To all and singular to whom these Presents shall come, Greetings!
A tous ceux qui ces présentes Lettres verront, Salut.
Omnibus et singulis ad quos præsentes hæ literæ pervenerint, salutem!
(An opening phrase from a diplomatic form conferring the full power
Much of the language of diplomatic intercourse is a matter of
“common form”. It has evolved its own characteristic idiom, a
significant part of which derives from Latin and French, the two
main languages that for centuries were used by diplomats of
different countries as “tools of their trade”. The heritage of
elaborate phraseology has been retained in the formal usage of
the United Kingdom and of some other European countries, where
it is felt to express with clarity and due emphasis ideas, which
have remained basic to diplomacy throughout the centuries.
During the Middle Ages and at the beginning of modern times
diplomatic negotiations were conducted in Latin, which was then the
language common to all civilised Christian powers. French came next
in frequency of use. Henry VI of England wrote to Charles VII of
France in French, and that language was usually employed both in
writing and speaking between the two countries.
The French language starts seriously to question the supremacy of
Latin in international diplomacy in the seventeenth century. The
debates of the Treaties of Westphalia (1648) showed the
insufficiency of Latin: its vocabulary had not developed, while its
pronunciation varied so much from one country to another that it
ceased to be a practical means of communication. Negotiators were
therefore led to the use of modern languages. For instance, the
Treaty of 30 January 1648 between Spain and the United Provinces, by
which the independence of the latter was recognized, was in French
Apart from the decline of spoken Latin, there were a number of other
factors contributing to the elevation of French in the seventeenth
century. It had been since the sixteenth century the common language
of European high society. Many important principles of diplomacy as
a science of international relations were laid down in French by the
French. Cardinal Richelieu was the first statesman to recognize
diplomacy as a continuing process involving permanent negotiations
between nations. His other beliefs are largely those practised by
diplomatic services and government today: that policies should be
based on pragmatic national interest; that allies should be chosen
because of their permanence, not because they are liked; and that
ambassadors should have a single chief. He saw that foreign affairs
in France were handled by one Ministry.