Historically, the common generic term for high diplomats of the crown or state was minister. It therefore became customary to style the chiefs of full ranking missions as Minister Plenipotentiary. This position was roughly equivalent to the modern Ambassador, a term that historically was reserved mainly for missions between the great powers and also relating to the dogal (city) state of Venice.
Permanent missions at a bilateral level were chiefly limited to relations between large, neighboring or closely allied powers, rarely to the very numerous small principalities, hardly worth the expense. However, diplomatic missions were dispatched for specific tasks, such as negotiating a treaty bilaterally, or via a conference, such as the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire. In such cases it was normal to send a representative minister empowered to cast votes.
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