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From Medium to Message

The Queen and the Sultana: Early Modern Female Circuits of Diplomacy and the Consumption of Gendered Luxury Items Between East and West

La Reine et la sultane : réseaux diplomatiques féminins et échange d’objets luxueux entre l’Orient et l’Occident durant la période de la première modernité
Mathilde Alazraki

Abstracts

Between 1593 and 1599, Queen Elizabeth I of England corresponded with the Ottoman Sultana Safiye (c. 1550-1606), favorite concubine of Sultan Murad III and mother of Sultan Mehmed III. Of this exchange, only the Sultana’s letters and mentions of the expensive and undeniably gendered gifts sent between London and Constantinople (such as English cosmetics, Ottoman female dresses and jewelry…) remain. And yet, these fragments give us a glimpse of how two royal women of the early modern period, at a crossing between East and West, established a transcultural female circuit of exchange, not only to promote efficient diplomatic relationships but also to enable the transit of specifically female objects of status and power between the English court and the Ottoman harem. A close study of Elizabeth and Safiye’s correspondence, as well as the role of the Jewish kira (the Ottoman equivalent of a lady in waiting) Esperanza Malchi in relaying the correspondence between the royal harem and the English embassy, will help shed light on the often-overlooked roles that female friendship and material culture played in foreign diplomacy, a subject that is only recently coming under attention in gender, global and material studies of the early modern period.

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Introduction

  • 1 Susan Skilliter, “Three Letters from the Ottoman ‘Sultana’ Safiye to Queen Elizabeth I” in Samuel M (...)
  • 2 Alison Games, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560 – 1660 (New Yor (...)
  • 3 Lisa Jardine, “Gloriana Rules the Waves: or, The Advantage of Being Excommunicated (And A Woman)”, (...)
  • 4 Elizabeth I, “The letters patents, or privileges graunted by her Majestie to Sir Edward Osborne, Ma (...)
  • 5 Christine Woodhead, “Harborne, William (c. 1542–1617), merchant and diplomat”, Oxford Dictionary of (...)

1In 1593, Elizabeth I sent a royal letter and gifts to Murad III (r. 1574-1595), Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.1 This diplomatic outreach from London to Constantinople is not in itself surprising since England had initiated diplomatic and commercial relations with the Ottomans as early as 1578, when the English merchant William Harborne was dispatched to the Sublime Porte to petition the Sultan for the safe passage of English ships in Ottoman waters. Three quarters of the Mediterranean, “the international marketplace of the old world,”2 were under Ottoman control at the time, and the English Crown believed that a mutually beneficial trade agreement could be reached with the Islamic empire. England’s position on the European scene had been compromised by the Queen’s 1570 excommunication by the Pope, leaving it vulnerable and in want of commercial partners to fund its costly war against Spain.3 Similarly, the 1571 Battle of Lepanto had been a great defeat for the Ottoman navy against the allied powers of Spain and Italy, and the Ottomans were in need of tin, lead and gunpowder to retaliate against the Holy League. In exchange for the “Ordinance, powder, and munition” sent to the Ottomans, the English Crown gained access to the “silks, dyes, jewels, and spices of the East.”4 In 1579, Murad granted the Queen’s request for safe passage of English ships, and in 1583 William Harborne, now a merchant for the recently created Levant Company, was appointed first resident English ambassador in Constantinople, effectively signalling hopes of an enduring trade and diplomatic relation between the English kingdom and the Ottoman Empire.5

  • 6 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 144 and Leslie Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in (...)
  • 7 From the Arabic “safi,” meaning pure, clear, fair or unspoiled.
  • 8 See the re-edition: Ahmet Refik Altınay, Kadinlar Saltanati (Istanbul, Tarih Vakfi Yayinlari, 2005)
  • 9 On the lasting influence of Hürrem on the conduct of following Sultanas, see Peirce, The Imperial H (...)
  • 10 Humphrey Connisby, in an undated letter in the Cotton Manuscripts at the British Library, Nero B xv (...)

