing war against the Netherlands and wanting to avoid an alliance between England and the Netherlands, or better still have England join France in her campaign, King Charles must have felt that this represented an opportunity. Given the limited resources voted to him by the English Parliament, this was something to be explored, as his sister had suggested in a prescient letter to him in 1665.
Philippe, Duc d’Orleans was the younger brother of Louis XIV and sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant fellow. Louis did not trust his integrity and his conduct at court was that of a libertine. Charles’ dear sister ‘Minette’ (Henriette) was attached to Philippe by marriage on 31.3.1661. She learnt to keep her affairs, private and business, well-guarded, but even that did not prevent Philippe’s petty jealousies and irritations.