Lucy Moore at Literary Review:
Pity Sir Thomas Roe. He was sent to India in February 1615 by James I as the first English ambassador to the fabulously glamorous Mughal court – a privilege and an extraordinary opportunity, one might think. But diplomats in the 17th century, in Europe at least, were woefully underpaid and were expected to make up any shortfall out of their own pockets in anticipation of a refund on their return. The amount reimbursed was at the whim of the monarch, who might be grateful for their years of travail but might just as easily be disappointed or no longer interested. It is a measure of their unrealistic expectations that the East India Company, formed only fifteen years before Roe set off on the hazardous six-month voyage to India and partial sponsors of his expedition, imagined that the ‘Grand Mogore’ might be persuaded to give Roe an allowance, enabling him to return their investment in him.
Roe’s mission on behalf of the king and the East India Company was to establish a special relationship with the Mughals, who were already dealing with Portuguese and Dutch merchantmen.