2What is surprising about the 1593 correspondence between Elizabeth I and Murad III is that it also included a royal letter and gifts to Murad’s favourite concubine, Sultana Safiye. Safiye (c. 1550-1621) was Murad III’s haseki, the official title for the mother of the sultan’s heir apparent, and the second most powerful woman in the empire after the valide sultan, the reigning Sultan’s mother.6 Of Albanian origins, Safiye was given as a slave to the young Sultan in 1563 and was thereafter brought up in the imperial harem of the Topkapi palace where she was given a new name (Safiye meaning “pure” in Ottoman Turkish), and taught the language and customs of the Ottoman Empire.7 Safiye lived during a time that is commonly referred to as “the Sultanate of women.” The term was originally used by the Turkish historian Ahmet Refik Altınay in his 1923 eponymous book where he criticized the overt influence of women from the imperial harem and linked it to the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.8 Nowadays, however, the negative connotation of the term has been mainly shed and “the Sultanate of women” instead refers to a period of great involvement from the haseki and valide sultan in the domestic and foreign affairs of the empire, starting with Hürrem, the wife of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent at the beginning of the century. Like Hürrem and her successor Nur Banu, the Venetian mother of Murad III, Safiye was used to interacting with foreign ambassadors at the Porte through her kira, the woman acting as an intermediary between the Sultana and the world outside the imperial harem.9 Safiye’s kira, a Jewish Italian woman named Esperanza Malchi, interacted on numerous occasions with Edward Barton, William Harborne’s successor and the second resident English ambassador in Constantinople between 1588 and 1598. At the time, the status of the English ambassador was a new and fledgling one at the Sublime Porte, especially compared to rival European powers like France and Venice, who had older and stronger ties to the Ottoman Empire. As a consequence, gaining the political support of the Sultana, who was said, at the height of her power, to have “governed, in effect, the whole empire,” was critical to Barton’s position at court and would explain why Elizabeth I sent a letter and gifts addressed specifically to Safiye.10

  • 11 Edward Barton, “Memorial presented by the English Ambassador to the Sultana” in Horatio F. Brown (e (...)

3Indeed, Edward Barton was the first Englishman in Constantinople to see the diplomatic potential of the imperial harem’s inhabitants, and the first to use the fact that England was ruled by a queen to make an ally of Safiye. Unlike most European ambassadors at the time, Barton was fluent in Ottoman Turkish, which gave him insight into the inner workings of the court. When his petitions to the Sultan were dismissed or obstructed by rival ambassadors or courtiers, Barton presented his petitions directly to Safiye, so that she could relay his messages to Sultan Murad without having to go through the usual channels of the Sultan’s advisors. For example, in a 1592 memorial to Safiye, Barton petitions the Sultana to help him convince Murad to fight the Spanish forces alongside England. In order to make his case, he emphasizes Elizabeth’s heroic stance as a female ruler: “[Elizabeth I] is a woman, and yet has fought and harassed for a long time [the King of Spain]. Worthy therefore is she that his Majesty’s power should be displayed in her favour.”11 This petition is the first instance of the English ambassador using Safiye and Elizabeth’s femininity as a common point meant to overcome the religious, cultural and political differences between England and the Ottoman Empire. This gender-based strategy was deemed successful enough to warrant a specific letter and gifts for the Sultana.

The visual diplomacy of the correspondence between Elizabeth I and Sultana Safiye

  • 12 Richard Wrag, “A description of a voyage to Constantinople and Syria” in Principal Navigations, vol (...)
  • 13 Tracey A. Sowerby, “Negotiating the Royal Image: Portrait Exchanges in Elizabethan and Early Stuart (...)

