What was the British Perception of the Turk between the Fall of Constantinople and the Siege of Vienna?

What was the British Perception of the Turk between the Fall of Constantinople and the Siege of Vienna?

By Henry Hopwood-Phillips

Published Online (2012)


But every fool describes in these bright days
His wondrous journey to some foreign court
And spawns his quarto and demands his praise
Byron, Don Juan (5.51)



In assessing the British perception of the Turk during the halcyon centuries of the Ottoman Empire, it is hard not to drown in a cacophony of opinions. However, it would be simply too convenient to claim that the sources were too contradictory and fluid; the patterns too faint and far between, to construct a decent argument. The reasoning behind the medley of views is to be found in Protagoras’ maxim that ‘man is the measure of all things’. In other words the Turks’ unstable identity was due to the fluctuating standards, values and identities of Britain’s own image. Whilst Britain’s prospective identity was forged by competing factions, it projected a series of wants on to what the Turk should be as an ‘other’ or a partner, and in return it received a jumbled muddled image that reflected its own diverse needs. Such a heterogeneous picture of wants, needs, interpretations and attempts at understanding is best understood chronologically, however, one factor, Islam, is considered thematically, en bloc, because it formed a constant rather than a transient aspect of the Turkish identity.



Whilst the perception of Islam by British writers can boast of a long history, stretching as far back as Bede, Offa and pilgrims such as Willibald. The Turk, on the other hand, as separate from the older ‘Saracen’ and ‘Moorish’ identities, was not properly digested by the British people, as opposed to merely the royal and clerical circles and despite Chaucer’s references to ‘Turkey’, until the fifteenth century. The British intellectual spheres took even longer; no thinker referred to the Turk as a central theme of his writings before Thomas More. In the century that lapsed between the Fall of Constantinople and More, no real interest was taken in the Turks due to the consolidation of the kingdom following the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses. However, successive ballads, sermons, pilgrims’ pamphlets and foreign accounts had introduced the Turks to the English as the ‘new’ infideles, fidei hostes or barbari led by their crudelis et sanguinarius carnifex or teterrima bestia, the spurcissimus ille Turchorum dux. These first perceptions survived the creation of the Anglican Church and the Reformation in which the concept of the crusade was transformed from a romanticised religious duty into a tool of oppression that could and would be used as a weapon in the catholic armoury against their supposed heresy. These first perceptions even survived the realpolitik that forced Elizabeth to look to the Ottomans for support against Spain, simply becoming a more distant, older, anathema alongside the closer more recent Catholic one. Even men as well travelled as Richard Hakluyt delighted in confirming the ‘terrible Turk’ stereotype by throwing long sentimental lines out into the darkness of history to emphasise the English role in the epic conflict of Christendom against Islam. In this passage he reminisces about how ‘John the sonne of Alexius Comnenus… highly esteeming [the English guards] fidelity, used them very nere about him, recommending them… so that long afterwards the guard of those Emperours were English halberdiers’.(2)


The fear and hatred for the Turk only cooled, ironically, in the reign of James I, a king who took his Christian duties far more seriously than his immediate predecessors. Though increasing trade and diplomatic relations contributed to this trend piracy was the main reason. With the cessation of the Spanish war Britons were deprived of letters of marque and found common ground with the Turks plundering the high seas and living anarchic lifestyles along the Barbary coastline. Travellers’ and slaves’ accounts replaced pilgrim pamphlets, and plays with Turkish themes became popular. Some rebel scholars, admiring the meritocratic nature, toleration and efficiency of Turkish despotism, openly disputed the orthodox interpretation of the Turks as tools of the antichrist and rejected the mainstream classical interpretation of Herodotus’ and George of Trezibond’s dichotomy of Asia versus Europe which Nicholas V had incorporated into his Ad defenda pro Europa Hellesponti claustra (1452), instead preferring to appreciate the resemblance of Turcae, Teucri or Turchi to Troiani; an suspiciously convenient find considering the fact that Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regnum Britanniae contained the fact that Brutus, great-grandson of Aeneas: ‘came to the river Thames, he walked along the banks till he found the very spot best fitted to his purpose. He therefore founded his city there and called it New Troy…’(3)

A find which apparently made the English and Turks brothers in the future translatio imperii that was to follow the revenge of their kin in the fall of Constantinople. This sympathy for the Turk peaked with the Civil War, before and after which Members of Parliament tabled motions that suggested imitating aspects of Turkish government.

This potpourri of fear and sympathy and all the emotions in between is typical of the mid-sixteenth century English reaction to the Ottoman advance. Reality, often full of mixed truths and appearances, is unreasonable, deceptive, and complicated. Some writers wrote in a medieval mindset that categorised experiences by scholastic markers, whilst others operated in a more rationalist mode, whilst others such as T. Dallam had no agenda at all other than survival. So it must come as no surprise that there was no unanimous conclusion on the Turk. The fluidity of perception was largely due to England’s own mercurial character of the time. G. Maclean posits that the most common umbrella emotion was ‘imperial envy’ yet many British would have objected at the thought of an empire with all the ‘cultural pollution, miscegenation or religious conversion’ that accompanied it. Homi Bhabba confirms that ‘the question of identification is never the affirmation of a pre-given identity, never a self-fulfilling prophecy – it is always the production of an ‘image’… The demand of identification – that is, to be for an Other…’ (4)

As the power of the Ottomans waned and that of Britain waxed after the siege of Vienna, Britain’s image was fixed by its Civil War, its Glorious Revolution, its victory at Blenheim and its empire in America, and so the Turk’s was fixed, namely as an oppressed, slavish, ignorant, backward, lazy, covetous, licentious, barbaric, cruel, proud people. This damning conclusion was mainly the product of the newly pre-eminent mode of thinking: Rationalism, juxtaposed by a Populism that nevertheless shared its conclusions. So that whilst previously the Turkish belief in fate or predestination had been interpreted as a sign of ‘courage, modesty and faithfulness during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it was transformed in the eighteenth to explain their indifference, inactivity and laziness’.(5)


As the balance of power shifted from the Ottomans to Britain E. Said’s Orientalist thesis becomes increasingly relevant. That is to say before 1683 it was almost entirely irrelevant. This is because, firstly, the theory entirely ignored the fact that western hegemony didn’t become apparent until the mid-eighteenth century, perhaps even later, secondly, it was written with an imperial teleology in mind – almost as a pre-history to colonial times, and thirdly, it applied static monolithic impressions to events and in doing so threatened to create an Occident where there was none.


Chapter I: Islam

One alien factor fundamental to the Turks’ identity that stretched unchanged from 1453 to 1683 was his religion, Islam. Islam had existed for centuries but had not posed a direct danger to the European hinterlands since being crushed by Charles Martel at Tours in AD 732.(6) The Turks, however, appeared to lend a new militancy to Islam. So fundamental was the Islamic identity of the Turk to the British that phrases such as ‘infidel’ and ‘pagans’ were instantly identifiable with the Turk and the phrase ‘to turn Turk’, apparently coined at the beginning of the sixteenth century, meant to turn Muslim. William Davies recounted such a ‘Turk-Turning’ ceremony in which a convert literally made the world of Christianity topsy-turvy:

He is put on a horse with his face towards the tayle, and a Bow and an Arrow in his hand, then the picture of Christ is carried before him and his feete upwards, at the which he drawes his bow with the Arrow therein, and thus he rideth to the place of Circumcision, cursing his father that begate him, and his mother than bore him, his Country, and all his kindred.(7)


Most early British perceptions were, as on the continent, based on the crusading chronicles by men such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Geoffroy de Villehardouin and John of Salisbury, as well as the European epics such as El Cid, Don Quixote, the Lusiads, the Song of Roland and Orlando Furioso. The first Latin translation of the Qur’an had been published in 1143 by Robert of Ketton for Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, and later Bibliander’s edition was often used. However, since the majority of Europeans were barely literate, the four main texts which captured the clergy’s imagination had the largest impact on popular European and thus English perceptions of Islam. The texts are worth specifying. Firstly, the apocalyptic Revelations of Pseudo Methodius, composed in Syria in the late seventh century was translated into Latin by the early eighth century. Its main message was that a world-emperor would defeat the Ishmaelites and restore the glory of Rome, after which Gog and Magog and the Antichrist would arrive and hail the ‘Last Days’ before Christ’s return. Secondly, John of Damascus’ Fountain of Wisdom: a theological treatise which included the damned Mohammad as a false prophet. Thirdly, Dante’s Inferno contained a description of how Mohammad roasted in eternal torment amongst the sowers of discord. Fourthly, Pedro Alfonsi’s Dialogi contra Iudaeos portrayed Mohammad as a greedy lustful impostor.

