The Sultan And The Queen: The Untold Story Of Elizabeth And Islam by Jerry BrottonThe Sultan And The Queen: The Untold Story Of Elizabeth And Islam by Jerry Brotton

The Sultan And The Queen: The Untold Story Of Elizabeth And Islam

byJerry Brotton

Paperback | September 5, 2017

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The fascinating story of Queen Elizabeth’s secret outreach to the Muslim world, which set England on the path to empire, by The New York Times bestselling author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps

We think of England as a great power whose empire once stretched from India to the Americas, but when Elizabeth Tudor was crowned Queen, it was just a tiny and rebellious Protestant island on the fringes of Europe, confronting the combined power of the papacy and of Catholic Spain. Broke and under siege, the young queen sought to build new alliances with the great powers of the Muslim world. She sent an emissary to the Shah of Iran, wooed the king of Morocco, and entered into an unprecedented alliance with the Ottoman Sultan Murad III, with whom she shared a lively correspondence.

The Sultan and the Queen tells the riveting and largely unknown story of the traders and adventurers who first went East to seek their fortunes—and reveals how Elizabeth’s fruitful alignment with the Islamic world, financed by England’s first joint stock companies, paved the way for its transformation into a global commercial empire.
Jerry Brotton is a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London. A renowned broadcaster and critic, he is the author of Global Interests: Renaissance Art Between East and West (with Lisa Jardine), The Renaissance Bazaar, The Sale of the Late King’s Goods, a finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Hessell-Ti...
Title:The Sultan And The Queen: The Untold Story Of Elizabeth And IslamFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.98 × 5.98 × 0.94 inPublished:September 5, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143110624

ISBN - 13:9780143110620


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An Apt Man in Constantinople   As news of the events in Morocco began to reach London in the autumn of 1578, Francis Walsingham concluded that it signaled the end of the fledgling Anglo-Moroccan alliance, almost before it had begun. Ever the pragmatist, he turned his attention elsewhere—to the Ottomans. By the end of the year, the secretary of state and chief adviser on foreign affairs had written one of the most important documents in the early history of Anglo-Turkish relations, his “Memorandum on the Turkey trade, written for Elizabeth and her counselors, which would become the blueprint for all subsequent Elizabethan relations with the Ottoman Empire.   Characteristic in its attention to detail and unrivaled grasp of reasons of state, Walsingham’s memo sought to justify the trade and to anticipate every eventuality. The English experience in Russia, Persia and more recently Morocco had taught him that it was vital to establish a trading presence before developing more formal political alliances, so he began by outlining “the profit that may ensue by trade into the Turk’s dominions.” He argued that it would strengthen the navy’s role in national defense and international commerce, allow merchants to export English goods directly into Turkish markets rather than through costly middlemen, and enable the importation of duty-free Turkish goods, which could then be sold across Europe. The obstacles were manifold: Walsingham understood that all the great Catholic powers with an interest in Mediterranean commerce would attempt to stop the trade, “by finesse and by force.” He observed drily that Spain, “being not the best effected toward us,” would undoubtedly concoct a strategic diplomatic and naval alliance with the French and Venetians to prevent the English trade. The difficulties would be all the greater once, as Walsingham correctly predicted, Philip “is possessed of the kingdom of Portugal.”   Walsingham’s solution was to “make choice of some apt man to be sent with her Majesty’s letters unto the Turk to procure an ample safeconduct, who is always to remain there at the charge of the merchants.” It was a shrewd proposal. Whoever was chosen would exploit the blurred line between trade and politics, traveling under royal warrant but paid for by London’s merchants, giving the queen maximum diplomatic returns on a minimum financial investment. He would remain in Constantinople indefinitely to thwart attempts by resident Venetian, French and Spanish merchants or diplomats to disrupt the English trade.   Walsingham stressed that the first visit was “to be handled with great secrecy” and undertaken overland initially to prevent news of a seaborne departure from London reaching the ears of Constantinople’s resident ambassadors. The ambitious long-term plan was for twenty English ships to sail annually through the Mediterranean during the winter months, with sufficient commodities to turn a profit in Turkey. But Walsingham worried: Could the English supply enough cloth to load twenty ships? Would such a flotilla flood the Turkish market and cause prices to crash? He also wondered “whether there shall be that vent” or sale “of our kerseys during the wars between the said Turk and Sophy” at the same levels of profit that existed prior to the conflict. Finally, he took up Edmund Hogan’s plan for connecting the Moroccan trade with Constantinople, believing that it would be vital “to procure the Turk’s letters to the King of Barbary and the rest of the princes of Africa that the ports there may be free for our merchants.” Walsingham was clearly nervous about the Moroccan royal succession following al-Malik’s death and hoped—rather optimistically—that he could use Ottoman leverage to ensure unimpeded English commerce through the region.   As Richard Hakluyt observed in his Principal Navigations, the “apt man” chosen to lead England’s hazardous foray into the Turkish trade was William Harborne. Born in Great Yarmouth into a family of minor gentry, Harborne began traveling abroad as a factor in 1559. In 1577, with plans for a Turkish adventure already being mooted, he was named as one of the principal members of the newly formed Spanish Company, alongside Edward Osborne, Richard Staper and Anthony Jenkinson. Jenkinson’s days of traveling to Russia and Persia were over by then, but if he and Harborne met during this period, the older man would surely have seen a kindred spirit in the younger. They certainly shared many of the attributes required to undertake such grueling and dangerous long-distance travels into the Islamic world. Both men were charismatic, tenacious and resourceful, both dedicated mercers and both loyal servants of their Protestant queen. Neither was above speaking his mind, even when such frankness threatened his career or his life.   