Franco-Ottoman Relations in the Latter Sixteenth Century
By the time of Henri III and Murad III came to the throne, France and the Ottoman Empire had an alliance for the past forty years, and informal diplomatic relations since the 1480s. While their diplomatic connections began as a result from a renegade prince of the Ottoman Empire, their formal alliance in the 1530s was a political relationship motivated by a common enemy: the Habsburg dynasty.1Christine Isom-Verhaaren, Allies with the Infidel: The Ottoman and French Allience in the Sixteenth Century (New York: I.B. Taurus, 2011), ch. 3. Multiple periods of military cooperation and consistent attempts to coordinate campaigns against Habsburg hegemony in Europe in the 1540s and 1550s followed the establishment of the alliance. Perhaps the most notable of these is the wintering of the Ottoman navy in Toulon from 1543-44.2Christine Isom-Verhaaren, “‘Barbarossa and His Army who Came to Succor All of Us’: Ottoman and French Views of Their Joint Campaign of 1543-1544,” French Historical Studies 30, no. 3 (2007): 394-425 When the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis established peace between the Habsburgs and the Valois ended the necessity for the alliance. Moreover, the troubles in France and the Ottoman-Safavid conflict ensured that the high-point of Franco-Ottoman military cooperation was behind them.
The political relationship, however, continued despite the political troubles of the two countries. The Ottoman Empire and France had established a diplomatic tradition of alignment against Spain and the Holy Roman Empire that acquired inertia connecting the two countries.3For further discussion on the affinity between the Ottomans and the Turks, see Nicolas Vatin, “The Ottoman View of France from the Late Fifteenth to the Mid-Sixteenth Century,” French History 29, no. 1 (2015): 1-11. doi 10.1093/fh/crv002. For instance, the biographer Pierre Bourdeille seigneur of Brantôme wrote that he once heard Pomponne de Bellièvre tell the Marshall Veilleville &ledquo;that the kings of France have two alliances and affinities that [they] must never divert or lose: the first is that of the Swiss, the second is that of the Grand Turk.”4Pierre Bourdeille, seigneur of Brantôme, “Oeuvres Complètes de Pierre Bourdeille seigneur de Brantôme”, vol. 5 (Paris: Joules Renouard, 1869), 55 In 1589, the sieur de Villamont after being criticized by some Ottomans during a voyage from Tipoli to Syria was able to exclaim, “‘Franki Turki gardac,’ which means that the French and the Turks are brothers,” drawing on the traditional relationship between the two powers to pacify his travel companions.5Quoted in Vatin, “The Ottoman View of France from the Late Fifteenth to the Mid-Sixteenth Century,” 11. So, when Charles IX resumed the anti-Spanish policy of his father and grandfather, he looked once again toward Constantinople.6See Jean-François Labourdette, Charles IX et la Puissance Espagnole, (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2013), especially part I, chs. 1, 2 ; part III, ch. 2 ; and part IV, ch. 5. Henri III did the same when his domestic situation permitted it.
A Respite in the French Wars of Religion (1579-1584)
and the Continuing Franco-Spanish Rivalry
From 1562 to 1589, France fell into a series of civil wars revolving around the issue of religious pluralism produced by the growing Huguenot (term used for French Calvinists) community in France. The period was marked by the open warfare between Catholics and Protestants with periodic peace agreements that permitted various amounts of religious practice. Until When Henri III came to the throne in 1574, he was quickly embroiled in a series of domestic crises forcing the king to focus on domestic troubles. The actions of his own brother, François Duke of Anjou, sparked the fifth civil war when he fled the court and aligned himself with the Protestants in 1575. The conflict concluded in May the next year with Peace of Monsieur.6Robert Knecht, Hero or Tyrant? Henry III, King of France, 1574-1589 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014), 107-110. Mack Holt, The Duke of Anjou and the Politique Struggle during the Wars of Religion (1986; New York: Cambridge, 2002), 51-69 The king had to put his house in order before he could move forward. In 1577, Henri at the urging of the militant Catholics at court renewed the war against the Huguenots, but with a severe lack of funds ensuring that peace would come soon. Predictably, the conflict ended in September of that year with the Peace of Bergerac. After a few years of peace, another short war broke out in 1580. Lasting from May to November, it was the least significant of all the religious wars in France.7Mack Holt, The French Wars of Religion, 1562-1629, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge, 2007), 111-18. From 1577, the king was increasingly gaining a freer hand to consider France’s interests beyond its borders. There were popular uprisings in the south between the peace of Bergerac in 1577 and the peace of Fleix in 1580, but these did not provide the same threat that the earlier two wars had.8Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans, trans. Mary Feeney (New York: George Braziller, 1979), xvi.
Between 1577 and 1584, a series of events converged to bring the rivalry with Spain back into focus. The Netherlands revolted against their Spanish prince Philip II (the netherlands were part of the Spanish monarchy at this point in time) in 1566, and by 1576, they sought foreign intervention. After pursuing Queen Elizabeth and Henri III as protectors only to be denied, the States-General laid its sights on the French king’s brother and heir to the throne, the Duke of Anjou.9Geoffrey Parker, The Dutch Revolt (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 190-198, 201-207; Holt, The Duke of Anjou, 93-107. The duke was all too willing to aid the Dutch as long as the terms were right, so he accepted after some negotiation. His actions, however, threatened war with Spain and forced Henri III to prepare his international position for such a case. The king proposed a marriage between Anjou and Queen Elizabeth of England in 1578 as a means of gaining English support against the possible Spanish threat due to the actions of Anjou.10Holt, The Duke of Anjou, 107. By 1580, the king openly supported his brother. From this point on France actively sought to undermine Philip II's foreign policy, which became increasingly expansionist. Along with the struggle to keep the Netherlands, he annexed Portugal in 1580, acquiring all of the Portuguese colonies in the Atlantic and Pacific as well. Henri III actively supported Dom Antonio, as the claiment to the Portuguese throne against the Spanish King, Philip II, who won the day.11Henri III to Germigny, 22 September 1582, Lettres de Henri III, vol.5, 343; Henri III to Arnaud du Ferrier, 22 September 1582, Lettres de Henri III, vol. 5, 343. In 1583, He sought to frustrate Philip's efforts in North Africa as well, sending troops to Larache.12Henri III to germigny, 16 April 1583, Paris, Lettres de Henri III, vol. 6, 39-40. In all of these efforts, France sought to bring the Ottoman Empire into direct conflict with Spain, which comprised most of Jacques de Germigny's efforts during his embassy.