The majority of those who did bother to read the Qur’an (it was not published in England until 1649) were not impressed. When translated, the book appeared to corrupt the biblical stories and seemed full of bombast and platitudes. Sir Thomas Browne rather uncharitably remarked that it was ‘an ill-composed piece containing in it Vain and ridiculous errors in Philosophy, impossibilities, fictions, and vanities beyond laughter’.(8) In the Arabist William Bedwell’s Mohammedis Imposturae (1615) one of the protagonists, a converted sheikh, Sinan, demonstrates to Dr Ahmed that the essential points of faith are in the gospels and that the Qur’an merely adds personal anecdotes of Mahomet, some real but most the products of his imagination. Even after 1649 there was still much misunderstanding about the Qur’an such as the belief that the edition used by their Turkish contemporaries was a corruption of that written down by Mahomet. S. Chew reckoned that this belief was a ‘misstatement which seems to be a distortion of the Moslem opinion that only the Arabic text is inspired and that all a translation can do is convey the general meaning’.(9)

With such an understanding of Islam it was not surprising that the Earl of Stirling lamented how:

The Eastern Churches first did embrace
And drew their faith from foundations that were pure,
What famous Doctours, singular for grace,
Have clear’d those parts, though at this time obscure?
What glorious Martyrs crowning there their race,
The fyrie tryall, gold-like did endure?
To thinke of them my soule for anguish groanes;
Ah, that base Turkes should tread upon their bones!(10)


Nor surprising that Mr Stamp, commented of the once Christian Queen of Cities in 1609: ‘Istanbul is in the forme of a Triangle inn circule 15 myles, seated upon seaven hills, and therefore some would have the seate of the Anti-Christe’.(11) Britons wondered what else the Turks could be – other than the antichrist’s minions – if they had, as John Sanderson reported, scraped off most of the mosaics of Hagia Sophia with their fingernails and, in 1625, even whitewashed some. Many could not understand how anybody could convert to such a peculiar sect without being under the influence of the Antichrist. The accepted background to Islam was a mixture of myth and truth. Many believed that the Muslims were not only Ismaelites or Agarenes, the spawn of Hagar, but that further back they were also descendants of Cain. According to The Policy of the Turkish Empire (anon. 1597) Mohammed’s father had been Abdallas and his mother a Jew called Cadige. According to the Levant Company’s chaplain William Biddulph, only the boy’s ‘subtill and crafty nature and disposition’ had enabled him to overcome the ‘baseness of his birth’. Having acquired money and status by marrying his dead master’s wealthy widow, he had sought to rise by conjuring ‘a new kinde of Doctrine’. Assisted by a ‘Sergius a fugitive monke of the Arrian sect’ he patched up a doctrine by ‘depraving’ elements of Arianism and Judaism.(12) Its new and seemingly arbitrary laws were explained by impulsive incidents. According to George Whetstone in The English Myrror, while the prophet lay in a drunken slumber Sergius was murdered hence the law against alcohol. In the Chanson de Roland swine and dogs devour the idol Mahumet hence their designation as ‘unholy’ animals. And because Mohammad liked the colour green, Christians wearing the colour would have to suffer ‘the Turks cut it from his back, and beat him, and ask him how he dare presume to wear Mahomet’s colour’.(13)

The ‘rationalist’ types were no less harsh. Blount dismissed the religion, on a rational basis as a ‘daintie fruit growing out of a Dung Hill… the vertues of vulgar minds are of so base a nature as must bee manured with foolish hopes and fears, as being too grosse for the finer instruments of reason’.(14)  Edward Brerewood also critiqued the spread of Islam on a rationalist basis:

It hath ever beene the condition of the conquered, to follow for the most part the religion of the conquerors. A second, their peremptory restraint (even on paine of death) of all disputation touching their religion… A third, their suppression of the study of Philosophy… A fourth cause… the sensuall liberty…’(15)

This theme of ‘sensuall liberty’ refers to the apparent rights of men over women within Islam and is discussed by the bluff Scotchman William Lithgow. Lithgow writes ‘their wives are not fare from the like servitude, for the men by the Alcoran, are admitted to marry as many women as they will, or their ability can keep. And if it shall happen, that any one of these women (Wife or Concubine) proftituteth her selfe on an other man besides her Husband; then may he by authority, binde her hands and feet, hang a stone about her neck, and cast her into a River, which is usually done in the night. But when these infidels please to abuse poore Christian women against their Husbands will, they little regard the transgression of the Christian Law; who as well defloure their Daughters, as their Wives; yet the devout Mahometans never meddle with them’.(16)  Harry Cavendish, a visitor to Constantinople in 1589 noted the sexual hypocrisy of the Turks: ‘No Crystyan may have to doe wythe a Turkshe woman, but he shall dye for yt yf yt be known, but a Turk may have as many Crystyan women as he wyll’.(17) And women were not enough apparently. William Lithgow, Richard Knolles, J. B. Gramaye and Meredith Hanmer all refer to what the Samuel Purchas called that sin which is ‘most rife amongst them…the most filthie and unnatural kind of sodomy’.(18) Thomas Sandler also referred to Richard Burges and James Smith being forcibly circumcised and dressed ‘in the habite of a Turke’ to satisfy the ruler’s lusts.(19)

Sir John Mandeville mocked the materialism and carnality of the Mohammedans’ heaven. Robert Withers noted that barely one in twenty understood what the imam said ‘for they do pray in an unknown tongue as well as the papists do’.(20) Lithgow ridiculed the supposed racial harmony of Islam for though the ‘Turkish priests are for the most part Moores’ the Turks believe them to ‘be a base people in respect of themselves, calling them Totseks’.(21) Thomas Coryate scorned the dervishes in Istanbul who performed ‘the strangest exercises of Devotion that ever I saw or heard of… a very ridiculous and foolish musicke’.(22) Many were shocked by the bellicosity of the doctrine of jihad, the lustiness of polygamy and the lack of miracles. Gabriel Harvey reckoned ‘they cannot laugh long, that make the Devil laugh and Christe weepe’.(23) Biddulph, always spirited, sniggered, did not Islam’s own prophet foretell how Mohammad would ‘return at the end of 1,000 yeeres and bring them to paradise?… Mahomet’s coming to judgment was expected 20 yeeres since… which time expiring, and he not coming… they will look for him no longer nor believe in him any more, but become Christians’.(24) So confident, in fact, were the English that Islam was inferior to their own creed, when political realities would have suggested anything but, that Henry Marsh was able to write to Charles II in 1663 that ‘if he [the sultan] were to chuse his God, or his Religion, he would chuse the King of England’s’.(25)


