Jacques de Germigny in the Ottoman Empire (1579-1584)

Networking Germigny's Letters


The data compiled from the letters of Germigny can only provide a limited understanding of how he conceived of both his mission and the place of the Ottomans relative to European politics. In order to gain the full picture, one must flesh out the context of his references. Nevertheless, three conclusions are clear from data: one, Germigny was much more concerned with Spain, the traditional political enemy of both France and the Ottoman Empire, than England, the primary commercial challenger at the time; two, which is related to the first, Germigny considered Ottoman the Ottoman Empire much more connected to Christian Europe than is often recognized; three, Germigny made connected himself to the Mediterranean faction in Constantinople, presumably to further his political agenda that aligned with that particular factions as it related to Spain.

Spain in the Letters

Historians have focused on French commercial interests and the Franco-English commercial rivalry in the Levant in the last decades of the sixteenth century.1Arthur Horniker, “Anglo-French Rivalry in the Levant from 1583 to 1612,” Journal of Modern History vol. 18, no. 4 (1946):289-305; De Lamar Jensen, “The Ottoman Turks in Sixteenth Century French Diplomacy,” Sixteenth Century Journal vol. 16, no. 4 (1985): 451-470.In this way, France fits neatly into the arguement of the Northern Invasion of the Mediterranean first posited by Braudel and furthered by others in which Northern European countries political and crudase concerns in order to enter into Mediterranean commerce with the Ottoman Empire and subsequently dominate the trade.2See Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, trans. Sian Reynolds, 2 vols. (New York: 1972), i, 615-642. For a criticism of this argument, see Molly Greene, “Beyond the Northern Invasion: The Mediterranean in the Seventeenth Century,” Past & Present no. 174 (February 2002): 42-71. In this model, France's interests in its Ottoman diplomacy turns to protecting its commercial privileges in the Ottoman Empire and turns its back on the political relationship with the Grand Seigneur that characterized the relationship in the first half of the sixteenth century.

The letters of Germigny provide a different story. If France's interests were purely or even primarily commercially based, Germigny's letters would be filled with references to the English ambassador--who arrived in 1578 to acquire a commercial treaty and represented the premier commercial rival in the Levant at the time--more than any other Christian-European concerns. This was however, not the case. Outside of Constantinople, Spain was the most referenced region in Germigny's letters to the King. The King of Spain, Philip II, negotiated a series of peace treaties with the Ottoman Empire during the period, and France desired to break up the negotiations and bring the Ottoman Empire into conflict with Philip II.3See the Background page in this website for more on the foreign policy concerns in France and the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, the Spanish ambassador, Giovanni Marglianni (Mariglian as referenced by the ambassador), was the third most referenced topic in Germigny's letters, behind the Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Empire (Uluch Ali Pasha) and the Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha. The ambassador was far less concerned with England. He referenced the region half as frequently (21 times) as he did Spain (41 times).

French interests in the Ottoman Empire remained much more focused on the political relationship than the commercial one. Certainly, France did conceive of their commercial privileges as important. The French ambassador at least, however, continued to think of the Ottoman Empire primarily in relation to political interests on the continent and in the Mediterranean.

The Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe in the Letters

As the map to the left indicates, Germigny considered the Ottoman Empire to be very connected to the European continent. Outside of the Ottoman Empire, Germigny's letters referenced European countries more than any others. Spain and Venice were referenced more than any other country. The data can only indicate so much in this area because context is incredibly important to understand how Germigny was writing about these areas. Nevertheless, Germigny wrote about what happened in Constantinople and the conversations he had there. Thus, Germigny's topics reflect a much broader basis of concerns for France than have been accepted. His letters reflect a conscious relationship between Christian European state and the Ottoman Empire.

The Mediterranean Faction in the Letters

As is necessary for any ambassador, Germigny also made connectiosn at Constantinople to further French interests. The fascinating aspect of these is the closest connection he made from his letters, Uluç Ali, the Grand Admiral (referenced int he letters as the Captain Pasha) and the leader of the Mediterranean Faction. Uluç Ali was especially important to the Ottoman Empire's Mediterranean policy, but as the Background section explains, the Sultan was looking toward the Safavids in the East rather than the Mediterranean. So, Germigny's relationship was not reflective of the Admiral's position at the Ottoman court at the time. Yet, he is the most referenced topic in all of his letters.

The frequent references of Uluç Ali reflects both France's anti-Spanish interests in its Levantine diplomacy and Germigny's participation in Ottoman factional politics. Uluç Ali and the Mediterranean faction were not the most powerful political actors in Constantinople at the time. The war against the Safavid Empire and the treaty with Spain limited their political and economic power. Both issues, however, made them particularly natural allies for Germigny. Uluç Ali and France's interests naturally aligned. Both desired an end to the Ottoman-Spanish truce and a renewal of conflict in the Mediterranean.4See the Background section of this site

Germigny's frequent references of Uluç Ali indicates a close interest in or cooperation with the Admiral. Context will provide more information, but the references indicate a relationship between the two that would not be natural from the position of the Admiral at court at the time. It would be much more likely for of the Vizier's to be the most referenced topics in Constantinople. This indicates a preoccupation both with the Mediterranean faction and their political interests, which was the Ottoman-Spanish truce.

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