Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 January 2005
In the last quarter of the sixteenth century England embarked on a strategic rapprochement with the Ottoman Empire. Elizabeth I's excommunication by Pope Pius V in 1570 removed the papal levies for trading with the ‘infidel’, opening up commercial opportunities. England also explored the possibility of calling upon Ottoman military might to support her against the Catholic powers of mainland Europe. One product of this East–West engagement is a remarkable correspondence and exchange of gifts between Elizabeth and the sultana, Walide Safiye. Although the Anglo-Ottoman political accord failed, the exchanges between Elizabeth and the sultana set the tone for England's subsequent trading position in the East.
1 This paper is dedicated to Dr Susan Skilliter, who was a senior scholar at Newnham College where I was an undergraduate and graduate student, and a neighbour when I returned to Cambridge to live in 1976. Dr Skilliter's work on Elizabeth I and the Ottomans was so far ahead of its time that its ground-breaking originality has only recently come to be fully appreciated outside the expert circles of Ottomanists. I have drawn here extensively on her published work: her book on William Harborne and an important early article: S. A. Skilliter,William Harborne and the Trade with Turkey 1578–1582: A Documentary Study of the First Anglo-Ottoman Relations(Oxford, 1977); ‘Three Letters from the Ottoman “Sultana” Safiye to Queen Elizabeth I’, inDocuments from Islamic Chanceries, ed. S. M. Stern, first series (=Oriental Studies3) (Oxford, 1965), 119–57.