Like many English merchants of his time, Harborne was employed as a government spy before departing for Turkey, which suggests that his selection for the job resulted from the combined efforts of Osborne, Staper and Walsingham. Whatever the discussions behind his appointment, in early August 1578, just before the Battle of Alcacer-Quibir, Harborne was several weeks into a four-month overland journey to Constantinople, accompanied by Joseph Clements and just one servant. They traveled through Germany to Poland, where Harborne met his brother-in-law in Lvov (possibly the English factor John Wright), together with an Ottoman dragoman (a diplomatic translator and envoy) known as Mustafa Beg. It was his good fortune to arrive just at the moment when an Ottoman diplomatic delegation had come to renew a peace treaty between Poland and the new Turkish sultan, Murad III. Harborne joined Mustafa’s diplomatic caravan as it headed back to Constantinople, taking a route advocated by Jenkinson back in 1561 through Moldavia, Romania and Bulgaria. He arrived in the Ottoman capital on October 28, 1578.   What Harborne made of his arrival is not recorded, but as a Protestant English merchant from Norfolk he must have experienced some combination of exhilaration and trepidation. Constantinople, one of the world’s greatest imperial capitals, had changed beyond all recognition since it had fallen to Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. The new city of Istanbul, from the Greek for “to the city,” was also referred to in official Ottoman business for centuries as Kostantiniyye, or, as Christians would continue to call it, Constantinople, the name I have used in this book. The Ottomans had transformed a Byzantine city in decline with a population of just 50,000 into the capital of the Islamic world, a vibrant multiethnic and multidenominational city. By the time Harborne arrived its population was estimated at 300,000 to 500,000, much larger than London (200,000), Paris (220,000), Naples (280,000) or Venice (160,000). From sheer political and commercial necessity, Mehmed and his successors (including Murad) had made Constantinople it into a cosmopolitan capital, repopulating it through the forced resettlement of merchants and craftsmen from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. Only 58 percent of the city was Muslim, with 32 percent Christian and 10 percent “Jews,” a category that included Greeks, Armenians and various communities deported from the recently conquered Balkans.   To Harborne, the city’s skyline must have appeared alien and intimidating. At Mehmed’s command, the iconic Greek Orthodox cathedral of Hagia Sophia had been transformed into a mosque, and an ambitious program of public building had begun. A new imperial palace, the Topkapi Sarayi, had been built overlooking the Golden Horn, as well as the Fatih Mosque and Kulliye (a complex of buildings of characteristic Ottoman architecture) and a commercial district dominated by a bedestan (the marketplace known today as the Grand Bazaar) and a series of khans (urban caravanserais). On the northern side of the Golden Horn, Mehmed had repopulated Galata—still identified by its imposing Genoese tower—with Jewish and Christian merchants, and this is where Harborne lived during his time in Constantinople. Under Mehmed 190 mosques, 24 madrasas (schools), 32 hamams (bathhouses) and 12 markets were erected, transforming the city from a Greek Orthodox polis into a Muslim capital. Under Mehmed’s grandson Sultan Suleyman, the urban transformation was even more pronounced, thanks primarily to the extraordinary achievements of the architect Mimar Sinan, who built some 120 buildings in Constantinople, many of which Harborne would have seen. Foremost among these were the Şehzade Mosque and the monumental Suleymaniye Mosque and Kulliye, completed twenty years before Harborne’s arrival.   Since his recent accession, in 1574, the young and pious new sultan Murad III had confined himself to proposing architectural projects outside his imperial capital. He commissioned a magnificent imperial mosque in his birthplace of Manisa, but this would not be completed for another eight years. Perhaps befitting his mystical beliefs, he was more interested in leaving his mark on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. He built a new arcade around the revered Ka’ba in Mecca, remodeled the Prophet’s mosque in Medina and commissioned a range of new buildings in both cities, including madrasas, hospices and lodges for his beloved Sufi dervishes. Harborne could be forgiven for seeing little or no trace of the sultan he had come to court in Constantinople. Once installed as sultan, Murad rarely left his imperial palace in Constantinople, surrounding himself with scores of advisers, mystics, astrologers, poets, calligraphers and musicians.   Harborne’s initial encounters with this intensely hierarchical and labyrinthine Ottoman political bureaucracy must have been completely bewildering. The first problem was one of communication. Harborne corresponded with his Ottoman counterparts in Latin or Italian (in which he appears to have been fluent), which was then translated into Turkish, leaving much room (as we have seen) for creative license and strategic misunderstanding. Then there was the difficulty of gaining appropriate formal access to the Ottoman court.   The French had developed the concept of the “Sublime Porte” or “High Gate” (in Turkish Babıali), through which foreign dignitaries were allowed to enter the Ottoman state buildings in an elaborate and carefully orchestrated procession. Any breach of etiquette could prove disastrous. Once within the imperial complex, centered on the Topkapi Palace, visitors had to navigate through the many layers of the sultan’s court.   The Inner Service, dominated by the harem, was responsible for the sultan’s welfare. It included his wives, concubines and slaves. At the time of Harborne’s arrival, the Inner Service was also, through the power granted to Murad’s long-term lover or consort Safiye Sultan, exercising considerable influence over imperial policy. Fiscal and diplomatic responsibilities were delegated to the Outer Service and the so-called Scribal Institution, both of which were controlled by the grand vizier. The grand vizier, appointed by the sultan, held executive powers over an imperial advisory council (the divan) composed of viziers and pashas. The divan had in turn to compete with the demands of various social and economic ministries known as “institutions.” These included the Religious Institution and the Military Institution, the latter controlling the sultan’s feared and unpredictable fighting corps, the Janissaries. To make matters even more confusing, the Ottoman ruling administration was divided between the Turkish nobility and the devşirme (abducted Christian youths), forcible converts to Islam who were loyal to the sultan’s administrative or military institutions. Both groups claimed the title “Osmanli” or “Ottoman” to signify their membership in the state’s ruling class, although in times of conflict each exploited the other’s weaknesses for political gain. The sultans had adopted the devşirme system as a deliberate method of divide and rule, to play each group off the other, but it was a volatile setup that baffled outsiders.   