Fortunately, there were two vital factors that firmly bound the two nations together – commerce and enemies. English merchants could supply great quantities of tin and lead which the Ottomans required for casting of guns and weapons; Ottomans, in return, could provide them with a steady supply of textiles, silk, spices and jewels.
Moreover, England and the Ottomans shared the same enemies – Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. Catholic nations viewed Ottomans as infidels and a threat to Christianity, they were each other’s sworn enemies. Elizabeth cleverly exploited this situation to England’s advantage – she claimed in a letter to Murad that she, like him, disapproved of Catholic ‘idolatry’ and those ‘falsely’ professing Christ. Thus, presenting England as his ally and settling the religious debate.
By May 1580, Harborne, with his hard work and determination, had obtained for England a charter of privileges that granted the English full commercial rights in Ottoman dominions. He would remain in Constantinople for another eight years and would later be succeeded by Edward Barton.
One major yet lesser talked about aspect of this alliance was the relationship between Elizabeth I and Safiye Sultan, chief consort of Murad III. Safiye, one of Ottoman history’s most enigmatic figures, held unprecedented political power and exercised considerable influence over Imperial policy. It was Barton who first realised that cultivating a friendship with Safiye could help him strengthen the alliance in England’s favour. He knew that England had an edge here because of its female monarch, which meant that Elizabeth, as a woman, could write directly to Safiye and could be more open and friendly in her letters. The two women often wrote to each other and would, over a period of time, engage in a reciprocal exchange of gifts with Elizabeth famously sending Safiye ‘a clockwork musical organ’ and a golden coach. Safiye would continue to favour the English trade until her own downfall.
With Harborne and Barton’s successful embassy, England worked its way through a very unlikely alliance. Unknown to these men, the Anglo-Ottoman Capitulations would last for the next 343 years and would only be dissolved upon the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1923.