Turkish Journal of History
Imperial Ambassador Walter Leslie in Ottoman Realms: Constructing an Historical Narrative (1665-1666)Özgür Kolçak
The Ottomans and the Austrian Habsburgs signed a peace treaty on 10 August 1664. The last article of the treaty of Vasvár stipulated that two ambassadors were to be exchanged between the two courts. Walter Leslie was tasked by the emperor Leopold I to represent his sovereign to the Porte. Leslie embarked on his diplomatic journey from Vienna and was ceremonially exchanged with the Ottoman ambassador Kara Mehmed Paşa near the fortress of Komárom. The imperial ambassador stayed in Ottoman lands nearly ten months. He held several diplomatic talks with Ottoman officials and was granted audiences by Mehmed IV both in Adrianople and Istanbul. The secretary of Leslie’s embassy, in his official diary, listed the towns and cities that the Habsburg delegation passed through on their itinerary to the Porte, noted the daily interactions of W. Leslie in Ottoman settlements, and described ceremonies held by Ottoman authorities for the imperial embassy. This paper aims to reconstruct an historical narrative of Walter Leslie’s embassy to the Ottoman court by using a wide range of primary sources: the official diary kept by the embassy’s secretary, the reports and letters of W. Leslie, travel books of several members of the imperial entourage, and Ottoman financial records pertaining to the expenditures made by the Ottoman government for the imperial embassy.
Habsburg Elçisi Walter Leslie’nin Osmanlı Ziyareti: Bir Tarihsel Anlatı İnşası (1665-1666)Özgür Kolçak
10 Ağustos 1664 tarihinde Osmanlı ve Habsburg sarayları arasında imzalanan Vasvar antlaşmasının son maddesi, iki devleti temsilen iki büyükelçinin karşılıklı değişimini öngörüyordu. I. Leopold adına Viyana’dan yola çıkan Walter Leslie, 1665 Mayıs’ının son günlerinde, IV. Mehmed’i temsilen Osmanlı payitahtından gönderilen Kara Mehmed Paşa’yla sınırda mübadele edildi. Habsburg elçisi, diplomatik görevlerini yerine getirmek amacıyla Osmanlı ülkesinde yaklaşık on ay kaldı; İstanbul ve Edirne’de IV. Mehmed’in yanı sıra birtakım Osmanlı devlet ricaliyle görüşmeler yaptı. Habsburg sefaret kâtibi, bu esnada, elçilik heyetinin hangi menzillere uğrayarak Edirne’ye doğru ilerlediğini, Habsburg elçisinin uğradığı kentlerde yapıp ettiklerini ve Osmanlı makamlarının sefaret heyeti namına tertip ettiği tören ve merasimleri kaydettiği bir günlük kaleme aldı. Bu yazı, Habsburg sefaret kâtibinin temin ettiği günlük bilgileri, W. Leslie’ye ait raporlar, bazı heyet mensuplarınca kaleme alınan hatırat, gezi notları ve nihayet Habsburg heyetinin ağırlanmasına dair mali kayıtları içeren Osmanlı arşiv belgelerinin verdiği malumatla birleştirerek Habsburg elçisi Walter Leslie’nin diplomatik misyonunu kronolojik açıdan yeniden inşa etmeyi amaçlamaktadır.
The last article of the Vasvár peace treaty in 1664 stipulated that two ambassadors of equal rank were to be exchanged between the Ottoman and Austrian Habsburg courts. In 1665, the Hofburg dispatched Walter Leslie to the Sublime Porte in the company of a large entourage. W. Leslie’s mission entailed the submission of a number of imperial and courtly letters to the Ottoman sultan and his officials. The imperial delegation also brought with itself a package of gifts of great value to be offered at the sultan’s court. Although the Habsburg officials deemed this offering as a voluntary exchange of gifts, the Ottomans considered the gift package a form of tribute directly linked with the war that took place between the two sovereigns a year prior. W. Leslie’s embassy included a group of Jesuits who after accompanying the ambassador in his journey to Istanbul wished to carry on towards China via Iran. During their stay in Istanbul, W. Leslie and the Jesuits sought to free the Christian prisoners taken captive in the last military engagements. They resorted to diplomatic means to secure the salvation of their co-religionists kept in the Ottoman imperial arsenal and the Seven Towers. W. Leslie was also tasked with establishing a trade link with the Ottomans that would secure the commercial activities of the imperial subjects in Ottoman domains. His embassy had only limited success in achieving his diplomatic goals.