Harborne’s first task was to establish a dialog with Murad’s grand vizier, the seventy-three-year-old Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. Bosnian by birth, the wily Sokollu Mehmed was a devşirme who had risen rapidly through the Ottoman ranks before being appointed grand vizier by Suleyman in 1565. It was testament to his consummate political skill that Sokollu Mehmed had not only survived but prospered in that role for fourteen years under three different sultans; however, at the time of Harborne’s arrival he was locked in a bitter power struggle with Murad’s consort, Safiye Sultan.   Harborne’s disastrous start to his time in Constantinople was described in graphic detail in his earliest surviving correspondence, a petition submitted to Sokollu Mehmed, the first ever written to a grand vizier by a foreigner. Harborne submitted his petition, written in Italian, via a dragoman to the Ottoman Chancery, where it was translated into Turkish with all the formal conventions (it was customary for the plaintiff to write in the third person). Harborne complained that not long after his arrival he had ordered the goods and money left in Lvov to be sent to him by one of his servants, only for the servant to be “assassinated by thieves within one day’s journey of this famous city, and they robbed him of his goods and money to the sum of 4000 ducats,” which was around £1,300.5 Considering that an average English ship’s cargo was worth around £7,000, this was a substantial loss. The poor servant who lost his life remained anonymous, and was never mentioned again.   The goods involved were the ubiquitous coarse woolen kersey cloths, as well as tin and lead, a flagrant violation of the papal ban on the trade of all such merchandise with Muslims. Harborne complained that the grand vizier knew the whereabouts of his servant’s assassins as well as of his goods, but his chiauses (Turkish sergeants) “have made no effort at all—they did not even wish to go to find the merchandise where the thieves confessed that it was but, rather, wasted their time.” Despite the apparent delicacy of the situation, Harborne managed to end his petition with a request for safe-conducts to trade throughout the Ottoman-controlled eastern Mediterranean, and for permission to export surplus lead.   Neither Harborne’s subsequent letters nor Ottoman Chancery records reveal if he received compensation for his losses, but he is unlikely to have been able to continue trading without some indemnity. Hakluyt certainly believed that Harborne turned his loss into broader profit, describing the canny Englishman as having “behaved himself so wisely and discreetly that within a few months after he obtained himself not only the great Turk’s large and ample privilege for himself . . . but also procured his honorable and friendly letters unto her Majesty.” This was a very bland account of what really happened.   The imperial ambassador to Constantinople, Joachim von Sinzendorf, had been keeping a suspicious eye on Harborne ever since his arrival. He reported to the Habsburg court in Vienna that “this socalled merchant Harborne” had “begun to set this trade going here, with the foreknowledge of the Queen.” Sinzendorf was appalled that, despite having no formal mandate from Elizabeth, Harborne had bribed Sokollu Mehmed “with a quantity sufficient for three robes of the best English cloth he had” to obtain commercial safe-conduct agreements. Having issued these agreements, the grand vizier had, Sinzendorf claimed, asked Harborne’s interpreter, Mustafa Beg, “Does he also want to have a letter from the Sultan to the Queen?,” to which a surprised and clearly delighted Harborne is reported to have said, “Yes, it would be nothing but good.”   It seems that Murad was unaware of the proposed letter to Elizabeth,which was written by Sokollu Mehmed. Harborne had simply struck lucky, having obtained the precious commercial rights as well as the formal letter in return for a relatively cheap bribe. In demanding that the letter be written by the sultan’s chancellor, Sokollu Mehmed ignored protocol that insisted the sultan would correspond only if a letter was first written to him. It was reported that the grand vizier told the chancellor, “Of course, write the letter, because they are Lutherans, and good people!”   Sinzendorf’s report was hardly impartial: he had a clear vested interest in claiming that Harborne’s negotiations with the grand vizier were part of a broader Turco Protestant conspiracy enabling Murad to establish “an open, safe port in England, by means of which to set his foot also into the western Empire.” However, Sinzendorf does seem to have understood that Harborne’s maneuverings had formalized amicable commercial exchanges with the Ottoman authorities that put the other European representative in Constantinople on the defensive.   The letters that followed (which are discussed at the beginning of this book) were the first in an exchange of correspondence between an Ottoman sultan and an English monarch that would last for another seventeen years. The first letter, written in March 1579 on Murad’s behalf and sent to Elizabeth, had been composed in the Diwani script, using a particular variant of Ottoman Turkish known as Fasih Turkce (“eloquent Turkish”), the language of poetry and imperial administration. But with Mustafa Beg’s assistance Harborne also had it translated rather more freely into Latin to be read out back in London. The Latin version began:   In greatness and glory most renowned Elizabeth, most sacred queen, and noble prince of the most mighty worshippers of Jesus, most wise governor of the causes and affairs of the people and family of Nazareth, cloud of most pleasant rain, and sweetest fountain of nobleness and virtue, lady and heir of the perpetual happiness and glory of the noble realm of England [Anletār] (whom all sorts seek unto and submit themselves) we wish most prosperous success and happy ends to all your actions, and do offer unto you such pleasures and courtesies as are worthy of our mutual and eternal familiarity: thus ending (as best beseemeth us) our former salutations.   