Diplomatic Codes after the Glorious Revolution and Use of Printed Templates

Two diplomatic codes are available at Beinecke Digital Collections.

Printed Template

These specimens show that printed templates for making different versions of code were already used around 1690. (Such printed templates are known to have been used, for example, during the American Revolutionary War (see another article).)

The comparison of the two also shows one developed from the other.

Two-Dimensional Arrangement

In addition, the templates are intended to avoid a purely one-part structure. That is, the entries are not simply written column by column but the entire sheet is divided into 24 horizontal sections for A-Z (no distinction of I/J and U/V). Within each horizontal section, the entries are written column by column.

Thus, when figures are filled in column by column without regard to the sections, the resulting assignment of words/names to figures is not completely in alphabetical order.

Such an idea of introducing irregularity by using two dimensions (e.g., figures progressing vertically and alphabetical listing progressing horizontally) was not uncommon in the 17th century. For example, a cipher (1659) made by Edward Hyde for Charles II and John Barwick is similar to the above structure (see another article). A similar idea is seen in French ciphers during the reign of Louis XIV (see another article, esp. items (3)(4)), a cipher of Cardinal Rohan (1721) (see another article), Spanish Cipher Cg.56 (1698) (see another article), and Dutch ciphers (see Karl de Leeuw, Cryptology and Statecraft in the Dutch Republic p.29).

Diplomatic Code (c.1689-1691) (THE=452)

(Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)

Numbers 15-1508 are assigned to the printed entries. A marginal note says "All numbers under 15 and above 1508 & All numbers ending in 4 and 9 are nulls."

The template leaves many blank entries and some words and names are added by hand.


Handwritten entries may help dating the cipher.

The handwritten entry "James, King" might seem to suggest this was made before the Glorious Revolution. But a closer look shows this belongs to the revolutionary regime. (Even in exile, James might be called "King James." Although there is no entry of "King William", the printed entry "the King" would have sufficed. The absence of "Princess Mary" when there is a handwritten entry "Anne, Princesse" also suggests Mary was already Queen. In addition, there are many Dutch people ("Heinsius", "Dyckvelt", "Heinsius", "Odyke", "Overkerke") who worked with William of Orange, while (as far as I know) there is only one Jacobite "Tyrconnel".)

Besides such indirect evidence, the list includes titles created in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution: Earl of Marlborough, Earl of Monmouth, Earl of Portland, Earl of Torrington. The latest possible year is 1694, in which the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Earl of Devonshire were promoted to dukes. Since the Jacobite Tyrconnel died in 1691, this may be dated between 1689 and 1691.

Diplomatic Code (c.1699-1701) (THE=454)

(The James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)

This belongs to the Manchester Papers related to Charles Montagu, Duke of Manchester.

Numbers 3-2342 are assigned to the printed entries. A marginal note says "The numbers under 3 and above 2343 and all numbers ending in 5 and 9 are Blanks. As a[re] likewise the numbers between 516 and 617."

The template leaves many blank entries and some words and names are added by hand.


The catalog record dates this as "1701 July", which appear to be merely derived from the fact that this is preserved with Manchester's letters in this month (see "diplomatic cipher" at the Full HTML catalog). There is evidence that this cipher was used as early as 1699 (see below).

Internal Evidence about Dating

But there is some conflicting internal evidence. There are printed entries "late King" and "late Queen", which seem to refer to King William (who died in March 1702) and Queen Mary (who died in 1694). If so, this cannot be dated before March 1702. Dating after March 1702 is consistent with the absence of King James (who died in September 1701), though it is wondered why there is no "Pretender." (There is one other candidate for the "late King", that is, Charles II of Spain, who, however, died in November 1701, again after the catalog dating "1701 July".)

On the other hand, there are handwritten entries for the Duke of "Gloucester", who died in July 1700 and Queen Mary. "Schoning Gen" (Wikipedia) had died in 1696. Some names (Prince "Apassi" and Count of "Tekeli") seem to suggest years before the peace with the Turks in 1699 (Wikipedia).

(After all, the "late King" and "late Queen" seem to refer to the deposed King James and his queen. For example, the Bill of Rights (1688) refers to "the late King James the Second.")

Manchester's Letters in Code

The career of the Earl of Manchester (Wikipedia) (created Duke in 1719) in this period was:

(i) envoy to Venice in 1697-1698,

(ii) ambassador to France from 1699 to the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701,

(iii) Secretary of State for the Southern Department in January to May 1702,

(iv) out of office, and then,

(v) ambassador to Venice 1707-1708.

As far as can be found in the Full HTML catalog of the Manchester Papers, most uses of cipher in his correspondence belongs to September 1699 to December 1700 (i.e., during his embassy in Paris). In a note to one undeciphered letter, it is stated that "No key to the ciphers of the period [i.e., around 1699] is known to exist among the State Papers." Before checking the State Papers, the curator must have confirmed the above code is not the one used in this period.

Apart from the above, use of cipher is recorded only in one letter in 23 March 1702, soon after the death of William III on 8 March 1702 OS. It is yet to be seen whether this letter uses the above code.