Chapter II: Medieval

Crusading can hardly be deemed a major element of fifteenth century English foreign policy and yet the moral obligation and its weight on the consciences of successive kings certainly existed. As far back as Henry IV’s reign, the English lawyer, Adam of Usk wrote

 ‘I thought within myself, what a grevious thing it was that this great Christian prince from the farthest east should perforce be driven by unbelievers to visit distant islands of the west, to seek aid against them. My God! What dost thou, ancient glory of Rome?’ (26)

Henry IV himself had journeyed to the Holy Land and ‘crusaded’ in Prussia. Henry V, whose aunt Joan Beaufort had lent him Les Cronikels de Jerusalem et de Viage de Godfray de Boylion in his youth performed a reconnaissance of the Holy Land whilst subjugating France, and according to Enguerrand de Monstrelet used his dying breath, when the priest came to ‘Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion, ut aedificentur muri Jerusalem’, to interrupt that it had always been his true aim to liberate the Holy City, and so died, like St Louis, with the name of Jerusalem on his lips.(27)

The year Constantinople fell, Henry VI’s mental health broke down and the English were dealt a coup de grace at Chastillon leaving their empire in France in ruins. Thomas Gascoigne, chancellor of Oxford University, recorded that ‘in this yere, which was the yere of Ower Lord God MCCCCLIII was the Citie of Constantyn the noble lost by Cristen men, and wonne by the Prynce of the Turkes names Mahumet’.(28)

The Grafton Chronicle, more dramatically recorded that

‘the detestable murder of men, the abhominable and cruell slaughter of children, the shamefull rauishment of women and Virgins, which were perpetrate and done by vnmerciful Pagans and cruell Turkes, I assure you that your eares would abhore the herring, and your eyes not abyde the readyingm and therefore I passé them ouer’.(29)

And soon enough ‘Turk’ was being used as a term of abuse. Edward IV accused Henry VI’s henchmen of ‘such cruelness as has not been heard done among Turks to christen men’.(30) When Henry VI recovered in the Christmas of 1454 he proclaimed his willingness to ‘risk the whole strength of his realm in behalf of the catholic faith’(31), and although this was definitely diplomatic hyperbole, he was certainly trying to live up to the ideal of a good Catholic prince in a turbulent England that only a few years later would collapse into civil war.

Popular ballads, lamenti and apocryphal accounts delivered by minstrels, pedlars, tinkers, pilgrims and mendicants as well as the twelve indulgence campaigns between 1444 and 1502 by the Church made the fall of Constantinople renowned amongst the English people. Some must have come into contact with Greek emigrants such as Nicholas Agallon, John Jerarchis, Thomas Eparchos and George Diplovatatzes.(32) According to one chronicler, William Gregory

In every toune and cytte… men that were confessyd gaffe mony unto the Pope to mayntayny hys warrys agayne the Turke… and throughe they londe of Ingelonde every man was fayne to do and gyffe aftyr hyr power.(33)

‘Four lik as oure princes and lordes spyleth and robbeth per suggettus and doth daily, euen so God suffereth per ethen princes to robb and spoile our lordes and princes… In qua mensura qua mensi fueritis, remiceitur vobis’.(34)

The election of Pius II coincided with the arrival in England of an ‘itinerant priest’ from Hungary scaremongering by publicising three letters purporting to be correspondence between the Sultan of Egypt and Calixtus III outlining the danger of the Turkish threat to Hungary. When the Congress of Mantua proved unsuccessful the papal envoy pointed out to Henry VI at Coventry in 1459 that ‘the growing Ottoman pressure on the Danube presented a potential danger to the Rhine and hence directly to English interests’.(35) But both the papal envoy’s, Francesco Coppini, pleas fell on the deaf ears of both Lancastrian and Yorkist dynasties because it was general knowledge that both Pope and envoy were Yorkist partisans until 1461 (ironically when the Yorkist victory was achieved at Towtown and Edward IV succeeded the throne) when the succession of pro-Lancastrian Louis XI in France forced the Pope to change his tack. When still no substantial aid was forthcoming, Pius II confessed that he ‘held out no hope’ from England as a major component in his crusading plans.(36)

That was not to say the crusading spirit from below was dead. The brilliant defence of Belgrade by the ‘white knight’ Hunyadi and the fiery Franciscan Capistrano offered a beacon of hope and we know was celebrated in Oxford because Thomas Gascoigne documents the occasion. Even with the dramatic change in crusading factors, what with the jealousies of nationalism, the spread of Humanism, the replacement of the attack on Holy Land against Saracens with the defence of the Christian commonwealth against the Turk, the reduction of the papacy’s temporal power to the Italian sphere, the usurpation of attention from the central states of Germany, France and England to the border states of Poland, Hungary and Italy, Englishmen still felt that their consciences could be unburdened by volunteering themselves or donating money and men to either the Knightly Orders (such as Religio Passionis Jhesu), the Papacy or the border states. This attitude was reflected by royalty. When Richard III learnt of a Hungarian victory over the Ottomans the previous autumn he said ‘I wish that my kingdom lay upon the confines of Turkey; with my own people alone and without the help of other princes I should like to drive away not only the Turks but all my foes’.(37) It was an age still influenced by the likes of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur in which under ‘King Constantine’s’ reign Sir Bors, Sir Blamore, Sir Ector and Sir Bleoberis ‘did many battles upon the miscreants and Turks. And there they died upon a Good Friday for God’s sake’.(38)

In the 1480s the news trickled to England that the Turks had killed 13,000 citizens of Otranto and sawn in two their aged archbishop, Stefano de Agercula Pendinelli, at the altar. Happier news of Rhodes was heralded by the poet laureate John Kay’s edition (1483) of Guilluame de Caoursin’s Obsidionis Rhodiae Urbis. He wrote, with a sense of relief ‘Jhesu cryste our redemptour would not let his crysten people to be put into lenger peyne… he hath retrayte & withdrawen hys rodde: as a kind fathyr to hys dere childryn’.(39) With its dramatic woodcut illustration the book became an immediate bestseller and paved the way for two editions of Mandeville’s Travels (1496 and 1499).

In light of Henry VII’s frugal and lacklustre reign recovering from the civil war and neurotically avoiding what he considered to be the machinations of Alexander VI, it is unsurprising that he failed to live up to William Caxton’s stated purpose in the preface of his edition of Godrey de Bouillon urging him to join a crusade. Instead, his main contribution to fighting the Turk was sending off much of the money he had accumulated from his inventive tax schemes. In fairness, so much was sent that he was made the honorary Protector of the Order St John of Jerusalem and Rhodes.

Cracks in the easy categorisation of the Turk as an evil infidel only worth killing began to show on the continent. Erasmus famously lectured against the crusades in books such as Utilissima Consultatio de bello contra Turcos inferendo (1530) which highlighted the gross distortion of Christian values in the ideal of chivalry, the sheer physical and moral damage crusades perpetrated and the anathema to Christian concord, the libido dominandi, crusading appealed to. His conclusion that the best way to deal with the Turks was to convert them, was both revolutionary and controversial. Such a solution implied that the cultural and ethnic Turk could be considered material for redemption rather than the sword.(40) It was Englishmen such as Thomas More who defended the orthodox approach. More, writing only a couple of years after the catastrophe of Mohacs, insisted that

‘Bothe nature and reason and goddyes byheste fyrste the prynce to the saugarde of hys peple with the parell of hym selfe as he taught Moyses to know hym selfe bounden to kyll the Egypcyans in defence of Hebrewe and after he byndeth euery man to the helpe and defence of his good & harmles neyghbour agynst the malcye and cruelty of the wronge doer. For as the holy scripture saythe unicuique dedit dues curam de proximo suo god hath gyuen euery man charge of his neyghhbour to kepe hym frome harme of body and soule as moche as may lye in his power’ (41)