Buried within the letter’s honorific rhetoric was some shrewd realpolitik. Murad was careful to describe Elizabeth as one of the Christian “worshippers of Jesus” and part of the “family of Nazareth,” implying the possibility of a Protestant-Islamic alliance based on the mutual acceptance of Jesus as a holy figure. He also ensured that, in praising Elizabeth, she was to understand that he was the active partner doing all the wishing and offering, for which she and her subjects should be grateful. Acknowledging Harborne’s arrival “in the name of your most excellent regal majesty,” with “kindness, courtesy and friendly offices on your part,” Murad was prepared to agree that “our country be always open to such of your subjects, as by way of merchandise shall trade hither: and we will never fail to aid and succor any of them that are or shall be willing to esteem of our friendship, favor and assistance.” Murad assured Elizabeth he had commanded “all our kings, judges, and travelers by sea” throughout the Ottoman Empire to ensure that “such aforesaid persons as shall resort thither by sea from the realm of England, either with great or small vessels to trade by way of merchandise, may lawfully come to our imperial dominions, and freely return home again . . . straightly charging that they be suffered to use and trade all kind of merchandise as any other Christians do, without let or disturbance.”   In case Elizabeth might feel she was receiving special dispensation, the letter reminded her that “our familiars and confederates the French, Venetians, Polonians, and the king of Germany, with diverse other our neighbors about us, have liberty to come hither, and to return again into their own countries, in like sort.” The power and magnanimity of the Ottomans was so great they could accommodate anyone, from Catholic merchants and emperors to Protestant English sovereigns. However, in one final caveat, which seems to have been added by Harborne (with Mustafa’s connivance), the Latin translation reminds Elizabeth that the alliance should be reciprocal, and that “you likewise bethink yourself of your like benevolence, humanity and friendship toward us, to open the gate thereof unto us . . . and that like liberty may be granted by your highness to our subjects and merchants to come with their merchandise to your dominions.” The original letter contained no such wish, because the Ottomans did not regard the English as a serious political power, an attitude that Harborne tried to mitigate but which was underscored by the method of delivering its letters to Elizabeth: they were transported in a satin bag tied with a silver capsule—the method used to write to Caucasian princes.   Murad’s letter was not the only one that arrived in London from Constantinople in September 1579. Harborne’s dragoman, Mustafa Beg, also took the opportunity to break with convention and write an audacious letter to the queen. In it he encouraged Elizabeth to establish “a league and most holy alliance” between her and Murad, drawing yet again on the potential amity between Muslims and Protestants. “As I was negotiating in the presence of our Most Mighty Prince,” writes Mustafa,   it occurred to my mind that if by any means I could encourage some kind of understanding and friendship between our Most Mighty Prince and your Sacred Royal Majesty, not only as I know the Sacred Royal Majesty to hold the most Christian faith among all people and that, therefore, Christians throughout the whole world envy the Sacred Royal Majesty and, if they can, try to harm her in every way, but also because I considered it to be beneficial for your Sacred Royal Majesty to be able to establish an understanding with so great and so powerful an Emperor, with whom almost all princes and kings, of their own free will, wish to be closely allied.   Despite its presumptuousness, the letter was taken seriously by Burghley, who filed and annotated it. Elizabeth regarded it as important enough to write back in October, just weeks after the letter arrived, imploring Mustafa to assist her in obtaining the release of English captives:   Your letter of March 15 was handed to us by William Harborne, who at the same tim recorded your kindness to our subjects. As it has taken the form of promoting the trade of our merchants to the dominions of his Imperial Highness it demands our gratitude and reciprocity of good offices. As by your good means matters are so far advanced that he has begun to incline to Harborne’s request on behalf of himself and his partners, and we would not willingly be excluded from the conveniences granted to the subjects of other states, we have written to his Highness to testify our gratitude, and to ask him to allow to all our subjects the same permission that he has granted to a few; promising like liberty to his subjects in our dominions. We beg that you will aid us in obtaining this request. And as we have also dealt with him briefly for the freedom of certain of our subjects who are captive in his galleys we ask you to show your goodwill to us by promoting their cause.   In requesting the captives’ release, Elizabeth implicitly recognized Ottoman political legitimacy under (unwritten) international law. It was unprecedented and highly significant for the future of any Anglo-Ottoman alliance, especially considering how far her excommunication by the papacy had isolated her from the rest of Europe.   The resident European merchants and diplomats in Constantinople were horrified by the sudden and apparently inexplicable success of the English interlopers. They were informed of developments by Mustafa Beg, who seems to have been playing both sides. In September 1579 Bernardino de Mendoza, Philip II’s ambassador in London, wrote that Joseph Clements, Harborne’s fellow agent, had “returned recently with a Turk, bringing a letter from his master [Murad] to the Queen, full of endearments, and offering unrestricted commerce in his country to Englishmen if she, on her part, will give the same privileges here to his subjects. I will endeavor to get copies of the letter and their reply to send to Your Majesty.” Mustafa Beg presumably supplied these “copies,” although not all Mendoza’s intelligence was quite so accurate as he might have believed. It seems he read the Latin translation of Murad’s letter, which had been embellished by Harborne and his associates to inflate the significance of the Anglo-Ottoman alliance, and its promise of closer trade relations. There is no record of the arrival in London of the Turkish emissary he mentions.   Nevertheless, both Sinzendorf’s and Mendoza’s responses reflect the alarm felt by the Habsburgs at the rise of English commercial influence in Constantinople. Just two months later, Mendoza reported to Philip that these fears appeared well founded.  This queen has received another letter from the Turk by way of France,” he wrote on November 28. The letter has not survived, but Mendoza claimed that “in addition to many other offers,” Murad “promises a favorable reception of Englishmen who come to his country, either by land or sea; both on account of his desire for her friendship as for that of the king of France, with whom he requests her to be as friendly as she can. He says that, by reason of his friendship to the king of France, he will be pleased to hear of her marriage with his brother [the Duke of Alencon], from which it may be seen that the French have made it their business to write to him about it. Elizabeth was indeed embroiled in her famous on-and-off courtship with Alencon, which if successful threatened the Habsburgs with the prospect of an Anglo-Franco-Ottoman axis capable of dominating Mediterranean naval and commercial movements.   