Throughout history, serious encounters between East and West have led to attempts to struggle with the relations between Anglos and Ottoman Turks and these encounters went as far as the Crusades. The first encounter of the Anglos with the Ottoman took place during the Battle of Nicopolis.This battle was a disastrous military vanquish for knights at the hands of the Turks that brought an end to attemps to stop Turkish expansion into the Balkans and central Europe.
However, this encounter was not a straight contact, but it was a small British allied force fightning with the Ottomans in Nicopolis. After Edward II dethronement in1327, he was succeeded by his son, Edward III. Edward’s grandson was Richard II. The fear and hatred for the Turk only cooled, ironically, in the reign of James I, a king who took his Christian duties far more seriously than his immediate predecessors. Though increasing trade and diplomatic relations contributed to this trend piracy was the main reason. He reigned the country so badly, so when he was deposed, after an act of the parliament he was succeeded by Henry IV, and at the same time the country was replaced by constitutional monarchy.
The first activities of the Ottomans with the British happened upon the three king’s times mentioned in the text. The British sent troops to the Crusader during the Nicopolis expedition in 1396, and they delayed the Hundred Years’ War, which took place in Normandy, for a period of time. During the siege of Constantinople after the Battle of Nicopolis, IV.Henry, who had not yet been became a king, had the idea of going over the Turks with a Crusader army.He was a dedicated crusader in the years before he seized the throne in 1399. He took part in two crusades to Prussia and one pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He planned to take part in a crusade as king, but the troubles of his reign never allowed him to do so. Briefly, the mentioned wars and events were the first encounters that brought the British and the Ottomans together in history.
Commercial and political relations between the Ottomans and the English began in the second half of the 16th century.In 1570, Elizabeth I was in a bind. She had been excommunicated by the Pope, and her country was shunned by the rest of Europe. To avoid ruin, England needed allies. The queen sought help from a surprising source: the Islamic world.
Throughout the medieval period, ‘Islamdom’ had stood at the doorstep of Europe. After the Reconquista of Spain, the Ottoman Turks presented the greatest external threat to Christian hegemony. For this reason, the view is often assumed that sixteenth century Christians ,The Papacy, the Emperor, and Protestant theologians had nothing positive to say about Islamdom or Muslims.
In light of this, the attempted alliance between Queen Elizabeth and Sultan Murad III, though mutually beneficial, would have been unusual to say the least. The first step in such a direction would necessitate a rhetorical rapprochement if there were to be any political deals between Christian Europeans and Ottoman Muslims. By the 1580s, when it became clear that England was leaving the Catholic Church once and for all, it became incumbent on Queen Elizabeth to find ways of reaching out to Sultan Murad III.
This paper explains that, despite the anti–Islamic rhetoric of the early Protestant reformers, the English and Ottoman sovereigns were able to become commercial and political partners specifically because of England’s Protestant political identity, trade practices, and beliefs. However, Queen Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers.
In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown.
Soon the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion was imminent.
English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands.
Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.
Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Ottoman Caliphate. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire ruled by Sultan Murad III.
The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary.
Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the Sultan would provide much needed relief from Spanish military aggression and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East.
The Caliphate was far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little Island nation floating in the soggy mists off Europe.
Elizabeth wanted to explore her new trade alliances, but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit the obscure commercial innovation – joint stock companies.
The capital from the companies was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages.
Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy company which traded with Persia and went on to inspire the formation of a company that traded with the Ottomans and the East India Company which would eventually conquer India.
In the 1580s she signed a commercial agreement with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands.
As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade.
She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “The most mighty ruler of the Kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.”
In Return the Sultan Murad said to the Queen ” We are not only friends of the Queen of England, but protector at the same time.”
She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.”
Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s regions, like Aleppo and Mosul which were far safer than they would have been on a journey through Catholic Europe where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.
Some Englishman even converted to Islam such as Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga.
English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the East, exchanged it for munitions that were shipped out to Turkey.
The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed.
Relationship between Marlowe’s Tamburaine and Elizabeth’s Policy
It is rather hard to imagine a coeval equivalent to Christopher Marlowe’s choice of a fourteenth-century Turk commander as a subject for popular demonstration. The historic Timur had no direct effect on English culture or history. Those English texts that had taken an interest in historical Muslims had, more often than not, portrayed figures like Timur as savage and bloodthirsty, “princes of darkness,” associated with cruelty, terror and the antichrist.