And that this was especially true where ‘mennys soules’ were at stake against the Turk. This idea of the Turk as a spiritual infector resonated with Richard Grafton, translator of Antoine Geuffroy’s History of Turkish Conquests (1542), the first book to be published in England on the Ottoman Empire, who wrote ‘where as other adders doe onlye corrupte the bodies, this hell viper with his forked fierye tongue hathe perced even the verye soules of menne’. (42)

Henry VIII, victor of the Cloth of Gold, liked to portray himself as a crusader-king, though he had a penchant for the odd Turkish turban, carpet or banquet. In the summer of 1511 in response to an appeal by Ferdinand of Aragon who had occupied Oran, Henry VIII sent Lord Darcy with one thousand five hundred men.(43) The popular translation by Pynson of Flowers of the History of the East reflected this new heightened crusading fervour. Henry VIII’s image as a paragon of the noble knight and Catholic king famously climaxed with the conferring of the title of Fidei Defensor upon him by Leo X in 1521. The Reformation changed all that. It was no coincidence that Thomas More wore a small red cross, the symbol of crusaders since 1265, to his death, and that the key symbols of the Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Devonshire, Cornish and Northern Earl revolts was the very same cross. The cross had become a symbol of civil disobedience. Suddenly the English were no longer part of the Christian commonwealth in the Catholic sense. The crusading scheme that the English had fought under for centuries was discredited as foreign and ‘papist’. This volte face is no better illustrated than the fact Henry VIII felt bound to disband the English langue in the Knights of St John. The English openly disputed and vilified the corrupt catholic penitential and indulgence systems as well as papal authority. In the centuries that followed England’s identity became very volatile and the perception of the Turk with it.


Chapter III: Elizabethan and Jacobean

One event concurrent with the fall of Constantinople had been the liberation of Spain from centuries under the Moor, however, in light of the Reformation, this news, which should have been good, after the failure of Mary’s marriage, became a dire portent. Soon enough England began to consider itself as wedged between a rock and a hard-plate as far as Catholicism and Islam were concerned.  The single most important factor after the schism with Rome in the perception of the Turk as a lesser evil was the fact that trade and diplomacy had developed with the infidel. Englishmen had been trading on a small scale in the Mediterranean for a long time. Adam Anderson, writing in 1764 noted that ‘the first instance… of Englishmen trading to Morocco took place in 1413… out of this Trade to Barbary, sprung the Levant or Turkey Company…’.(44) Actual English residents in Constantinople before diplomatic relations appear to have been very few though. The names of two, William Dennis and William Malim, are known because they etched their names into monuments, and a third, Thomas Cotton, because he published a newsletter there. Later, Anthony Jenkinson, the famous merchant-traveller, was renowned for having secured trade rights from an audience with Suleyman in the 1550s.

Trade had originally gone through Venice, the clearing house of the Mediterranean, but when the Cape route was found by Portugal in 1499 Antwerp had become the main entrepôt.(45) Most trade between England and the Ottoman Empire consisted of tin, bell metal, rabbit skins and woollen goods in exchange for silks, carpets, spices, currants, sugar and other fruits. In the decade Between the 1560s and the 1570s internal disorders caused by both the Netherlands revolt and commercial squabbles meant that English access to the Levant was extremely restricted. In 1578 Sir Edward Obsorne and Richard Stapler sent an agent, William Harborne, to the sultan and managed to procure independent trading rights for the English. One major advantage Harborne had was the fact that England could supply the sultan munitions when other nations, because of the papal ban, could not. By 1580 Harborne had obtained the capitulations, a year later the Levant Company was founded, and two years later Elizabeth appointed him her ‘true and undoubted Orator, Messenger, Deputie, and Agent’.(46) A Customs duty of only three percent, which undercut rivals by two percent, virtually guaranteed profits.

In 1585 Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State, urged Harborne to turn the Ottomans against the Spanish ‘the limbs of the devil being thus set against another, by means therefore the true Church… grow to such strength as shall be requisite for the suppression of them both’.(47) Then Harborne warned Murad that the Spaniard, if unchecked, would ‘direct his invincible military forces toward your destruction and that of your empire’.(48) Francis Drake had also set about redeeming Turks out of captivity for political credit, which, if the testimony of Laurence Aldersey, a merchant in Patras, is to be believed, they certainly attained. The illegality of such interaction between Christian and infidel still figured as a ‘formule de chancellerie’ in European diplomacy. Alliances with the Turk had been concluded before, however, by Monarchs such as Francis I, so a healthy amount of hypocrisy from European Powers certainly figured in the universal condemnation Elizabeth received. After the armada was defeated, Elizabeth became more sensitive to her detractors who, as Captain Norris put it mildly ‘charged her Highness to be a favourer of Turks and infidels’.(49) Abroad, reports such as the fact that ‘five galleys from Barbary’ were apparently spotted amongst the English fleet that attacked Cadiz in 1596 and that Elizabeth’s letters to Murad III clearly sought to depict the Protestants as a group akin to Mohammedans rather than (Catholic) idol-worshippers made the Pope consider Elizabeth as little better than ‘confederate with the Turk’.(50) Englishmen, albeit for the most part Catholic Englishmen, abhorred her behaviour. The Jesuit Father Robert Parsons published a book in Lyons titled Responsio ad edictum Reginae Angliae (1592) saying as much. However, the government retort was not found wanting. Francis Walsingham soon replied to Parsons with the acerbic Observations on a Libel, Sir Richard Lee was instructed to assure the Tsar that Barton’s accompaniment of the Turkish army was forced and subsequently reproved, and Elizabeth wrote to Rudolph II complaining that ‘Nos, Christiani nominis Hostem teterrimum, Magnum Turcarum Dominatorem, concitasse ad bellum Christianis Princibus inferendum’.(51)

The English people actually felt the Christian solidarity often parodied by their leaders’ realpolitik. The English celebrated the failed siege of Malta in 1565. In Salisbury Cathedral they prayed

‘We thy disobedient and rebellious children, now by thy just judgment sore afflicted, by thine and our sworn enemies the Turks, Infidels and Miscreants, do make humble suit to the throne of thy grace for thy mercy’(52)

Parishioners in the diocese of Sarum seemed to have been in a less humble mood when they told God to smite the Ishmaelites ‘lest the Heathen and Infidels say “where is now their God?”’(53) England rejoiced with the rest of Catholic Europe at the victory of Lepanto in 1571 with bonfires, bells and sermons. At St. Martins-in-the-fields the ringers rang a great peal ‘at the overthrowe of the Tork’ for which they were paid 7d.(54) Just down the road at St. Pauls a sermon of thanksgiving was held to

‘Give thanks to almightie God for the victorie, which of his merciful clemence it had pleased him to grant… for a victorie of so great importance unto the whole state of Christian commonwealth.’(55)

Even died-in-wool Protestants such as Bishop Jewel, Dean Sutcliffe and George Fox wished for the saving of Catholics from the Turkish wrath. Hooker wrote that Catholics were Anglicans’ brothers in the Church and that by exaggeratedly praising Islam ‘we should be spreaders of a worse infection… than any we are likely to draw from papists’.(56)