Mendoza went on to explain that “the Turks are also desirous of friendship with the English on account of the tin which has been sent thither for the last few years, and which is of the greatest value to them, as they cannot cast guns without it, whilst the English make a tremendous profit on the article, by means of which alone they maintain the trade with the Levant.” His intelligence—presumably again gleaned from Mustafa Beg—was that five English ships were already en route to Constantinople, and “I am told that, in one of them, they are sending nearly twenty thousand crowns’ worth of bar tin, without counting what the rest of them take. As this sending tin to the infidel is against the apostolic communion, and your Majesty has ordered that no such voyage shall be allowed to pass the Messina light [a watchtower built by Charles V in 1546 to protect Sicily from Turkish invasion] to the prejudice of God and Christianity, I advise the viceroy of Sicily of the sailing of these ships as I understand they will touch at Palermo, where the tin can be confiscated.” A month later he reported that even more ships were headed to Chios “carrying bell-metal and tin.” It was a symbolic act of alliance that conflated the iconoclastic faiths of Protestantism and Sunni Islam. With the queen’s sanction, Protestant English merchants were removing metal from ecclesiastical buildings—including lead roofing and bell metal—and shipping it to Constantinople to arm Muslims fighting against Catholics.   By now events were moving fast. In late October 1579 Elizabeth had dispatched responses both to Murad’s first letter and to Mustafa Beg’s. The opening of her letter to Murad clearly took the hint about the superficial similarities between Protestantism and Islam by denouncing those Christians that “falsely profess the name of Christ.” Having learned that the Ottomans would give those they labeled “Lutherans” preferential commercial treatment, Elizabeth and her advisers obviously saw the advantages of presenting her as a religious ruler who rejected both idolatry and those who “falsely” professed Christ, attributes shared (according to the Catholic powers) by Protestants and Muslims. After establishing her theological credentials, the letter got down to business, asking for trading privileges to be “enlarged to all our subjects in general,” and agreeing that Turks should be allowed “to come, and go to and from us and our kingdoms.”   The letter concluded with a last request. Murad’s “great affection to us and our nation, doth cause us also to entreat and use mediation on the behalf of certain of our subjects, who are detained as slaves and captives in your galleys,” that “they may be delivered from their bondage, and restored to liberty, for their service toward us, according to their duty: which thing shall yield much more abundant cause to us of commending your clemency, and of beseeching that God (who only is above all things, and all men, and is a most severe revenger of all idolatry, and is jealous of his honor against the false gods of the nations) to adorn your most invincible imperial highness with all the blessings of those gifts, which only and deservedly are accounted most worthy of asking.”\   The galley slaves in question were probably the crews of the Peter and the Swallow, two English ships captured off Algiers two years earlier. The plea brought release and redemption, although it earned for the English a mortal enemy in the shape of the galley slaves’ owner, the Turkish admiral Qilich Ali Pasha.   Sultan Murad and Queen Elizabeth seemed to be edging toward a closer commercial and political relationship when Harborne was faced with an unexpected crisis. On October 12, 1579, as Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was listening to petitions in the Topkapi’s imperial council chamber, a Bosnian dervish suddenly leaped forward and stabbed him to death. Rumors abounded at court that Murad’s powerful mother, Nurbanu Sultan, had ordered the assassination to resolve the courtly power struggle between her and Sokollu Mehmed. Whatever the motivation behind his murder, Sokollu Mehmed’s death triggered a decisive shift in the balance of power within the palace. Over the next two decades the post of grand vizier would be progressively diminished, with eleven different incumbents unable to stop the sultan’s harem from taking political matters into their own hands. Sokollu Mehmed’s proteges were removed from government, and with them went his more emollient and westward-looking foreign and economic policy.   It is testament to Harborne’s determination and resourcefulness that he continued his dogged pursuit of an Anglo-Ottoman agreement. His time spent wooing—and probably bribing—subsequent grand viziers infuriated the other resident European diplomats, most especially Jacques de Germigny, the French ambassador. It was bad enough that Harborne lacked official diplomatic accreditation; even more galling was his skill in playing France off against Spain, while still trading under the cover of the French Capitulations. “I was informed,” Germigny fumed in a report to Henry III in March 1580, “that this Englishman had represented to the Grand Vizier the seriousness of the increase of the power of the King of Spain, to the extent that he would take possession of Portugal and the territories dependent on the said kingdom neighboring to this lord in the Levant.” He protested that, despite Sokollu Mehmed’s death, Harborne was “pursuing his negotiation actively in this Porte, and appears to be greatly favored, as much by reason of the loads of steel, tin, and latten [copper alloys] which he has brought them and promises to bring thereafter.” In June, Germigny confessed that it all “makes me fear that the said Englishman will soon realize his aim” of obtaining full commercial privileges from the sultan. The English advance, together with signs of a growing rapprochement between Murad and Philip II, threatened to leave France dangerously isolated.   By then it was too late. Murad had already agreed to the terms of a peace treaty with Spain, and at the end of May 1580, just days before the dispatch of Germigny’s letter, he signed a charter of privileges granting the English full commercial rights in Ottoman dominions. These Anglo-Ottoman Capitulations would prove to be even more important than Walsingham’s Memorandum of 1578, and they endured for 343 years, until they were dissolved under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the Turkish republic.   