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

A Network Analysis of a French Ambassador's Letters


The years from 1580 to 1584 provided France's King, Henri III (r. 1574-1589), a respite from the series of religious wars that plagued his country. Peace came in 1580, and it held until 1584. It was one of the longest periods of peace between the crown and the Huguenots from 1562 to 1589. At the same time, Henri III's brother François Duke of Anjou began supporting the Dutch Revolt against Spain. This posed a particular problem for France. The active participation of the the King's brother against Spain could prompt Philip II, King of Spain, to attack France in retribution.

Out of caution from such an outcome, Henri III began to firm up France's international position. He and the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, sought a marriage alliance with Queen Elizabeth, and they reinvigorated their relationship with the Ottoman Empire. Certainly, this was not all out of fear. France and Spain had been long-time rivals, and the idea of separating the Netherlands from the Spanish monarchy was in France's best interest, but open war with Spain was not. The alliance with England was to protect France in case war came. The alliance with the Ottoman Empire, the focus of this site, was intended to keep Spain occupied in the Mediterranean.

The first priority of the King's ambassador in Constantinople, Jacques de Germigny, was to keep the Ottoman Empire at war with Spain. It was no secret that conflict in the Mediterranen was one of Philip II's priorities, and Henri III was very aware of it. Philip II, however, was trying to negotiate a truce with the Sultan, so that he could better attend to the Dutch Revolt. Morevover, Philip II established his claim of the Portuguese throne during a succession crisis in 1580. If Henri III did not want to see Spain continue to dominate the Netherlands, he especially did not want to see Spain acquire Portugal and all of her colonies as well. The same situations that made Spain desire peace in the Mediterranean caused France to desire conflict in the region.

Germigny, thus, had a tough road ahead of him. He was expected to disrupt the truce negotiations between Spain and the Ottoman Empire and provoke further conflict between the two. By analyzing the letters of the ambassador, we can understand how he invisioned the Ottoman Empire's place in this complicated web of European politics.