The English reacted rather vehemently to the pro-Turkish ways of their Queen and aristocracy,(57) despite the fact that their government had not entered into diplomatic relations with the Porte till a hundred and thirty years after the fall of Constantinople.(58) There was an apparently bottomless appetite for polemics about the Turks. Since no English traveller had yet published, translations of Joannes Boemus’ Fardle of Factions and Andrea Cambini’s Two Commentaries became popular. Both books concurred with Nicole de Nicolay’s conclusion that life in Turkey ‘might better be called a life of brute beasts’.(59) One Englishman, translator of Curio’s Sarracanicae Historiae, Thomas Newton, called for a crusade against ‘this arrogant and bragging hell-hound’(60) and for all Christians to unite into a Christian League so ‘Constantinople might be again recovered and annexed to the Roman Empire… so that Sathanical crew of Turkish lurdens might be expulsed… out of all Europa’.(61) So anti-Turk was the mood, in fact, that the first Turkish envoy to arrive at court just eight years later, Mustapha, left an indelible mark on the English language. Since he was not an ambassador but a messenger, a ‘chiaus’ in Turkish, the word came to mean, mainly through theatre, to ‘cheat’.(62) Scare stories involving the cruel Turk were disseminated in ballads, folk-plays, sermons and even Punch-and-Judy. Cults of personalities also began to rise through theatre of epic anti-Turk figures such as Sir Thomas Stukely, who had commanded three galleys at Lepanto and died at the battle of al-Kasr el-Kebir along with King Sebastian of Portugal. Plays such as Robert Greene’s Famous History of the Life and Death of Captain Thomas Stukely (1596) and George Peele’s Battle of Alcazar (1591) have Stukely boasting before the battle ‘when you come to action, you shall look after me, and shall see manifestly that Englishmen are no cowards’.(63) Men such as Sir Richard Grenville (of Tennyson’s The Revenge fame) and Thomas Arundell, who was made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire for his efforts, were celebrated for their Turk-bashing antics. Parallels were found on the stage between the poor Mamelukes swallowed up by the superpower Turks and their own plight with Spain in George Salterne’s Latin Tomunbeius sive Sultanici in Aegypta Imperii Eversio.

Sensing the hatred and fear of the Turk, a Protestant divine, William Gravet, chose to blend both Christian and Muslim enemies into one common English enemy. Emphasising how good Britons such as William Lithgow and Edward Webbe had been tortured by Catholics he noted ‘the pope’s supremacy and Mahumet’s sect began both about one time and that was somewhat more than six hundred years after Christ’ and therefore ‘Mahumetism may go cheek by jowl with them’ down to hell and ignominy of course.(64) But some openly disputed this conclusion and wished to prioritise. William Forde, at the sermon of Lady Anne Glover in Istanbul, said ‘The Turke permitteth Christ’s Gospel to be preached; the Pope condemnith it to the racke and inquisition; who is the better man?’(65)

Even as the century closed the ambivalence over which was more depraved, Turk or Catholic, manifested itself even at government level. Sir Robert Cecil wrote to Sir George Carew that, as much as he loathed the infidel, he still wished Spain ill success in their crusade, though again qualified the remark with though ‘in Christianity I may not wish a Heathen prosperity’.(66) King James I had no such qualms, however. He held that all Christians, no matter how mislead, were above Turks. He refused to receive a Turkish embassy or sign trade agreements, in the early years of his reign, because it did ‘not befit a Christian Prince’. He composed a poem on Lepanto in which ‘the baptiz’d race’ fought the ‘circumcised turbaned Turks’ and the resulting victory was a ‘wondrous work of God’.(67) The assumption was that if God rewarded Catholics such victories ipso facto God’s support for the Church of England would be even surer. Francis Bacon even compared the victory to Actium. There were some who disagreed such as the historian Richard Knolles, the first Englishman to write a major English history of the Turks, who echoed the Sultan’s remarks that ‘Defeat there was to the Turks like he loss of a beard, but to Venice, the loss of Cyprus was like the loss of an arm’(68) but such comments went unheeded.

With the cessation of hostilities with Spain in 1604, James I presided over one of the worst unemployment crises that Elizabeth had largely stemmed through licensed piracy and supporting the Netherlands in their wars. The Humanist dismantling of the chivalric ideal and its de facto replacement by a more Machiavellian attitude created an increasingly complex degenerate society in which common soldiers, conscripted and disbanded at will, were given no mark of respect. They were, as Robert Barret wrote in 1598, ‘corrupt weeds’ and the ‘scumme of their countrie’.(69) This devaluing of military service and lack of major wars, until 1618, drove many into the ‘occupation’ of piracy. Captain Harris, justified piracy with the tongue-in-cheek explanation that ‘our most royall Soueraigne, and his prudent and graue counsel, on approued considerations best knowne to his grace and the state, and not requisite for us that are subjects to enquire, hath lessend by this generall peace the flourishing imployment, that we seafaring men do bleede for at sea’.(70) Captain Ward echoed the same sentiments that conflated piracy and patriotism during his first successful mutiny on the royal vessel HMS Lion’s Whelp in which he recounted ‘When the whole sea was our empire, when we robbed at will, and the world but our garden where we walked for sport’.(71) In fact, so many British mariners were engaged in piracy that the Venetian ambassador in London reported how they had defiantly ‘refused to accept the pardon offered them by the king. They say that in the present state of peace they could not maintain themselves in England’.(72) The Earl of Northampton had to advise against sending an ambassador to Persia by sea ‘so as to avoid sending him with English ships and sailors, who so often turn pirate in remote countries’.(73) In these ‘remote countries’ men such as Samson Rowlie, a Bristol merchant by birth, had risen to become Treasurer of Algiers, Sampson Denball had risen to admiral of the galleons of Youssef Dey, men such as Captain Ward, Captain Nutt and Ambrose Sayer ruled the waves and hundreds of English operated as ‘goldsmiths, plummers, carvers and polishers of stone, and watchmakers’ in Morocco.(74) Captain John Smith despaired that the English were imparting their ship-building and navigational skills to the infidel who would otherwise have been ‘as weak and ignorant at sea as the silly Eithopian is in handling arms on land’.(75)

General antipathy to the Turk did not wane, however. Two of the three Sherley brothers, Anthony and Robert, gained considerable influence at the Persian courts where they recommended an offensive on the Turks. Meanwhile, Thomas Shirley, the youngest, was jailed for engaging in a sea-campaign against the Turk and spent much of his life in gaol condemning his captors as ‘the most inhumane of all other barbarians’ in his polemic Discors of the Turks before being released.(76) Many anti-Turkish plays and pageants were shown. One royal pageant had the ‘English navie’ rescuing the impotent catholic Venetian and Spanish ships and subsequently ‘chase this off-scumme Scithian brood from you and youre lands’ and expel ‘Proud Ottoman, too dangerous a neighbour neare to dwell’.(77) The number of plays released was vast: Robert Greene’s Alphonsus (1588) and Orlando Furioso (1589) Thomas Kyd’s Soliman and Perseda (1599), Thomas Dekker’s Lust’s Dominion (1600), Thomas Heywood’s The Fair Maid of the West (1602), Thomas Goffe’s The Courageous Turk (1618) and the Raging Turk (1618), John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The Knight of Malta (1618), Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s All’s Lost by Lust (1620) and even an opera, William Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes (1656). Their Elizabethan precursor, Shakespeare, had expressed very anti-Turkish sentiments. Henry V assured Katherine, daughter of the defeated Charles VI, that their son would be a young lion who ‘shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard’.(78) Richard III answered fears about arbitrary executions with the exclamation ‘What? Thinke you we are Turkes or infidels?’ Hamlet pondered ‘if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me’.(79) Othello is portrayed as a religiously unstable lusty dupe whose soul Iago reckoned ‘she [Desdemona] may make, unmake, do what she list, / Even as her appetite shall play the god / With his weak function’.(80) Marlowe’s Tamburlaine presents ‘Timur the Lame’ as a deux ex machina against the rushing tide of Islam. And in the Jew of Malta Christian courage is commended and Turkish barbarity emphasised in the siege of Rhodes: ‘Small thought the number was that kept the town/ They fought it out and not a man survived/ To bring the hapless news to Christendom.’(81)