On 30 May 1665, W. Leslie was exchanged with the Ottoman ambassador Kara Mehmed Paşa at Komárom in a grandiose ceremony. The ceremonial setting implied absolute reciprocity between two ambassadors. Before Walter Leslie and Kara Mehmed Paşa were invited to take part in the ceremonial setting, three wooden piles were driven into the ground at equal intervals. W. Leslie and Kara Mehmed Paşa were escorted by retinues of exactly the same number (ten people each) from the outer piles to the meeting pile in the middle. They walked towards each other with calculated steps in close supervision of minor officers rushing back and forth between the envoys to achieve a planned rendezvous in the middle. Both envoys eventually touched the meeting pile at exactly the same time and exchanged words of courtesy and shook hands.
In line with early modern diplomatic tradition, the Ottoman government procured the provisions needed by the Leslie embassy as long as they stayed in Ottoman lands. The Ottoman financial administration also allotted extensive sums of cash to the imperial ambassador to secure his additional living costs in the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman bureaucracy produced several historical accounts to this end which were widely used in the article. The total amount that was spent by the Ottoman government for the Habsburg embassy in 1665-1666 may not be fully established, but the variety of the expenditure items and the lump sums one encounters in the registers strongly suggest that the diplomatic proceedings could amount to a challenging financial burden for the welcoming party.
W. Leslie’s embassy witnessed highly elaborate ceremonies in Ottoman lands on different occasions. On the first day of August 1665, the Habsburg delegation entered the city of Adrianople with a well-organized parade. Eleven days later, W. Leslie was granted an audience by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed IV in his palace. That day, the foreign members of the embassy had the opportunity to observe the ceremonial procedure and symbolic language applied by Ottoman officials in the reception of foreign envoys. The sultan’s court was marked with a striking silence that aimed to enhance the already escalated image of the sultan. In 1665, Leslie appeared in the presence of Mehmed IV with a company of seventeen aristocrats who were only allowed to make a reverence from a distance before they were hastily guided out of the audience hall. The ambassador’s secretary and the dragoman stayed with Leslie during the entire ceremony. Leslie was then ushered to Mehmed IV where he was taken down to kiss the hem of the sultan’s garment before he delivered his ceremonial speech.
In September, the imperial embassy arrived in Istanbul. Sultan and Fazıl Ahmed Paşa, the grand vizier, were on a trip in the Dardanelles. Until the day Mehmed IV returned to his imperial residence in Istanbul, the Habsburg delegation was entertained by Süleyman Paşa, the vice-governor of the city. W. Leslie and his comrades were in the meantime invited to less official gatherings where they had the liberty to visit the historical sites of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. In mid-October 1665, the Ottoman sultan and the grand vizier entered Istanbul with a spectacular procession. After the arrival of the grand vizier, W. Leslie held a serious of diplomatic talks with Ottoman officials in which he sought to accomplish the diplomatic tasks he had been charged with by his master, Leopold I.
W. Leslie had limited success in his attempts. When he left Istanbul in the last days of 1665, the most prominent aristocrats and commanders of the “prisoner train” were still being held in the Seven Towers. In principle, the Ottomans accepted W. Leslie’s offer on free trade along the Ottoman-Habsburg border, but were not willing to bother themselves for a change in the rural administration, hindering a practical commercial partnership. W. Leslie negotiated to secure Habsburg protection over the Catholic community under the Ottoman rule and in one particular instance sought for permission to rebuild a ruined church. Both demands were openly rejected by the grand vizier. Fazıl Ahmed Paşa also avoided a political discussion at the Porte on the redrawing of the borderline around the newly captured fortress of Érsekújvár (Nové Zámky) and delegated the matter, contrary to W. Leslie’s demand, to a planned commission under the authority of the governor-general of Buda. The imperial ambassador was not very influential in defending Habsburg interests in Transylvania as well. Fazıl Ahmed Paşa was by no means inclined to reduce the yearly tribute the Transylvanian prince had to pay to the Ottoman treasury, which had been increased by his father Köprülü Mehmed Paşa to a considerable amount seven years prior. On the other hand, the Habsburg ambassador was truly pleased with the courtly means with which he was received both by the sultan and other Ottoman dignitaries, a view which was shared by his companions.