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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sultan Amurath III to Queen Elizabeth I, September 1589.

Cover illustration of Turkey And Russia: Their Races, History, and War (1878).

As has been the habit of most books on Turkish history and Lewis F. Mott’s paper, reviewed here in Virtual Grub Street, under the title "Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III" [link], I only quoted the standard swatch from Sultan Amurath III’s letter to Queen Elizabeth, replying to her request that Turkey attack the Spanish fleet weakened by its recent battle with the English.  We refer to the 1588 battle as “the defeat of the Spanish Armada”.

Weakened though the Spanish fleet was, England was in no position to finish it off.  The politics of the various Western European countries prevented their being drafted as active allies in the matter.  It was a brilliant and dangerous idea to draft the Turks.  They had a large fleet, some part of it able to do combat with European vessels of war.

The text of the letter used in all the works referenced above has been Richard Knolles’s English translation.  It is a more modern spelling version of that translation, taken from a 19th century history text, that appears in its entirety below[1].  A provenance of the letter will soon follow. 

Most Honourable Matron of the Christian Religion, Mirror of Chastity, adorned with the Brightness of Sovereignty and Power amongst the most chast Women of the People which serve Jesu, Mistress of great Kingdoms, reputed of greatest Majesty and Praise among the Nazarites, Elizabeth, Queen of England, to whom we wish a happy and prosperous reign. You shall understand by our high and Imperial Letters directed unto you, how that your Orator, resident in our stately and magnificent Court, hath presented a certain writing wherein he has certified us how that about four years ago you have made war upon the King of Spain, for the abating and breaking of his Forces wherewith he threatneth all other Christian Princes, and purposeth to make himself the sole Monarch both of them and all the World beside. As also how that the same King of Spain hath by force taken from Don Anthonio (lawfully created King of Portugal) his Kingdom ; and that your Intention is that his ships which go and come unto the Indies may from henceforth be embarred and stayed from that navigation; wherein are yearly brought into Spain precious Stones, Spices, Gold and Silver, esteemed worth many millions, where with the aforesaid King as with a great Treasure enriched, hath means to trouble and molest all other Christian Princes; which if he shall still proceed to do he shall daily make himself stronger and stronger, and such as shall not be easily weakened. After that your aforesaid Orator requested our Highness in the beginning of the next spring to send out our Imperial Fleet against him, being assured that the King of Spain could not be able easily to withstand it, for that he had now already received a great overthrow by your Fleet ; and being scarce able to withstand you alone, if he should be on divers parts invaded must needs be overcome, to the great benefit of all the 

Christian Princes as also of our Imperial State. Besides this, that whereas the aforesaid Don Anthonio is by force driven out and deprived of his Kingdom, that we (to the imitation of our noble Progenitors of happy Memory, whose Graves the Almighty lighten) should also give the Aid and Succour of our Magnificent State, as did they unto all such as had recourse to their high Courts and Palaces for relief. In brief, all these things, with many others which your Orator hath at large declared unto our Imperial Throne, we have well understood, and laid them up in our deep remembrance. But forasmuch as we have for many years past made Wars in Persia, with a full Resolution and Intent utterly to subdue the kingdom of that accursed Persian Heretick, and to joyn the same unto our antient Dominions ; and by the grace of God and help of our great Prophet, are now upon the point for the satisfying of our desire ; that once done due provision shall be assigned unto all such things as you have requested or desired. Wherefore, if you shall sincerely and purely continue the bond of Amity and Friendship with our high Court, you shall find no more secure or safe Harbour of good Will or Love. So at length all things shall go well, and to your Heart's desire, in your Wars with Spain under the shadow of our happy Throne. And forasmuch as the King of Spain hath by Fraud and Deceit got whatsoever he heldeth, without doubt these deceitful Deceivers shall by the Power of God in short time be despatched and taken out of the way. In the meantime we exhort you not to lose any opportunity, but to be always vigilant, and according to the conventions betwixt us favourable unto our Friends, and unto our Enemies a Foe. And give notice here to our high Court of all the new Wars which you shall understand of concerning the King of Spain, for the behoof both of yourself and us. To be brief, your Ambassador, after he had with all care and diligence despatched his ambassage, and left here in his place one Edward Bardon, his Deputy and Agent, now by our leave maketh his return towards your kingdom, being for the good and faithful service he here did, worthy to be of you esteemed, honoured, and before others promoted ; who, when he hath obtained of you all these his deserved Honours and Preferments, let him or some other principal Ambassador without delay be appointed to our Imperial Court to continue this office of Legation. This we thought good to have certified to you under our most honourable Seal, whereunto you may give undoubted credence.—From our Imperial Palace at Constantinople, the 15th of this blessed month Ramazan, 1589.

[1] Gossip, Robert.  Turkey And Russia: Their Races, History, and War.  Edinburgh: Thomas C. Jack, 1878. 107-8.

  • Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III. June 11, 2018. “So then, when Professor Mott honed this information, in his 1921 paper, the shock it created was not because verities were shattered.”
  • Let the sky rain potatoes! December 16, 2017. "In fact, the sweet potato had only just begun to be a delicacy within the reach of splurging poets and playwrights and members of the middle classes at the time that The Merry Wives of Windsor (the play from which Falstaff is quoted) was written.  The old soldier liked to keep abreast of the new fads."
  • Falstaff's Sack. August 7, 2017.  'The question Mr. Hart addresses is “Just what is sack?”.  This is not the first time the question has been addressed but his is a particularly thorough attempt at an answer.
  • Shakespeare's Apricocks.  February 21, 2017.  "While he may never have been a gardener, he does seem more than superficially knowledgeable about the gardens of his day.  One detail of such matters that he got wrong, however, is as much to the point as any."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.

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