In the seventeenth century, Daborne’s A Christian Turned Turk confused circumcision with castration and made Muslim women such as Voada sexually-repressed and therefore overtly sexual:(82) ‘I have not seene so much beauty in a man…/ I must enjoy his love, though quenching of my lust did burn / The world besides’ and made Captain Ward, counterfactually, die a renegade’s death repenting ‘Oh may, oh may the force of Christendome/ Be reunited, and all at once require/ The lives of all that you have murdered, / Beating a path out to Jerusalem, / Over the bleeding breasts of you and yours… Let Dying Ward tell you that heaven is just/ And that dispaire attends on bloud and lust’.(83) Kyd’s Soliman and Perseda and Massinger’s Renegado both ridicule the materialism and carnality of the false religion. In the former Basilico converts for Perseda, in the latter Francisco warns Vitelli of ‘these Turkish dames/ (like English mastiffs that increase their fierceness/ By being chained up), from the restraint of freedom/… enjoy their wanton ends’(84) and Gazet’s response to Paulina threatening to turn Turk is ‘Most of your tribe do so, / When they begin in whore’.(85) In fact, Britons such as Robert Johnson grew so worried at the risks of cultural, racial and religious contamination that they advocated conquering the West Indies and Americas instead. Whilst others such as John Lyly insisted that Britain was merely part of a proto-globalisaton movement in which ‘the whole world is become a hodgepodge’.(86) ‘Contamination’ did not work only one-way of course and there are records of Turks such as ‘Chinano’ and ‘John Baptista’ converting to Anglicanism.


Chapter IV: Civil War

As early as 1608 Sir Henry Lello opined that the Ottoman Empire was in decline. George Sandys, a traveller, noted that the Turks are under the yolk of ‘the pride of a Stern and barbarous Tyrant… Who, aiming only at… greatness and sensuality… Those rich lands at this present remain waste and overgrown with bushes, receptacles of wild beasts, of thieves and murderers… dispeopled… desolate… all Nobility extinguished; no light of learning permitted, nor vertue cherished; violence and rapine insulting over all, and leaving no security save to an abject mind, an unlook’d on poverty’.(87) Similarly Francis Bacon, in a letter to Sir John Digby referred to the Ottoman Empire as

‘A cruel tyranny, bathed in the blood of their emperours upon very succession; a heap of vassals and slaves… a people that is without natural affection; and, the scripture saith, that regardeth not the desires of women; and without piety, or case towards their children; a nation without morality, base and sluttish in buildings, diets and the like, and in a word, a very reproach of human society: and yet this nation hath made the garden of the world a wilderness’.(88)

That a slow levelling of the balance of power was taking place did not go unnoticed by the key agents of the time. Sir Thomas Roe noted that, though the English had once come running to the Turks for naval assistance, the sultan would now rather strangle ten viziers than dismiss an English minister because he knows ‘yr. kingdoms are out of reach, but your Matie’s ships have wings and fly to their ports’.(89) Though it is tempting to write off such comments as mere conceit at a time when Turkish ships could sail up the Thames (in incidents similar to October 1617),(90) the reality was that Turks were no longer fetishised as a vulgar unknown. Accuracy of identification remained quite irrelevant, not because identities were shaped by Christian apocalyptic alarm as before, but on the contrary, because (rather than in spite of) the fact that the Turks were perceived to pose no real military threat to the British nation.

That is not to say the British were powerful in reality. Whilst Bacon advocated a holy war in alliance with Spain, the English hardly promoted a military reputation. Britain’s first naval mission in the Mediterranean since the crusades under Sir Robert Mansell in 1621 ended in ignominy. Captain William Rainsborough’s mediocre sequel, the 1636 Sallee expedition, which liberated about a hundred prisoners from Morocco fared little better. Britain had, however, played a relatively poor diplomatic hand well and when James I died in 1625 ambassador Roe noticed how the Turks used a ‘civility and honour never formerly used to any Christian prince’.(91) Nonetheless, such a courtesy did not prevent the ambassador from opining that ‘my last judgment is, this empire may stand, but never rise again’.(92) Charles I, hassled by domestic troubles and not served as well by his ambassadors, never won the same influence as his father.

In Europe, the confessional conflict, the Thirty Years War commenced. At home, England grew restless and Thomas Fuller published his extremely popular Anglican account of the crusades in History of the Holy Warre. The book refuted the Catholic crusade as the weapon of ‘a counsel of men’ not God, and chastised the idea that war could win over Jerusalem. He believed there could be ‘no crown of gold where Christ was crowned with thorns’(93). However, he acknowledged the defensive war against the Turk as a crusade and praised Hungary, France and Spain for their enthusiastic responses, even if they were merely acting as bulwarks so that ‘the dominions of Catholic princes are the case and cover of the east and south to keep and fence the Protestant countries’.(94) Old-fashioned crusade-enthusiasts, such as John Bill still existed who wished ‘the Theatre of Mars might be erected in the gates of Hierusalem and Constantinople’.(95)

Figures in the government tended to be more reflective on Turkish successes and failures in polity as the English monarchy foundered. Royalists stuck to the negative stereotype and portrayed the meritocratic and military Ottoman Empire as the eastern equivalent of the ungodly Commonwealth and slandered members of its Rump parliament such as Sir Henry Vane as ‘that masked Turk’, another as ‘Janizary Desbrow’ and poor ‘Harry Nevil who looks like a Mahomet’s pigeon’.(96) Unaware, no doubt, that Charles I had worn an ‘Eastern Fashion of Vest… after the Persian mode with girdle or sash’.(97)

In 1615 William Bedwell had been very confident that his rhetorical question ‘May not Christians be ashamed to be taught of a Turk?’(98) Would stay rhetorical, however, in the year of the ‘Addled’ parliament, 1646, MP Leonard Busher rose to say

‘I read that a bishop of Rome would have constrained a Turkish emperor to the Christian faith, unto whom the emperor [sultan] answered, I beleeve that as Christ was an excellent prophet, but he did never command that men should with the power of weapons bee constrained to beleeve his law; and verily, I also do force no man to beleeve Mahomet’s law… If this be so, how much ought Christians not to force one another to religion?… Shall we be lesse merciful than Turks? Or shall we learne the Turks to persecute Christians?’ (99)

Thomas Nabbes also reflected, in the age of the New Model Army, how the Sultan could ‘raise an hundred and fifty thousand horse…and not disturbeth a Penny’.(100) Towards the end of the Commonwealth’s life Francis Osborne’s Politicall Reflections Upon the Government of the Turks (1656) and M.B.’s Learne of a Turke both advised pilfering elements of the Turkish system because of Turkish accomplishments. The English weren’t doing the only comparisons. Over in Paris it was known that a verse satire comparing Charles I to Ibrahim I was doing the rounds. With no king of their own the English people fantasised, whilst watching The Honour of an Apprentice of London (1656), about how the Turks were so pathetic that any old English apprentice could pop over the mare nostrum and with ‘one small box o’th ear/ the Prince of Turks destroy’ and be crowned and married to the Sultan’s wife.(101)

When the monarchy was restored, thinly veiled references comparing the king’s ship tax to the sultan’s arbitrariness in Sir John Denham’s The Sophy had to be omitted. One reference was to the sultan’s insistence that his courtiers ‘Talk to me not of Treasures… for their shops and ships are Exchequers’, to which a courtier murmured ‘’Twere better you could say their hearts’. This passage proved far too risky for the 1668 edition.(102) Perhaps the greatest achievement in Turkish affairs during the interregnum was Paul Rycaut’s Present State of the Ottoman Empire (1666), possibly the most informed of all accounts, which compellingly concluded that Turks were no savages ‘for ignorance and grossness is the effect of Poverty, not incident to happy men, whose spirits are elevated with Spoils and Trophies of so many Nations’,(103) praised their absence of nobility which he believed was conducive to the rather pertinent theme of unity, and observed, rather classically, that wealth had led to luxury, luxury to idleness, idleness to inertia and decline.