4In 1593, Barton presented to Safiye, among other gifts of clothes and glassware, “a jewel of her majesties picture, set with some rubies and diamants.”12 Though Elizabeth sent her portrait to foreign monarchs in Europe on several occasions, her gift to Safiye might be the first and only instance of the Queen sending her picture to the Islamic East.13 This unprecedented diplomatic gift in Anglo-Ottoman relations was accompanied by a letter to Safiye which was brought directly to her to the harem, something that would not have been permitted had Elizabeth been a male ruler. Though the portrait and letter sent by Elizabeth I have not been recovered from Turkish archives, contemporary accounts tell us about Safiye’s positive reaction to the Queen’s portrait:

  • 14 Wrag, “A Description”, p. 102.

[The Sultana] sent to know of the ambassador what present he thought she might return [which] would most delight her majestie: who sent word that a sute of princely attire being after the Turkish fashion would for the rareness thereof be acceptable in England. Whereupon she sent an upper gowne of cloth of gold very rich, an under gowne of cloth of silver, and a girdle of Turkie worke, rich and faire, with a letter of gratification.14

  • 15 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, pp. 121-2.

5The Turkish outfit sent in 1593 by Safiye was the first gift ever given by an Ottoman Sultana to an English monarch, and the letter accompanying it is still considered today “an outstanding specimen of Turkish calligraphy,” its paper “liberally flecked with gold,” and written “altogether [in] five colours, black, blue, crimson, gold and scarlet.”15 This letter appears unique not only in England where it was sent, but even in the Ottoman Empire where there is no record of any other Sultana sending such a visually impressive message to Europe.

First letter from Sultana Safiye to Queen Elizabeth I, December 1593

First letter from Sultana Safiye to Queen Elizabeth I, December 1593
  • 16 Rayne Allinson, A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of E (...)

6It is likely that this choice to gift the Sultana a portrait of the Queen, and Safiye’s response in the form of an Ottoman dress visually accompanied by a stunning letter, stemmed from a desire to create a visual bridge in the correspondence between the two women. As Rayne Allinson reminds us, “[f]or the Ottomans, the materiality of royal letters carried as much significance as their contents, or even greater significance.”16 Because the Queen and the Sultana were separated physically by the thousands of miles standing between their two cities, as well as linguistically by the language barrier between them, they had to find other ways to perform closeness in order to frame their diplomatic demands in terms of friendship. Indeed, Safiye’s letter to Elizabeth is in Ottoman Turkish, which was transcribed in Italian and English by the secretaries at the embassy before being sent to London, where the translations were revised until they were deemed to be fit for the Queen’s eyes. As for Elizabeth, she likely wrote to Safiye as she did to Murad, in Latin and Italian.

  • 17 Sara Morrison, “‘I Shall Endeavor for Her Aims:’ Women’s Alliances and Relational Figurations of Fr (...)
  • 18 Sowerby, “Negotiating the Royal Image”, p. 125.
  • 19 Carrie Anderson, “Material Mediators: Johan Maurits, Textiles, and the Art of Diplomatic Exchange”,(...)
  • 20 Safiye quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters,” pp. 132-3.

7Thus, gifting Elizabeth with a Turkish outfit chosen by Safiye herself would serve multiple diplomatic purposes. Since Safiye was unable to return Elizabeth’s gesture and send a portrait of herself, which was forbidden by Islamic law, sending traditional clothes in a fashion similar to that which she herself wore was the next best way to help the Queen visualize the Sultana, just as the Sultana could visualize the Queen every time she looked at her portrait.17 The metonymic and mnemonic function of portraits (and in this case clothes) as diplomatic gifts has already been highlighted by Tracey A. Sowerby who explains how, by looking at the portrait of someone, the observer remembers not only that person, but also the enduring relationship that the gift of the portrait stands for.18 Finally, the Ottoman costume, made most likely of silk and precious gems from the inter-Asian trade, symbolically stood for the trade relations uniting their two countries, in a much more personal way than by simply sending raw silk.19 Indeed, the diplomatic friendship between Elizabeth and Safiye was first and foremost instigated by England’s desire to secure and protect in the long-run the newly established trade relations between England and the Ottoman Empire. Safiye was very much aware of this, since, in her letter, she encourages Elizabeth to pursue their correspondence by saying: “if she will never cease from [sending] such letters, (…) I shall endeavour for her aims.”20