The agreement began by praising “Elizabeth Queen of England, France and Ireland, the most honorable queen of Christendom,” to whom Murad agreed to “give license to all her people, and merchants, peaceably and safely to come unto our imperial dominions, with all their merchandise and goods without any impeachment, to exercise their traffic, to use their own customs, and to buy and sell according to the fashions of their own country.” It listed in minute detail the privileges granted to the English: their ships were guaranteed security and help in the face of piracy (from Muslims or Christians), shipwreck or even debt; in the event of death, goods reverted to the merchant’s estate; in case of commercial disputes both sides agreed to abide by the ruling of the local cadi (judge) based on sharia law; English merchants were exempt from paying kharāj (a local community charge) and were allowed to appoint consuls in Alexandria, Damascus, Tunis, Algiers and Cairo; and if “any pirates or other free governors of ships trading the sea shall take any Englishman, and shall make sale of him . . . if the party shall be found to be English and shall receive the holy religion [Islam], then let him freely be discharged, but if he will still remain a Christian, let him then be restored to the Englishmen, and the buyers shall demand their money again of them who sold the man.”   For Harborne the Capitulations were the triumphant conclusion to nearly three years of tireless trade, diplomacy and bribery. For the French, they were a calamity. The English agreement was closely modeled on the Franco-Ottoman Capitulations of 1569, which had not been renewed since Murad’s accession in 1574. Now the English had trading rights, the Ottomans were in league with the Spanish, and it was the French, preoccupied with their own internal religious strife, who were left politically and commercially isolated. Just weeks after signing the English Capitulations, Murad sent a terse letter to Henry III, rejecting any suggestion that Ottoman alliances with countries such as England violated prior agreements with France, assuring him somewhat disingenuously that “there is absolutely no refusing or repulsing to the coming and going of anybody,” and “nothing whatsoever to preoccupy you concerning the ancient friendship with you and in the matters of precedence and pre-eminence over the other kings.” As European rulers of various theological persuasions queued up to court Murad, the French risked losing their long-standing influence at the Porte.   As the French floundered, Harborne prospered. From his residence in Galata, he exploited the Capitulations to consolidate a thriving commercial network across the Mediterranean. With the financial backing of Osborne and Staper, he traded with merchants as far north as Poland and the Baltic, as far west as Algiers, stretching all the way to Syria in the east, as well as with Turks, Egyptians, Greeks and Italians. He bought cotton, yarn and carpets from Turkey, flax from Egypt and the Black Sea, wine, oil and currants from Crete and Zante, all the time extending his trade in the ubiquitous English kerseys, lead, tin and copper. He was escorted everywhere by two Janissaries, a sign of the esteem in which the sultan held a man widely recognized, as one observer put it, as “the Queen’s agent at the court of the great Turk, by whom he is held in the greatest credit.” Harborne even used this “credit” to visit Ottoman-controlled Jerusalem on a pilgrimage that was probably as good for business as it was for his soul.   Just as it seemed that Harborne had achieved more than anyone in London could have hoped, disaster struck again. In September 1580, the Bark Roe, a merchant vessel carrying a cargo worth over £1,000 of kerseys, tin, brazilwood, madder, lead and broken “bell metal” from English Catholic churches, left London for the eastern Mediterranean. The ship’s captain was Peter Baker, a servant of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (one of Elizabeth’s closest advisers and the man an eccentric minority still believe wrote Shakespeare’s plays). Baker was already known in London merchant circles as a “greedy” and “evil man” with a reputation for robbing Christians, having seized a ship in the Mediterranean five years earlier laden with salt. He was responsible for a crew of around seventy, including two merchants, and a ship of 160 tons armed with twenty-four cannon. The crew would report much later that Baker had announced they were traveling “as merchants, though at sea the captain armed himself as a man-of-war,” announcing that “we were sailing for Turkey to act as pirates.” By January 1581, another crew member recalled, they were “laden with broken bells from England, and when we went to Malta” they made arrangements to sell the metal stripped from English churches to the Maltese Knights of St. John. After fifteen days anchored off Malta, Baker “summoned us on deck. It was bright moonlight; we had not yet unloaded any goods, and he informed us that he wanted to engage in cruising at a venture, plundering the Turks.” The crew was divided, but one member admitted that “having unloaded the metal of the bells, we had to sail as corsairs.” It was a foolish decision that exposed their inexperience and cupidity—and threatened to wreck the Anglo-Turkish trade just as it began to flourish.   The following month the Bark Roe reached the island of Chios, which the Ottomans had taken from the Genoese in 1566. There by pure chance they met Harborne, en route to the Holy Land with a group of French and Flemish merchants. Fresh from his triumph in obtaining the English Capitulations, Harborne was oblivious to Baker’s piratical plans. Instead he swaggered around the island, boasting of the terms of the Capitulations, much to the confusion of local Ottoman officials, who assumed that the new agreement ended English merchants’ rights to trade under the lapsed French privileges. As the Bark Roe prepared to leave in early March 1581, Harborne reported that “the Jew customer of that port, alleging it unlawful for our nation to use of that [French] country banner and privilege coveted to embargo and detain,” held Baker’s ship until he received clarification from his masters in Constantinople. Harborne hastily produced the new Capitulations, “not ever before showed,” and the Jewish customs official allowed the ship to leave the island free of any charges.   Having sold all his cargo, and possibly aggrieved at being detained on Chios, Baker bade farewell to Harborne and set off southward in pursuit of whatever bounty he could find. He chased Turkish and Greek vessels off Rhodes, then sailed westward across the Aegean, attacking two ships off Methoni in the Peloponnese at the end of March. “The ships we thought were Turkish,” confessed one crew member, “but when we captured them we found out they were Greek and that they were carrying a cargo of camlets [woven fabric made of camel or goat hair] and raw silk.” To make matters worse, the cargo was owned by a consortium of Greek and Venetian merchants, and the ships’ passengers included Greek Orthodox priests from Patmos, which lay under Ottoman jurisdiction, a jurisdiction that Baker had now violated.   