In taking up the story of a long-passed Muslim conqueror, Marlowe tapped into commercial and politic concerns in Asian, Near-Eastern and Northern African markets and also anxieties over the cultural swaps accompanying such attempts. English joint stock companies in the last quarter of the sixteenth century were discovering trade in certainly those areas of North Africa and the Levant that Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays traverse.
The English were enthusiastic to enlarge their economy but anxious, too, with preserving their standing in what Sir Thomas More referred to as “the common corps of Christendom.” After all, commercial ventures in the Islamic world exposed the English to accusations of degeneracy and even perversity from domestic critics and contending continental powers. Set two hundred years in the past, Tamburlaine presented a historically remote site for English matters of the avantages, risks and cultural implications of English trade in non-Christian lands.
This is not to say that Marlowe was repeating a rhetoric of legitimation to bear out the increased connection with Muslims. Instead, Marlowe’s plays seem most interested in laying bare the ways in which religious rhetoric could be strategically amplified or muted to serve economic and political interests. For Marlowe, a model of shifting, politically appropriate attitudes toward religious difference was present in the foreign policy of his own government.
In the last quarter of the sixteenth century, English diplomats recognized that frayed correlations between the Ottomans and the French composed an opening for Anglo-Ottoman trade. In his 1578 “Memorandum on the Turkey Trade,” Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaster and primary secretary, Sir Francis Walsingham, warned that an embassy to the Turks “is to be handled with great secrecy” and that “it shall be very well done to give out that in respect of the danger of the traffic her majesty cannot be induced that her subjects shall trade thither.”
Walsingham recognized that any collaboration with the Ottomans could be perceived as an act of perversity, particulary in the eyes of Catholic rivals that had called for Elizabeth’s excommunication earlier in the decade. Thus, from its establishment, England’s policy on trade with the Ottoman Empire depended upon saying one thing and doing another. It had no exact concern with religious difference, only one that was sometimes given out depending upon the party to whom it was given or made available. Anglo-Ottoman trade developed despite the protests of continental rivals and a domestic tradition associating Turks with the devil. Reporting on his inability to check English commercial advances, the French ambassador Jacques de Germigny reported that the English “brought in a large amount of steel and bits of broken images of brass and latten copper to cast ordnance, and promise to bring in a great deal more of it secretly in future, which is a form of contraband hateful and pernicious to all Christendom.” If such promises were made, the English were careful not to make them public. None of the correspondence between Elizabeth and Murad mentions this arms trade. However, Elizabeth’s first letter to Murad was carried aboard the Prudence, a ship that Bernardino Mendoza, Spain’s ambassador to England, alleged, in a report of December 1579, to be carrying a cargo of “bellmetal and tin to the value of twenty thousand crowns.”
Where Mendoza and de Germigny’s letters detailing dangerous “infidels” and acts “hateful and pernicious to Christendom” seek to expose, Queen Elizabeth’s correspondence with the Ottoman Sultan Murad III is characterized instead by rhetorical obfuscation. Elizabeth’s exchange of letters with Murad is striking for the ways in which both writers mute or qualify religious difference while emphasizing a specious doctrinal similarity. In other correspondence, Murad makes no effort to downplay his religious identity. So, for example in a letter to the French King Henri III, defending his admission of English merchants, Murad insists “our felicitous Porte is always open, with the praise of Allah, exalted be He!”
Phrases like this are absent from his correspondence with Elizabeth where he conspicuously removes references to the divine as in his identification of himself as “Murad Shah, son of Selim Shah Khan, he who is granted victory always.” The ambiguity about who is doing the granting is mirrored and complemented by Elizabeth’s careful treatment of the divine. In requesting that Murad authorize the release of Englishmen held captive in Ottoman slave galleys, she assures him that she will seek for the Sultan the blessings of “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.” As she does elsewhere in this correspondence, Elizabeth emphasizes shared doctrine, rendering Protestants and Muslims alike in their opposition to polytheism and idolatry (a charge regularly levelled against Catholics who adorned their churches with statues and stained glass windows depicting Christ, Mary and various saints).
The same conditional activation and suspension of religious prejudice is apparent in and essential to Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays. So where critics have sometimes described the spectacularly violent and brilliantly eloquent Tamburlaine as “morally ambiguous,” it may be more pertinent to consider Tamburlaine as a device constructed to explore the moral ambiguities in early modern English ideas about religious difference. In other words, Marlowe’s unstable and even contradictory representation of his title character is, in fact, no more ambiguous than his queen and country’s curious relationship with Islam and the Ottoman Empire. Tamburlaine’s religious identity simply shifts with the plays’ shifting circumstances.