Chapter V: Conclusion

Rycaut’s book hailed a new more emotionally distant, less scared, less hateful approach, thinly represented by academic men such as Edward Pocock and William Bedwell in the earlier centuries. This approach became more mainstream, helped no doubt by interaction with Turks in London such as the ‘famous Rope-daunser call’d the Turk’, or one of the forty or so others whom, according to a Privy Council report in 1672, lived there. By the late seventeenth century Englishmen were able to sample Turkish delights and sherbet in coffee-houses springing up all over London.(104) Some made contact with Turks abroad, for instance, Englishmen served alongside fourteen Turks in a Bavarian regiment in the Thirty Years War.(105) There was always going to be the ‘Terrible Turk’ of the imagination, riding rough-shod over civilisation like Dürer’s horsemen of the apocalypse, but it had become self-consciously artificial, contradictory, conceptual and delusional. The Turks’ passive evils obviously conflicted with the Turks’ active evils. This amusing contradiction is especially noticeable in a children’s rhyming dictionary of 1654 in which the ‘Turke’ is condemned as ‘Unbelieving, misbelieving, thrifty, abstemious, cruel, unpitying, mercilesse, unrelenting, inexorable, warlick, circumcised, bloody, wine-forebearing, turban’d, avaricious, covetous, erring’.(106) And the fact that Turks were perceived to be ‘both immoderate and disciplined, excessively masculine and perversely unmasculine’.(107)

This revisionist spirit met with a changing political landscape in which Britain was welcoming a new, confident Happy Age of John Dryden fame with the coronation of the ‘Merry Monarch’. Blake had chastened the Barbary pirates; Parliament had executed the Glorious Revolution coup (1688); Britain had arbitrated in the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699); crushed the French at Blenheim (1703); united under a single flag with the Act of Union (1707) and then signed Utrecht (1713). All of a sudden the Turk appeared to have a fate different and lesser to Britannia’s perched on ‘Great Augustus’ throne’. The nation that had once gone begging bowl in hand for diplomacy and trade with the Turks now had potential ambassadors admitting that they ‘do perfectly abhor the thoughts of going to Constantinople’.(108) Ambassador John Finch who did go, sneered that he had to work with ‘a people who neither in language, manners, nor religion have any affinity with us’.(109) Another large ideological shift aided this transition. Christianity was beginning to decline in influence compared to the preceding centuries. Nobody wanted a repeat of the Thirty Years War. Whereas Samuel Purchas had once seen a retrievable Christian Constantinople in ‘bottomlesse and hellish’ Istanbul; Addison, Pope, Dryden and Defoe looked to the glory of pagan Carthage and Rome for their model.(110) Whereas Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine had been the scoffer of Muslim hubris, Nicolas Rowe’s Tamerlane (1702) was the secular political equivalent, the scoffer of French imperial hubris. Even the crusading ideal was deconstructed by Bunyan who insisted that Jesus preached for the internalised crusade against sin rather than people.

By the siege of Vienna, the perception of the Turk had split into two major strands. The first, was a purely academic rationalist perspective which based itself on the passive evils, framed in the jargon of ‘shortcomings’ or ‘deficiencies’ in the ‘nature’ of the Turk. Eschatology was dropped in favour of teleology. Experiences were subsumed by theories, abstractions, classifications and generalisations secularising the old Christian stereotype. The second was a purely popular perspective which focused on the active evils of the Turk. It kept up the epic image of the ‘Terrible Turk’ or the ‘Turkish Terror’ just to excite and add a meaning and significance to life now devoid of the old certainties of them and us, Christian and infidel, white and black, good and bad. It was the latter strain William Gladstone tapped into whilst addressing the people, after the Bulgarian massacre, upon how the Turks, over four centuries after the fall of Contantinople were

 ‘not the mild Mahometans of India, nor the chivalrous Saladins of Syria, nor the cultural Moors of Spain. They were, upon the whole, from the black day when they first entered Europe, the one great anti-human specimen of humanity. Wherever they went, a broad line of blood marked the trail behind them; and as far as their dominion reached, civilisation disappeared from view.’(111)

A theme which G. K. Chesterton was able to reanimate in Lepanto:

Don John Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the ballast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!

Domino Gloria (112)

Finally, the Turks’ image had become fixed. It had taken Britain approximately two and a half centuries to ‘know’ the Turk and create two stable identities, rationalist and populist, because, like a schizophrenic patient, the nation hadn’t been able to judge an external until it had known itself.




Primary Sources

  1. The Turkish Historie R. Carr 1600
  2. This Remarkable Year T. Beverley 1608
  3. The Totall Discourse… W. Lithgow 1640
  4. Letter to the Great Turk King Charles 1642
  5. Mr Harrie Cavendish: His Journey to and from Constantynople By Fox his Servant Ed. A. C. Wood 1940 The Camden Miscellany Vol. XVII (series III, 64)
  6. Capitulations and Articles H. M. Government 1663
  7. A Discourse of the Most Allured Ways and Means to ruine and pull down the vast Monarchy of the Ottoman Princes Anon. 1687


Secondary Sources

  1. Empire of the Ghazis 1280-1808 B. Shaw 1976
  2. Anglo-Saxon Perceptions of the Islamic World K.S. Beckett 2003
  3. New Troy: Fantasies of Empire in the Late Middle Ages S. Federico 2003
  4. Three Turk Plays D. J. Vitkus 2003
  5. Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1570-1630 D. Vitkus 2003
  6. The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965
  7. Sir Thomas Rose 1581-1644 M. Strachan 1989
  8. Publicising the Crusade: English Bishops and the Jubilee Indulgence of 1455 J. Harris 1999
  9. Creating East and West N. Bisaha 2004
  10. English Diplomacy 1422-1461 J. Ferguson 1972
  11. English and Continental Views of the Ottoman Empire 1500-1800 E. K. Shaw & C. J. Heywood 1970
  12. England and the Crusades C. Tyerman 1988
  13. England, the Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom F. L. Baumer
  14. From the Terror of the World to the Sick Man of Europe A. Cirakman 2002
  15. Pirates and ‘Turning Turk’ in Renaissance Drama L. Potter
  16. Europe and the Turk M. Vaughan 1954
  17. From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987
  18. Knighthoods of Christ Ed. N. Housley 2007: The Common Corps of Christendom: Thomas More and the Crusading Cause N. Housley
  19. Infidels: The Conflict between Christendom and Islam 638-2002 A. Wheatcroft 2003
  20. Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007
  21. The Rise of Oriental Travel 1580-1720 G. Maclean 2004
  22. Milton and Toleration Ed. S. Achinstein & E. Sauer 2007: Milton, Islam and the Ottomans G. Maclean
  23. Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999
  24. A History of Venice J. J. Norwich 2003
  25. Shadow of the Crescent R. Schwoebel 1967
  26. Under the Turk in Constantinople G. F. Abbott 1920
  27. William Harborne and the Trade with Turkey 1578-1582 S. A. Skilliter 1977
  28. Europe and Islam F. Cardini 1999
  29. The Empire and the World Around It S. Faroqhi 2004
  30. An English Consul in Turkey S. P. Anderson 1989
  31. Empires of Islam in Renaissance Historical Thought M. Meserve 2008
  32. The Thirty Years’ War G. Parker 1991


 End Notes

1 I use the term ‘Britain’ in the title because it serves as a useful umbrella term to cover the wars and constitutional arrangements that lead to the 1707 Act of Union and because the Scottish and Welsh, though a minority, figure in many of the accounts. ‘England’ or ‘English’ is used throughout the essay to denote the actions of the English state or a specifically English person or people.

2 P.70 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

3 (xiii) New Troy: Fantasaies of Empire in the Late Middle Ages S. Federico 2003

4 P.12 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1570-1630 D. Vitkus 2003

5 P.191 From the Terror of the World to the Sick Man of Europe A. Cirakman 2002

6 Subsequent threats were restricted to smash and grab ‘Viking-style’ raids by Arab pirates. Some of which, such as the looting of Rome in 846, were remarkably successful.

7 P.129 Pirates and Turning Turk in Renaissance Drama L. Potter (X)

8 P.439 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

9 P.443 The Crescent and Rose S. Chew 1965

10 P.135 Ibid.

11 P.33 The Rise of Oriental Travel 1580-1720 G. Maclean 2004

12 P.86 Ibid.

13 P.198 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

14 P.64 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987

15 P.118 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

16 The Full Discors W. Lithgow [EEBO] 1614

17 P.29 Mr Harrie Cavendish: His Journey to and from Constantynople By Fox his Servant Ed. A. C. Wood 1940 The Camden Miscellany Vol. XVII (series III, 64)

18 P.114 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

19 P.71 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

20 P.18 English and Continental Views of the Ottoman Empire 1500-1800 E. K. Shaw & C. J Heywood 1970

21 WL The Full Discors W. Lithgow [HTML EEBO X]

22 P.56 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987 And he was not alone, John Burbury also noted that Turkish music was ‘the worst in the world’.

23 P.133 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

24 P.90 The Rise of Oriental Travel 1580-1720 G. Maclean 2004

25 P.209 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

26 P.105 Creating East and West N. Bisaha 2004

27 P.116 Europe and Islam F. Cardini 1999

28 P.4 Shadow of the Crescent R. Schwoebel 1967

29 P.13 Ibid.

30 P.307 England and the Crusades C. Tyerman 1988

31 P.138 Shadow of the Crescent R. Schwoebel 1967

32 P.33 Publicising the Crusade: English Bishops and the Jubilee Indulgence of 1455 J. Harris 1999

33 P.30 Ibid.

34 P.39 Shadow of the Crescent R. Schwoebel 1967

35 P.320 England and the Crusades C. Tyerman 1988

36 P.24 Publicising the Crusade: English Bishops and the Jubilee Indulgence of 1455 J. Harris 1999

37 P.302 England and the Crusades C. Tyerman 1988

38 P.49 Le Morte d’Arthur Sir Thomas Malory 1995

39 P.171 Shadow of the Crescent R. Schwoebel 1967

40 His conclusion was supported by the work of a Frenchman, Guillaume Postel, who wrote, in admiring terms of the Turkish public health and education systems.

41 P.116 The Common Corps of Christendom: Thomas More and the Crusading Cause N. Housley: Knighthoods of Christ Ed. N Housley 2007

42 P.49 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1580-1630 D. Vitkus 2003 This may have been, however, a purposeful inversion of Luther’s claim that ‘The spirit of the Antichrist is the Pope, his flesh the Turk’ in Table Talk.

43 Although the men got drunk, killed some Spaniards and were sent home.

44 P.66 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

45 It was Venetian enterprise that ensured the janissaries wore uniforms made of English cloth.

46 P.41 Ibid. The commission was gained from the Court and the Company influenced the agent through its salary of about £2,500 a year.

47 P.31 From the Rising of the Sun: Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987

48 P.47 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

49 P.33 England, The Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom F. L. Baumer (x)

50 P.20 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999 Though many Englishmen, such as Thomas Beard, did associate themselves on theological footing with the Turks because they believed the Turks had been sent by God to punish the iconophile Byzantines.

51 P.35 England, The Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom F. L. Baumer (x)

52 P.1 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

53 P.53 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1580-1630 D. Vitkus 2003

54 P.162 Europe and the Turk M. Vaughan 1954

55 P.349 England and the Crusades C. Tyerman 1988

56 P.31 England, The Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom F. L. Baumer (x)

57 The Elizabethan nobility loved Turkish carpets, horses and portraits of the ‘Great Turk’, as well as carrying themselves ‘alla Turchesca’ which meant a dignified disdainful deportment.

58 This diplomatic snub was nothing to Henry Timberlake’s when he was thrown in prison en route to Jerusalem by Turks who ‘flatly denied that they had ever heard either of my queen or country’. P.74 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

59 P.21 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987

60 P.142 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

61 P.81 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1580-1630 D. Vitkus 2003

62 P.181 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

63 P.47 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

64 P.8 Three Turk Plays D. J. Vitkus 2000

65 P.49 The Rise of Oriental Travel 1580-1720 G. Maclean 2004

66 P.39 England, The Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom F. L. Baumer (x)

67 P.43 Ibid.

68 P.45 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987

69 P.45 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

70 P.126 Pirates and Turning and Turk in Renaissance Drama L. Potter (X)

71 P.29 Three Turk Plays D. J. Vitkus 2000

72 P.72 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

73 P.72 Ibid.

74 P.62 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

75 P.33 Three Turk Plays D. J. Vitkus 2000

76 P.186 From the Terror of the World to the Sick Man of Europe A. Cirakman 2002

77 148 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

78 P.39 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987

79 P.144 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

80 P.89 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1570-1630 D. Vitkus 2003

81 P.72 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

82 Though ‘T.S’ claims to have experienced such a woman who ‘in some disguise to pay her devotions at the Mosquette… had passage to my lodgings’ and later gave birth to a girl ‘somewhat white than ordinary; the old Fool though himself to be the Father’. P.41 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

83 P.142 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

84 P.41 Three Turk Plays D. J. Vitkus 2000

85 P.88 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1570-1630 D. Vitkus 2003

86 P.37 Ibid.

87 P.44 From the Terror of the World to the Sick Man of Europe A. Cirakman 2002

88 P.117 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

89 P.237 Europe and the Turk M. Vaughan 1954

90 Though comments such as Thomas Heywood’s ‘the potent Turke (although in faith adverse) / Is proud that he with England can commerce’ can certainly be written off as conceit. (p.32 DV)

91 P.241 Ibid.

92 P.241 Ibid.

93 P.160 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

94 32 England, The Turk, and the Common Corps of Christendom F. L. Baumer (x)

95 P.154 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

96 P.60 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

97 P.207 Ibid.

98 P.201 Ibid.

99 P.288 Milton, Islam and the Ottomans G. Maclean: Milton and Toleration Ed. S. Achinstein & E. Sauer 2007

100 P.59 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H. Beck 1987

101 P.202 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

102 P.511 The Crescent and the Rose S. Chew 1965

103 P.40 English and Continental Views of the Ottoman Empire 1500-1800 E. K. Shaw & C. J. Heywood 1970 An opinion shared by John Covel, Company Chaplain (1670-77), who wrote that he found ‘the greatest civility imaginable’. (p.92 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H Beck 1987)

104 P.22 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

105 P.192 The Thirty Years’ War G. Parker 1991

106 P.7 Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire Before 1800 G. Maclean 2007

107 P.119 Turning Turk: English Theatre and the Multicultural Mediterranean 1570-1630 D. Vitkus 2003

108 P.4 Under the Turk in Constantinople G. F. Abbott 1920

109 P.75 From the Rising of the Sun: English Images of the Ottoman Empire to 1715 B. H Beck 1987

110 P.136 Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery N. Matar 1999

111 P.184 Creating East and West N. Bisaha 2004

112 P.33 Infidels: The conflict between Christendom and Islam 638-2002 A. Wheatcroft 2003