"The Formidable Machine: Parliament as Seen by Italian Diplomats at the Court of St James's in the First Half of the 18th Century."
To the representatives of Italian states in London, early 18th‐century Britain often remained a puzzle. The Revolution Settlement presented them with the problem of identifying the real source of power, both in order to send home reliable information and to try to secure support for the interests of their princes, who were sometimes desperate for the friendship, or at least the lack of hostility, of Great Britain. An analysis of the weekly despatches and of the final reports drafted by Italian diplomats (namely the representatives of the Savoyard state, the republics of Genoa and Venice, the Duchy of Modena and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany) in the first half of the 18th century offers evidence on their sources of information and on their vision of the political system of the country. Parliament loomed large in their correspondence. News on the activity of the Houses as well as forecasts on the challenge they posed to the ministry were a recurrent theme. To Italian diplomats, parliament was a source of instability. In their eyes, only the rise of a strong premier minister – of which Sir Robert Walpole was the epitome – could tame the fickle assembly in Westminster and bring order, though precariously, to the British polity.