In one foolish act Baker had brought the wrath of the Turkish, Greek and Venetian authorities down upon the English, confirming all their worst suspicions about these gauche interlopers. Seemingly unaware of the diplomatic crisis he was igniting, Baker quarreled violently with his crew over the spoils. They insisted that “he had no authority to take or rob any Christian,” and forced him “to re-enter Malta to try for justice for fear that piracy would be laid to our charge.” By April 22 the Bark Roe, its crew and the two Greek ships were back in Malta, where they were imprisoned in Valletta by Monsignor Federico Cefalotto, the Maltese representative of the Roman Inquisition.   Over the next four months the Maltese authorities began building a case against Baker around claims made by the Greeks (who wanted their cargo back) and the Venetians (who demanded 12,000 ducats to cover their losses). Even worse, the captured Greek priests from Patmos lay within the jurisdiction of the Turkish admiral Qilich Ali Pasha, who was still smarting from having had to surrender English galley slaves to Harborne just two years earlier. The admiral immediately blamed the fiasco on the unsuspecting Englishman, condemning him as a spy and a pirate and demanding that the sultan imprison him and fine him 40,000 ducats and revoke the Capitulations. Horrified, Harborne rushed back to Constantinople to try to clear his name with the Ottoman authorities, from where he sent a letter to Lord Burghley on June 9, 1581, explaining the situation.   As he wrote, Harborne knew that the future of the Anglo-Ottoman alliance hung in the balance. For the first time in nearly three years, his usually cool and urbane demeanor gave way to fear and self-pity. “Behold,” he wrote to Burghley, “in what pit of perplexity and snares of unluckiness (almost inevitable) I am entangled through the unchristian and detestable dealings of Peter Baker.” Baker’s actions had unleashed “the slanderous and hellish barking of the maliciously disposed Admiral,” who threatened to ruin not only “our English traffic” in the region but also Harborne’s personal reputation in “disgorging his long hidden poison against me.” Baker’s stupidity had driven Harborne to the brink of despair. “The intolerable grief of mind which these pirates have caused me, I cannot utter,” he wrote. His greatest fear was how Sultan Murad would respond, and he invited Burghley to reflect on how such accusations would prejudice “this heathen prince against me, a worm.” Shorn of the usual honorific flourishes and verbose rhetoric that characterized Anglo-Ottoman correspondence, in this moment of extreme peril Harborne’s veil slipped, and he was left calling Murad a heathen and seeing himself as little more than a parasite.   Harborne had good reason to panic. Arrested by the Ottoman authorities and subjected to relentless interrogation, he now admitted to Burghley that he had used credit to buy merchandise and send it back to London, but that as a result of Baker’s piracy all his assets had been frozen and he had no money to settle his debts. To add to his humiliation, he had to beg the French ambassador to act as surety, which Germigny did with grace and, one imagines, some satisfaction, informing Henry III of the remarkable turn of events and noting that Baker’s and Harborne’s behavior “gives a very bad smell to the said English here.” Harborne’s pleading with the Ottomans was futile. Murad revoked the English Capitulations and signed new ones with the French. By July 1581 France was once again in control of European trade into Turkey, and Harborne’s mission seemed in ruins.   In Malta, things were going from bad to worse. Baker and his crew were put on trial by the Maltese Inquisition. It focused, as usual, on heresy—an apparently straightforward issue when confronted with English Protestants—and the settlement of commercial debts was quickly subsumed by darker fears of plots and conspiracies involving those suspected of harboring reformist religious beliefs. Baker’s arrest had coincided with a political crisis on Malta. Cefalotto had been appointed grand inquisitor by Pope Gregory XIII in late 1580 and immediately used his newfound power to accuse French members of the island’s Knights of St. John of Huguenot sympathies. The crisis was compounded by the decision of a group of Knights in July 1581 to oust the octogenarian grand master Jean de la Cassiere, just as Baker was being arraigned. Cefalotto’s subsequent report to his superiors in Rome the following spring claimed to have uncovered not just an isolated case of piracy but a vast anti-Catholic conspiracy. “The plot of the capture of Malta was conceived,” he wrote, “by the English Queen, the Duke of Alencon and the Turks through their intermediary, Peter Baker, who was captain of the English ship Roe.” Cefalotto made lurid accusations that French Huguenots and English Protestants were in league with Muslim Turks to destroy what he called “the Catholic Commonwealth” and claimed he had uncovered letters proposing an Anglo-Ottoman invasion of Malta that would transform the political balance of power in the Mediterranean. He ordered that Baker and eight other Englishmen be dispatched to Rome, where they would stand trial for heresy.   When the news reached London, Burghley advised Elizabeth to sacrifice Baker and apologize to Murad in a bid to salvage something of the imperiled Anglo-Ottoman trade. On June 26, 1581, she sent a letter to the sultan regretting “this unfortunate hap.” Scrupulously avoiding specific names or details, she apologized for the “most injurious and grievous wrong which of late came unto our understanding . . . done unto certain of your subjects by certain of our subjects, as yet not apprehended.” Choosing her words with care, Elizabeth regretted that Baker’s actions “doth infringe the credit of our faith, violate the force of our authority, and impeach the estimation of our word faithfully given unto your imperial dignity.” She implored Murad to “not withdraw your gracious favor from us . . . to hinder the traffic of our subjects.” Elizabeth must have been furious at having to grovel in this way to Harborne’s “heathen prince,” but unless she did so there seemed little chance that the Anglo-Turkish alliance would be renewed.   Even as Elizabeth wrote her letter, Harborne was battling to save his reputation, not to mention his liberty, in Constantinople. He accepted the humiliation of French diplomatic security to help contest the fines levied against him, and he used his dragoman, Mustafa Beg, to open communications with the current grand vizier, an unimpressed Koca Sinan Pasha. To his delight Mustafa reported that the Ottomans, perhaps in response to Elizabeth’s letter, were prepared to do a deal. They would restore the English privileges on condition that the queen formalize trade and diplomatic relations and appoint an official ambassador to the Porte. Harborne decided to cut his losses, and on July 17 he fled Constantinople. He had spent three arduous and expensive years building up the Anglo-Ottoman alliance from nothing. Now Walsingham’s “apt man” was returning to London hounded and impoverished.