Reconstructed Version

(Notes added on 12 January 2019) This code appears to be substantially identical with a reconstructed code ("Duke of Manchester's Cypher") printed in 8th Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Addendum, 141a, though there are some unmatching entries (13=C, 20=C, 21=D, 37=D, 48=E, 72=K) in the reconstruction. The code was used in letters of Robert Yard and Lord Jersey to the Earl of Manchester in 1699-1700.

Letters Preserved in Manchester Papers

(23 January 2022) The DECRYPT database includes the following:

no.2854: the above key (THE=452)

no.2856: Rochambeau, Newport, 17 August 1781 (see another article)

The following are from the Manchester Papers (in Osborn MSS in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library).

no.2857: a simple substitution table from 1794-1797.

no.2858: the above key (THE=454)

no.2859: Mr. Yard, Whitehall, 16 October 1699 (Non-decrypted. Can be deciphered with THE=454.)

I received by the post yesterday the favor of your lords: letter of the 11/21 instant, and as soon as I understood the contents of it, and that 242(mi) 74(l) 73(l) 122(s) 1276(have not) was 631(gon) 38(e) 2291(-) by the 468(way) 254(of) 1854(-) 276(ro) 300(ue) 88(n) I gott 466(war) 272(ra) 667(nt) 120(s) prepared, and 281(se) 667(nt) 453(th) 117(r) 42(f) 48(f) severall 241(me) 122(s) 127(s) 356(en) 211(ge) 116(r) 123(s) to 304(wa) 130(t) 340(ch) 377(his) 233(la) ....

no.2860: Mr. Yard, 12/24 October 1699 (Non-decrypted. Can be deciphered with THE=454.)

.... The 241(me) 120(s) 128(s) 356(en) 211(ge) 112(r) 286(st) 10(a) 316(ye) 126(s) 476(yet) 327(at) 347(do) 1038(ver) Looking ....

no.2861: Mr. Yard, Whitehall, 5/15 October 1699 (Decrypted. THE=454)

no.2862: Mr. Yard, Whitehall, 28 September 1699/8 October (Decrypted. THE=454)

no.2863: Italian. 17 March 1700 Decrypted. The cipher can be reconstructed as follows.

no.2864: George Stepney to Manchester, Vienna, 23 March 1702 (Non-decrypted.)

... 836 468 445 242 233 55 44 370 30 325 576 246 388 380 but it is no fault of mine who both by word of mouth & by memorial have remonstrated of what Consequence it would be to have 418 847 398 370 360 731 102 271 632 412 ....

no.2865: James Vernon. Whitehall, 18 November 1700 (Non-decrypted. Can be deciphered with THE=454.)

751(but) 1128(the King) 797(hath) 670(not) 790(give) 37(e) 241(me) 908(any) 1036(thing) 642(in) 1724(command) 327(at) 1641(present) 293(to) 888(writ) 36(e) 293(to) 736(you) 711(the) 1333(resolu) 299(-)[292(ti)] 673(on) 120(s) 870(take) 87(n) 1034(there) 487(are) 823(move) 483(ard [and?]) 284(su) 112(r) 842(prize) 804(ing) 1034(there) 206(fo) 273(re) 377(his) 1621(Majesty) 661(may) 172(be) 486(all) 93(o) 146(w) 194(ed) 293(to) 1402(consider) 4(a) 1454(little) 1047(what) 661(may) 172(be) 454(the) 500(con) 281(se) 428(que) 88(n) 180(ce) 121(s) 254(of) 283(so) 284(su) 28(d) 188(de) 87(n) 7(a) 340(ch) 326(an) 211(ge) 642(in) 716(that) 761(court) 164(as) 656(like) 307(wi) 281(se) 293(to) 1256(expect) 1047(what) 487(are) 711(the) 281(se) 88(n) 292(ti) 662(men) 130(t) 121(s) 254(of) 1316(other) 1003(Prince) 120(s) 483(ard [and?]) 1024(state) 121(s) 724(who) 476(yet) 1900(equal) 394(ly) 1401(concern) 194(ed) 642(in) the preser vation of the peace of Europe & the preventing the balance of power being ....

no.2866: Vernon. Whitehall, 12/23 December 1700 (Non-decrypted. Can be deciphered with THE=454.)

I hope Mr Chetterpind* is got well to pares* & that you have 622(for) 466(war) 188(de) 33(d) 454(the) 1456(letter) 217(he) 1232(brought) 736(you) & that care has been to 1341(secur) 454(the) 1456(letter) In case of accidents. I received your Excell^cys letter of the 18th on Tuesday last & sent it Immediately to Hampton Court I hear from Calais that 241(me) 40(e) 197(er) 120(s) is come thither & is gone to 348(du) 87(n) 231(ki) 112(r) 230(ke) Hee that tells me this 384(is) 293(to) 281(se) 36(e) 798(him) 4(a) 791(gain) 327(at) 377(his) 273(re) 1191(turn) as is 1403(Captain) 240(ma) 372(gr) 327(at) 6(a) I have .... ...

no.2867: Decrypted. (THE=454)

no.2868: Whitehall, Jersey to Manchester, 8/19 January 1700 (Non-decrypted. The only code number "1340" may be decoded as "Scot" by THE=454.)

no.2869: Whitehall, Jersey, 11 January 1700 (Decrypted. THE=454)

no.2870: Whitehall, 5 February 1700 (Non-decrypted. The only code number "1128" may be decoded as "the King" by THE=454.)

no.2871: Jersey to Manchester. Whitehall, 1 February 1700 (Decrypted. THE=454)

no.2872: Whitehall, 15 February 1700 (Decrypted. THE=454)

Further Sources

A letter of the Earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State, Whitehall, 5 July 1692, in which two passages are encoded, is presented at the Folger Shakespeare Library,

He encoded a military objective as "places to be attempted 823 323 195 164 163 319 325 341 [which are St Malo and Brest]." A marginal note indicates he used "cypher with Mr Duncomb."

In May, the Anglo-Dutch fleet defeated the French at the Battle of La Hogue and the French fleet was dispersed and fled to the ports at Cherbourg, La Hougue, St. Malo, and then Brest (see the map at Wikipedia). In England, a counterattack on the French soil was being discussed. Although the troops were embarked in late July, the plan came to nothing (Zee, William and Mary, p.362-363).

Printed Templates during the Reign of Charles II

(Added in October 2023)

The printed template appears to have been in use early in the Restoration period.

The following three ciphers use the same printed template. It includes entries: "Amsterdam", "Antwerp", ..., "Zealand", "Zound", "Number", "one", ... "January", ... "Sunday",.... Among them, the entry "Queen Bohemia" (d.1662) (Wikipedia) suggests the template was prepared right after the Restoration.

SP106/6 (0044-0046) (DECODE no.433). Handwritten additions relate to Anglo-Dutch relations (in the 1660s): "Act of Navigation", "St Albans, Earle" (created 1660), "Albemarle Duke" (created 1660), "Baron Batteville" (Spanish ambassador in London from 1660), "Herring Fishing", ....

SP106/6 (0072) (DECODE no.481). Handwritten additions relate to maritime issues: "Affrica", "Algiers", "Archipellago", "Brazile", "Barbadoes", ....

SP106/6 (0076) (DECODE no.498). Handwritten entries relate to Anglo-Dutch relations. "Downing Sr Geo" was ambassador in the Hague.

The following two ciphers are based on the same printed templates, enlarged with columns for syllables and common words: "Age", "af", "as", ..., "yet", "Zeale".

SP106/6 (0088) (DECODE no.502). Additional handwritten entries are all blank.

SP106/6 (0092) (DECODE no.504) A handwritten entry for "Orange Princsse Dowagr" seems to refer to Amalia of Solms-Braunfels (d.1675) (Wikipedia), which suggests this was used before 1675.

The second part of the same template is also used in two ciphers in SP106/6 (0140-0141, DECODE no.1501, no.1502).

The printed templates used in the following are closer to the templates after the Glorious Revolution, employing the two-dimensional arrangements of the entries.

Add MS 40677 f.25-26 (DECODE no.3044) The printed template in this cipher belongs to Charles II's reign because there is an entry "York Duke".

Add MS 40677 f.27-28 (DECODE no.3045) "Cypher between [Ear]le of Sunderland & Mr Savile in France & Sr Wm Temple in Spaine 1680" Substantially the same as above, but has more spacing to accommodate additions.

The printed template for the cipher in row-block array format appears to have been used as early as 1672, for which DECODE no.422 (TNA SP106/6) (see DECRYPT R422 in another article; R423, R424, R425, R430 are based on the same template).

(In the eighteenth century, there are specimens of printed templates such as DECODE no.526, no.527)

References for DECRYPT/DECODE

Héder, M ; Megyesi, B. The DECODE Database of Historical Ciphers and Keys: Version 2. In: Dahlke, C; Megyesi, B (eds.) Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Historical Cryptology HistoCrypt 2022. Linkoping, Sweden : LiU E-Press (2022) pp. 111-114. , 4 p. [pdf]

Megyesi Beáta, Esslinger Bernhard, Fornés Alicia, Kopal Nils, Láng Benedek, Lasry George, Leeuw Karl de, Pettersson Eva, Wacker Arno, Waldispühl Michelle. Decryption of historical manuscripts: the DECRYPT project. CRYPTOLOGIA 44 : 6 pp. 545-559. , 15 p. (2020) [link]

Megyesi, B., Blomqvist, N., and Pettersson, E. (2019) The DECODE Database: Collection of Historical Ciphers and Keys. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Historical Cryptology. HistoCrypt 2019, June 23-25, 2019, Mons, Belgium. NEALT Proceedings Series 37, Linköping Electronic Press. [pdf]

©2018 S.Tomokiyo
First posted on 5 August 2018 under the title "Diplomatic Codes after the Glorious Revolution". Renamed "Diplomatic Codes after the Glorious Revolution and Use of Printed Templates" in February 2024. Last modified on 2 February 2024.
Cryptiana: Articles on Historical Cryptography
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