An exclusively female network of early modern diplomacy between East and West

  • 21 Thomas Dallam, “The Diary of Master Thomas Dallam (1599-1600)” in Early Voyages and Travels in the
    L (...)
  • 22 John Sanderson, The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant (1584-1602) (London, Hakluyt Society, 1 (...)
  • 23 Lello to Robert Cecil, quoted in Calendar of State Papers, p. xlv.
  • 24 Sowerby, “Negotiating the Royal Image”, p. 134.

8But in spite of Safiye’s request for their correspondence to continue, it took six years for Elizabeth’s next letter to reach the harem. In 1595, Murad III died, leaving the throne to the son he shared with Safiye, Mehmed III, making Safiye now valide sultan – the highest-ranking position for a woman at the palace. Only in 1599 did Henry Lello, Barton’s successor as English ambassador, present Elizabeth’s new gifts and letters to both the Sultan and his mother Safiye. The Sultana’s influence over her son was deemed important enough to warrant an expensive “Coatche of six hundrethe poundes vallue.”21 Such an expense was justified by Safiye’s role in the success of Barton’s embassy at court, where he obtained an unprecedented amount of influence and helped England establish itself as a worthy partner to the Ottoman Empire. As Barton’s contemporaries noted: “By meanes chefelie of the Turks mother[’s] favoure and some mony, he made and displaced both princes and patriarchs, befriended viseroys, and preferred the sutes of cadies (who ar thier chefe preests and spirituall justisies).22 It is highly probable that Elizabeth renewed her correspondence with the Sultana in the hopes that she would display the same favours to Lello, her new ambassador. This goal was apparently achieved since Lello reports that “[t]he Sultana is very pleased with her present and has promised to be my friend.23 This display of friendship extended to Elizabeth as well, and the Sultana requested another portrait of the Queen, which Lello commissioned from the English painter Rowland Bucket for the embassy.24

  • 25 Lello, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 153.
  • 26 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 133.
  • 27 Safiye, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 139.

9Just as she had done in 1593, the Sultana wrote back to the Queen and sent some presents of her own: another Turkish outfit with some jewelry, which Lello dismissed as “trifles (…), yet these (…) in general esteemed a great matter of freindshypp, because it is not [the Ottomans’s] use to send presents to any prynce whatsoever.”25 According to Lello, the very materiality of the powerful Ottoman Sultana sending gifts to Elizabeth, queen of a remote Western island, was of more importance than the gifts themselves. As for the letter, while Safiye’s first missive was visually impressive, her next letter to the Queen appears much simpler, and written in sober black ink.26 This change of style in the correspondence might appear as a step-down aesthetically, but in terms of diplomacy as it was performed in the Ottoman harem, it can be interpreted as a step-up in the intimacy through which Safiye represented her friendship with Elizabeth. By not using the official palace scribe, Safiye foregoes the expected formality of diplomatic relationships and instead speaks to Elizabeth more intimately, as if the English Queen was now a long-time friend. After acknowledging the reception of the coach, Safiye stages herself as a direct mouthpiece for English interests at court: “We do not cease from admonishing our son, [the Sultan], and from telling him: ‘Do act according to the treaty!’27 Here, Safiye is referring to the 1579 commercial treaty signed by Murad and granting English merchants safe passage in the Levant.

  • 28 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 142.
  • 29 Ibid., p. 152.
  • 30 Esperanza Malchi, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 143.
  • 31 Ibid.

10Accompanying this answer was another letter addressed to Elizabeth, this time written by Safiye’s Jewish Italian kira, Esperanza Malchi.28 The kira was the one in charge not only of carrying the Sultana’s correspondence to and from the harem, but also of “the trading in jewels, the acquisition of luxury articles for the ladies of the harem,” as well as “the dealing with European ambassadors.29 It is thus in the hope of securing English cosmetics and clothes for Safiye that the kira passes on her mistress’ request to Elizabeth: “on account of Your Majesty’s being a woman I can without embarrassment employ you with this notice,” which is to send “distilled waters (…) for the face and odiferous oils for the hands,” as well as woollen English clothes, which would appear “fantastic” and exotic to Safiye.30 Femininity is here once again used as a common point between the Queen and the Sultana, one which allows for a closeness and intimacy meant to overcome any religious, cultural, linguistic or geographical barriers between them. Moreover, it illustrates a pattern in the correspondence of Safiye demanding visual pieces of England to be brought for her into the seraglio: first through the portrait of Elizabeth that she commissioned from Lello, then through the requests for cosmetics and clothes relayed by her kira. These two exchanges highlight the prominent place held by material culture in female Ottoman diplomacy. Moreover, this letter is a rare example of a female agent, the kira, not only inserting herself into the male-dominated diplomatic channels between England and the Ottoman Empire, but also actively excluding any male interference. Indeed, the kira asks the queen to send the gifts “by my hand as, being articles for ladies, [the Sultana] does not wish them to pass through other hands.”31 We do not know if Elizabeth did follow the kira’s suggestion, but if she did, this would have been an unprecedented example of an entirely female diplomatic interaction solely aimed at, and mediated by, a diverse community of international women here: a Protestant English Queen, an Albanian Sultana and a Jewish Italian agent.

The Ottoman imperial harem as a cosmopolitan place for the consumption of luxury items

  • 32 Luca Molà, “Material Diplomacy: Venetian Luxury Gifts for the Ottoman Empire in the Late Renaissanc (...)

11Looking at the Sultana’s request for English goods also allows us to think outside of the Eurocentric appeal for Eastern items and instead look at the consumption of Western items by the East. This reversal of exoticism is especially noteworthy in the early modern period when the Ottoman Empire was more economically powerful than England. In fact, the consumption of Western luxury items by the imperial Ottoman harem even extended to other European powers as well. In 1590, for example, Sultana Safiye requested a specific type of Venetian glassware that imitated chalcedony stone, which was very popular in the fifteenth century but the production of which had been mostly forgotten by the end of the sixteenth century, and the Venetian Senate had to go out of their way to find a craftsman skilful enough to create the glass vases in the style that Safiye wanted.32 It was thus common for the Sultana to collect rare and exotic items in the imperial harem and to use her influence in diplomatic relations to do so. Safiye’s role as a curator for the imperial harem’s collection of Western luxury goods was most likely a way to reflect her own reach and influence as a powerful Sultana representing a mighty empire that her son would later govern.

  • 33 Ibid., pp. 75-8.
  • 34 Archivio di Stato di Venezia (ASV), Senato, Dispacci Constantinopoli (DISPC), filza 39, fol. 607r-v (...)
  • 35 Biblioteca del Museo Correr, Mss. Donà dalle Rose, 236, Dispacci del Bailo Venier, fols. 45v-46r, 2 (...)

12Part of the material display of Safiye’s power also relied on her ability to secure fashionable items before anyone else. This desire for a steady stream of luxury goods could sometimes be a source of diplomatic tension with European powers if they failed to give the exclusivity of their wares to the imperial harem. In 1594, for example, the Sultana complained to the Venetian bailo about a type of Venetian glassware that looked like bird feathers that were being sold in the marketplaces of Constantinople – and thus accessible to everyone willing to pay for them – without having been first presented to the imperial harem.33 The Sultana expressed her displeasure to the bailo and demanded that Venetian glassblowers stop sending these products to Constantinople, otherwise “our friendship will be broken, and I will not favour your negotiations anymore.34 The same friendship that the Sultana extended to the English ambassadors Edward Barton and Henry Lello, and which was considered fundamental to the success of their diplomatic missions at the Sublime Porte could thus be retracted from the bailo if Venice failed to ensure that Safiye had an early and exclusive access to their luxury wares. Though the Senate apparently went to great trouble to try and stop the export of those new glass items, the matter was ultimately resolved peacefully a few months later, when the Sultana deemed the goods out of fashion and unworthy of being displayed in the imperial harem afterwards: “let in the future come as many as they want, because they are already in no esteem at all, and if they want to send a thousand ships of them, let them come.35

  • 36 Josie Schoel, “Cosmetics, Whiteness, and Fashioning Early Modern Englishness”, SEL Studies in Engli (...)

13These different examples of interactions between Safiye and ambassadors from both England and Venice bear testimony to the importance that gift-giving practices held in diplomatic interactions between Europe and the Ottoman imperial harem. Depending on the gifts that were offered – or withheld – the Sultana could further or hinder an ambassador’s diplomatic agenda at the Sublime Porte. Thus, while the kira’s request for English cosmetics and clothes for her mistress might appear trivial or anecdotal in the wider context of Anglo-Ottoman exchanges, such a demand was in fact at the heart of commercial and diplomatic relations at the time. As Josie Schoel reminds us in her article on the role of cosmetics in early modern global exchanges, raw materials, such as alum, were imported to Europe from the Ottoman Empire.36 In the case of England and English cosmetics, alum was one of the ingredients used as a whitening agent in beauty products. Following the request of the kira, the transformed alum would be sent back to the Ottoman Empire in the form of an exotic Western product. As a consequence, what might appear as a peripheral, feminine, soft power exchange between a Queen and a Sultana was in fact a microcosm of the global trade and economy that was starting to take root between East and West in the early modern world.

Conclusion

  • 37 John Watkins, “Toward a New Diplomatic History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe”, Journal of Med (...)
  • 38 Edward Barton, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 148.

14Even though Elizabeth’s letters have been lost and we cannot be sure if she ever sent the cosmetics that Safiye requested, the Sultana’s letters that remain from this exchange make it a unique example of female diplomacy, not only because this correspondence involved two powerful women at a crossroad between East and West, but because there is a clear and deliberate use of their shared femininity as a way to cultivate intimacy and good relationships. Studying this exchange under the light of the New Diplomatic History can help us look at how diplomacy was performed outside of a Eurocentric perception of diplomatic interaction where the ambassador “the primary locus of diplomatic exchanges.”37 Indeed, the correspondence taking place in 1593 and 1599 between Elizabeth I and Safiye involved an array of diplomatic stakeholders outside of the roles of the monarch or of the resident ambassador which have for so long been at the centre of diplomatic studies. Unlike Elizabeth, whose claim to the English throne as a female ruler only came to be recognized in the absence of a male heir, Safiye’s role first as haseki, then as valide sultan, and the influence that these titles gave her in foreign and domestic matters were acknowledged widely at the Ottoman court at the time, including by foreign ambassadors. Similarly, an intermediary like the kira Esperanza Malchi, a woman from a religious and cultural minority in the Ottoman Empire, held a place of equal importance to that of an ambassador in the context of the imperial harem, where securing prized gifts was necessary to gain the support of the Sultana in diplomatic proceedings. Barton himself complained about how dealing with the Ottoman Sultana meant dealing with the kira: “because my selfe cannot come to the speech of the Sultana, and all my business passes by the hands of the said Mediatrix, loosing her freindshippe, I loose the practick with the Sultana.”38

15Looking at the correspondence of Elizabeth and Safiye under the different lights of diplomatic studies, gender studies and material culture studies can help us see how women from different ethnic, cultural, social and religious backgrounds engaged in early modern diplomacy. This involvement was not phrased or performed in the same way as exclusively male interactions, or even as male-and-female interactions like the correspondence between Elizabeth and Murad III. Instead, the relation between Safiye and the English Queen was worded in terms of feminine friendship that were reinforced by very specific gifts chosen not simply for their material value, but rather for the way they could visually symbolize closeness. This diplomatic performance of intimacy relied on the shared consumption of rare and exotic luxury items in female spaces of power, whether it be in the Ottoman imperial harem or in the royal court of Elizabethan England. This cross-cultural friendship allowed Elizabeth and her ambassadors to protect the economic interests of the Levant Company and to secure a lobby against Spain, while corresponding with the Western-most kingdom in Europe allowed Safiye to strengthen her own position as a powerful valide sultan following in the footsteps of Hürrem.

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Bibliography

Allinson, Rayne, A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Anderson, Carrie, ‘Material Mediators: Johan Maurits, Textiles, and the Art of Diplomatic Exchange’, Journal of Early Modern History 20 (2016), pp. 63-85.

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Molà, Luca, ‘Material Diplomacy: Venetian Luxury Gifts for the Ottoman Empire in the Late Renaissance’ in Biedermann, Zoltán, et al. (eds) Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 56-87.

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Sowerby, Tracey A., ‘Negotiating the Royal Image: Portrait Exchanges in Elizabethan and Early Stuarty Diplomacy’, in Helen Hackett (ed.), Early Modern Exchanges: Dialogues Between Nations and Cultures, 1550-1750 (London, Routledge, 2016), p. 119-142.

Stallybrass, Peter, ‘Marginal England: The View from Aleppo’, in Lena Cowen Orlin (ed.), Center or Margin: Revisions of the English Renaissance in Honor of Leeds Barroll, (Selinsgrove, Susquehanna University Press, 2006), pp. 27-39.

Watkins, John, ‘Toward a New Diplomatic History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38.1 (2008), pp. 1–14.

Woodhead, Christine, ‘Harborne, William (c. 1542–1617), merchant and diplomat’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/12234 consulted 19 August 2022.

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Notes

1 Susan Skilliter, “Three Letters from the Ottoman ‘Sultana’ Safiye to Queen Elizabeth I” in Samuel M. Stern (ed.), Documents from Islamic Chanceries (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1970).

2 Alison Games, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560 – 1660 (New York, Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 47.

3 Lisa Jardine, “Gloriana Rules the Waves: or, The Advantage of Being Excommunicated (And A Woman)”, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6:14, 2004, p. 211.

4 Elizabeth I, “The letters patents, or privileges graunted by her Majestie to Sir Edward Osborne, Master Richard Staper, and certaine other Marchants of London for their trade into the dominions of the great Turke” in Richard Hakluyt (ed.), Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques and Discoveries of The English Nation (Glasgow, Glasgow University Press, 1904), vol. 5, p. 200 and Peter Stallybrass, “Marginal England: The View from Aleppo” in Lena Cowen Orlin (ed.), Center or Margin: Revisions of the English Renaissance in Honor of Leeds Barroll (Selinsgrove, Susquehanna University Press, 2006), pp. 27-39.

5 Christine Woodhead, “Harborne, William (c. 1542–1617), merchant and diplomat”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies, <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/12234> [19 August 2022].

6 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 144 and Leslie Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 94.

7 From the Arabic “safi,” meaning pure, clear, fair or unspoiled.

8 See the re-edition: Ahmet Refik Altınay, Kadinlar Saltanati (Istanbul, Tarih Vakfi Yayinlari, 2005).

9 On the lasting influence of Hürrem on the conduct of following Sultanas, see Peirce, The Imperial Harem, p. 95.

10 Humphrey Connisby, in an undated letter in the Cotton Manuscripts at the British Library, Nero B xvi, ff. 7b-8a, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 153.

11 Edward Barton, “Memorial presented by the English Ambassador to the Sultana” in Horatio F. Brown (ed.), The Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts, Venice (1592-1603) (London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1897), vol. 9, p. 5.

12 Richard Wrag, “A description of a voyage to Constantinople and Syria” in Principal Navigations, vol. 6, p. 102.

13 Tracey A. Sowerby, “Negotiating the Royal Image: Portrait Exchanges in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Diplomacy” in Helen Hackett (ed.), Early Modern Exchanges: Dialogues Between Nations and Cultures, 1550-1750 (London, Routledge, 2016), p. 128.

14 Wrag, “A Description”, p. 102.

15 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, pp. 121-2.

16 Rayne Allinson, A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 135.

17 Sara Morrison, “‘I Shall Endeavor for Her Aims:’ Women’s Alliances and Relational Figurations of Freedom”, Humanities 7:4, 2018.

18 Sowerby, “Negotiating the Royal Image”, p. 125.

19 Carrie Anderson, “Material Mediators: Johan Maurits, Textiles, and the Art of Diplomatic Exchange”, Journal of Early Modern History 20, 2016, p. 65.

20 Safiye quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters,” pp. 132-3.

21 Thomas Dallam, “The Diary of Master Thomas Dallam (1599-1600)” in Early Voyages and Travels in the
Levant, ed. Theodore Bent (London, Hakluyt Society, 1893), p. 63.

22 John Sanderson, The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant (1584-1602) (London, Hakluyt Society, 1930), p. 61.

23 Lello to Robert Cecil, quoted in Calendar of State Papers, p. xlv.

24 Sowerby, “Negotiating the Royal Image”, p. 134.

25 Lello, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 153.

26 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 133.

27 Safiye, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 139.

28 Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 142.

29 Ibid., p. 152.

30 Esperanza Malchi, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 143.

31 Ibid.

32 Luca Molà, “Material Diplomacy: Venetian Luxury Gifts for the Ottoman Empire in the Late Renaissance” in Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia, Biedermann, Zoltán, et al. (eds) (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 73-4.

33 Ibid., pp. 75-8.

34 Archivio di Stato di Venezia (ASV), Senato, Dispacci Constantinopoli (DISPC), filza 39, fol. 607r-v, 6 August 1594, quoted in Molà, “Material Diplomacy”, p. 76.

35 Biblioteca del Museo Correr, Mss. Donà dalle Rose, 236, Dispacci del Bailo Venier, fols. 45v-46r, 25 November 1594, quoted in Molà, “Material Diplomacy”, p. 77.

36 Josie Schoel, “Cosmetics, Whiteness, and Fashioning Early Modern Englishness”, SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 60:1, 2020.

37 John Watkins, “Toward a New Diplomatic History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe”, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38:1, 2008, pp. 1–14, p. 2.

38 Edward Barton, quoted in Skilliter, “Three Letters”, p. 148.

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List of illustrations

Title First letter from Sultana Safiye to Queen Elizabeth I, December 1593
URL http://journals.openedition.org/rfcb/docannexe/image/12233/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 775k
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References

Electronic reference

Mathilde Alazraki, “The Queen and the Sultana: Early Modern Female Circuits of Diplomacy and the Consumption of Gendered Luxury Items Between East and West”Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique [Online], XXIX-3 | 2024, Online since 10 June 2024, connection on 23 July 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/rfcb/12233; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/11vhd

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About the author

Mathilde Alazraki

Inalco/ LARCA (CNRS/Université Paris Cité)

Mathilde Alazraki, an alumna of the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay, teaches at the National Institute of Eastern Languages and Civilisations (INALCO) in Paris. She has obtained her PhD at Université Paris Cité, as part of the LARCA research unit (UMR8225, CNRS). The title of her PhD thesis, supervised by Professor Ladan Niayesh, is “Women and Diplomacy between England and the East during the Early Modern Period (1558-1676)”.

Mathilde Alazraki, ancienne élève de l’École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay, est docteur en études anglophones et PRAG à l’Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) à Paris. Elle a obtenu son doctorat à l’Université Paris Cité, au sein du laboratoire LARCA (UMR 8225, CNRS). Sa thèse, soutenue en 2023 sous la direction de Mme le Professeur Ladan Niayesh, porte sur le rôle des femmes dans les relations diplomatiques entre l’Angleterre et l’Orient à la Première Modernité (« Women and Diplomacy between England and the East during the Early Modern Period (1558-1676) »).

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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