Editorial Reviews

“Jenkinson is just one of the fascinating characters who forged England’s first sustained interaction with the Muslim world, a neglected aspect of Elizabethan history that Jerry Brotton brings vividly to life in this elegant and entertaining book… Out there, for all the talk of idolatry and infidels, discussions could be brisk and purposeful, boundaries porous, identities fluid. Even in that religiously charged era, the so-called clash of civilizations could sound very faint indeed.” – Jason Goodwin, The New York Times Book Review“We are accustomed to seeing Elizabeth as a dazzling but essentially limited monarch, obsessed with defending her small corner of northwest Europe. . . But as Brotton shows, for the last quarter of her reign, England was also deeply engaged with the three great powers of the Islamic world. The Sultan and the Queen is both a colorful narrative of that extraordinary time and a reminder that our own fortunes and those of the wider Islamic world have been intertwined for much longer than we might think.”—Dan Jones, The Times"Queen Elizabeth I had bad teeth. The snaggle-toothed sovereign owed her decay to copious amounts of sugar that began flowing into England from Morocco in the 16th century. Candied fruits were her absolute favorite. The story of Elizabeth’s unfortunate smile is but one facet of a much larger and far more important history of economic, cultural and political relations between the queen’s rather negligible island, the sultan of Morocco and the fabulously wealthy Muslim world that dominated half of the Mediterranean and controlled Europe’s access to the east. Jerry Brotton’s wonderful book reveals this instructive history of Protestant England’s intense interactions with Islam, showing how Muslims shaped English culture, consumerism and literature during the half-millennium between the Crusades and the rise of the British Empire in the Middle East."— The Wall Street Journal“Impressive and highly readable. . . Brotton emphasizes the extent to which Elizabethan England was shot through with influences, stories, individuals and products drawn from the Islamic world. The orient is not elsewhere but already here, both thrillingly and uncomfortably close to home. . . Brotton’s book crackles with an energy that illuminates and vivifies its larger claims.”—Financial Times“The Sultan and the Queen evokes an England struggling to find a place for itself in a world that it had not yet learned to dominate, and often making colossal diplomatic blunders in the process. Brotton is a gifted writer who is able to present this history as an exciting series of critical and suspense-filled encounters."--The Washington Post“Jerry Brotton’s sparkling new book sets out just how extensive and complex England’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world once was. . . It seems extraordinary that, in a time before mass travel, when most people died a stone’s throw from where they were born, there were nevertheless those whose adventures led them to the edges of the known world – and to cultures so different from their own as to seem dreamlike. But Brotton’s book is full of them. . . At a time when many see Islam as a recent and strange intruder, Brotton’s excellent history is a reminder that a careful study of England’s 'island story' shows just how wrong they are.” —The Guardian"I adore this book. It resonated deeply with me."–  Elif Shafak, author of The Bastard of Istanbul"Fascinating and timely. . . An illuminating account of a neglected aspect of Elizabethan England:  its rich, complex, and ambivalent relations with the Muslim world." —Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve “A lively, smart, exhaustively researched book… Traders, using the new-fangled concept of joint-stock companies to spread the commercial risk, shipped home everything from Oriental carpets and luxurious silks to sugar and saltpetre, essential in making gunpowder… Brotton delves into diaries, letters and archives to uncover a long-ignored part of English history. Trade was anything but smooth or orderly. English adventurers struggled to understand the cultures, rivalries and religious differences. (The term Muslim would not be used in England until 1614.) Pirates and shipwrecks were constant dangers, as was capture.” —Macleans“An exceptionally rich and brilliant book. In bringing to life Elizabethan England’s ambivalent engagement with Islam, Jerry Brotton shows how profoundly that encounter shaped English trade, diplomacy, and the Islam-obsessed drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The story he tells could not be more timely.”—James Shapiro, author The Year of Lear: 1606“This fascinating account uncovers the lively exchange between Elizabeth’s England, the Ottoman Empire, and Morocco. Christianity and Islam were still at odds, but Elizabeth gladly sought alliance with Muslim lands against the shared threat of Catholic Europe.”  —Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre