SOUTHWELL, Sir Robert (1635-1702)
Ambassador to Lisbon, was born 31 December 1635 near Kinsdale, Ireland. He was the son and heir of Squire Robert Southwell and of Helena, the only daughter and heir of Commander Robert Gore of Sheraton. In 1664 he married Elizabeth, the oldest daughter of Sir Edward Dering of Surrenden-Derring. They had six children. Edward (1671-1730) would follow in his father?s footsteps. Among other distinguished posts, Southwell held the tiles of secretary of the King?s Private Counsel, vice-admiral of the provinces of Munster and Secretary of State of Ireland.
In 1650, Southwell went to England, where he attended Queen?s College in Oxford from 1653-55. He completed the Bachelor?s degree at Lincoln?s Inn in 1655 and, two decades later, Oxford University would distinguish him with an honorary doctorate in Civil Law in 1677. In September of 1664, he was appointed to the King?s Private Counsel, as one of the secretaries, a post he held until 1679. In 1665 he was distinguished with the title of knight and became substitute to the vice-admiral of the provinces of Munster, a post he came to occupy after the death of his father twelve years later.
He was the king?s envoy in Lisbon from 1665-66, and again until 1668, when he shared duties with other British representatives, including the Count of Sandwich. The main objective of their mission was the negotiation of a peace accord between Portugal and Spain. The negotiation process was difficult and lasted months, but was concluded in 1668. In that same year, Ambassador Southwell was given the assignment of returning British troops to England and negotiating a trade agreement with Portugal.
Three years later, he was appointed special envoy to Brussels, where he remained about a year. In 1673, he became a member of the British Parliament, a mandate that lasted twelve years. At the beginning of 1680, he was renamed special envoy, but this time to the Brandenburg Elector, in order to develop alliances against France. He abandoned politics soon after, but with the end of the Glorious Revolution of 1687, he became a member of the fiscal commission, a post he would maintain until 1697. Nine ears before, he had assumed the position of main Secretary of State of Ireland, a title he held until his death on 11 September 1702.
PRESTAGE, Edgar, As Relações Diplomáticas de Portugal com a França, Inglaterra e Holanda de 1640 a 1668, Coimbra, Impr. da Universidade, 1928; STEPHEN, Leslie, LEE, Sidney (eds.), The Dictionary of National Biography, vol. XVIII, Oxford, University Press, 1998, pp. 707-710.
Author: Pedro Nobre
Translated by: Rosa Simas