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

Who Was Jacques de Germigny?

Jacques de Germigny

Jacques de Germigny, Baron de Germoles, was France's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1579 to 1584. We do not know much about him before his embassy in Constantinople. Compared to his predecessors, he lacked the destinction that the ambassador in Constantinople often held. François de Noailles and Gilles de Noailles were both members of the king's privy council, and they were seasoned ambassadors, holding positions in England, Venice, and Rome before Constantinople. Gilles was even a member of Henri's retinue during his bief tenure as the King of Poland (1573-1574). He was active in France's relationship with the Ottomans in some fashion beginning at least twenty years before he was named ambassador. In the 1550s, he was part of the French retnue in charge of affaires at the Porte between ambassadors. He made quite the impression on ambassador for his veracity and relationships at the court, perhaps, however, not in the way he would have liked: “one named Germigny...who has had the audacity five or six times and even yesterday to find himself with the Pasha to undermine me (faire de menées contre moi).”1M. de la Vigne to Henri II, Quoted in Charrière, Negociations de la France dans le Levant, vol. 2, 460-61n1 So, what he lacked in distinction, he made up for in experience and familiarity in Constantinople.

Between his position in the ambassadorial retinue in the 1550s and his embassy, we know very little. By the 1570s he returned to France. What is clear is that he became a client of the Cardinal George d'Armagnac. According to the Cardinal, he also found himself in Marseille employed in the service of the Marshall Damville around 1575 and 1576, but it was his relationship with Armagnac that projected him to the position of ambassador. In 1576, the Cardinal wrote to Henri III, Catherine de Medici (the Queen Mother), the Cardinal of Bourbon, and Nicolas Seigneur de Villeroy (scretary of State).2“Lettre de Cardinal d'Armagnac en faveur de Monsieur de Germigny au Roy, 22 August 1576” in L'Illustre Orandale (Lyon: Pierre Cusset, 1662), 74; “Cardinal d'Armagnac à la Reyne, 22 August 1576” L'Illustre Orbandale, 75; “Cardinal d'Armagnac à Cardinal de Bourbon, 22 August 1576” L'Illustre Orbandale, 76; “Cardinal d'Armagnac à Monsieur de Villeroy, 22 August 1576” L'Illustre Orbandale, 76. Armagnac specifically thought Germigny would be very useful to the King's service in Constantinople. As he wrote, “I have also employed him, and recognizing the strength of his spirit, I rejoice from the resolution your majestey took to send him to the Levant, for the assurance that I make, not only the satisfaction you will take from it, but that he will bring great advantage to all Christianity.”3Lettre de Cardinal d'Armagnac en faveur de Monsieur de Germigny au Roy, 22 August 1576,” 74

Despite the Cardinal's patronage, Germigny's appointment as the ambassador in Constantinople is still puzzling. The Memoires of Auguste de Thou provide some explanation. He suggests the depleted French treasury led to the selection of an individual of Germigny's stature.De Thou, Histoire Universelle, vol. 6, 247. There is likely merit to such a suggestion since the king explained to the Marshall de Damville that he was stretching his treasury to fund the voyages of Germigny as well as his counterpart in Portugal.Henri III to Marshall de Damville, 15 February 1579, Paris, Lettres de Henri III, vol. 4, 147.

Nevertheless, his familiarity with Ottoman politics made itself apparent through his tenure. He renegotiated the economic agreement between France and the Ottoman Empire known as the Capitulations in 1581. Perhaps more importantly, he developed close relationships with members of the Mediterranean political faction in Constantinople (a group that hoped to keep the Ottoman Empire involved in Mediterranean politics) as well as other individuals sympathetic to France's anti-Spanish cause.4Germigny to Henri III, 24 May 1580, in Recueil des Pièces, extraites sur les originaux de la Negotiation de Mr. De Germigny, de Chalon sur Saone, Baron de Germoles, Conseiller du Roy, et son ambassadeur à la Porte du Grand Seigneur (Lyon : Pierre Cusset, 1671), 21-22.