Saturday, October 27, 2012

May King and Queen Honored

Today in Rome, two avenues within Villa Ada have been renamed in honor of the last King and Queen of Italy. The plaques for "Umberto II of Savoia" and "Queen Maria Josè" were unveiled by the Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno. He spoke of the "long and difficult" history of Italy and pointed out that it was the House of Savoy that united Italy and that it was love for that Italy which prompted the re-naming of the streets in honor of King Umberto II and Queen Marie Jose. He pointed to how the last King and Queen loved Italy and how the King chose to abdicate rather than split the country in two and possibly inaugurate a civil war. Personally, I wish he had chosen any of numerous other examples to highlight the patriotism of the last king. I do not, of course, wish to be critical of this tribute but I do think it unfortunate when people speak as if the only good King is one who gives up his crown. In any eveny, Culture Minister Dino Gasperini was present at the unveiling and spoke of preserving the past for future generations. Is that a little frightening? That it will come down to a street sign to remind the youth that the Italian people once had a King and Queen? Of course, the assembled dignitaries also were sure to reassert their allegiance to the republican institutions of the country, just in case anyone might mistake this tribute for an actual sign of loyalty on their part. For a politician, the only thing worse than being caught doing the wrong thing, is to be caught doing the right thing. No, those assembled were assured that the republic is "safe" from any monarchists but that the House of Savoy should be remembered for their role in the Risorgimento and the creation of the modern, united Italy. He also had to say that these were "controversial" figures. Please. The only reason there is anything at all "controversial" about the May King and Queen is because republican politicians chose to make them so in order to help clear the way for their own power grab.
I am, of course, extremely pleased to see any tribute to the late King and Queen of Italy. I wish it was more significant that two avenues. I am only annoyed that the subject of the monarchy always has to be treated as if it is something dangerous, with the politicians reassuring everyone that they are republicans and that the monarchy was "controversial" and that they only do this for historical-educational reasons and certainly not because they have any affinity for the House of Savoy. Frankly, they should, especially if they are going to highlight the role the House of Savoy played in bringing Italy together. All patriotic Italians who love their country should be grateful to all those involved, including the House of Savoy, in the creation of the unified Italy. It was done under the House of Savoy and ever since 1946 it has been a case of republicans taking up space in a home built by someone else, someone they evicted in order to snatch their property. King Umberto II and Queen Marie Jose had every necessary quality to be an excellent monarch and consort and to guide Italy into the future in the post-war world they faced. Together, they represented a perfect balance between tradition and innovation and Italy could be so much more if all that had not been thrown away in one emotional, frantic effort by self-seeking people to throw away Italian history.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Italian Defender of Constantinople

The fall of Constantinople must rank as one of the most tragic events in the history of Western Civilization and, contrarily, there were few if any greater and more symbolic victories for the forces of the Ottoman Empire. On the Christian side, the most famous defender of the city was, of course, the great Emperor Constantine XI. However, the commander of his army which defended the last citadel of the old East Roman Empire was an Italian, and from a republic no less; a condottiero from Genoa named Giovanni Giustiniani Longo. It is not known exactly when he was born but he was the son of one of the most prominent Genoese families, related to the famous Doria family. When Constantinople was imperiled by the Ottoman forces of Sultan Mehmed II, Giovanni Giustiniani used his own fortune to recruit and equip some 700 soldiers and a naval armada to carry them. When he arrived at Constantinople, he so impressed the Emperor that Constantine XI named him commander of his land forces. It was a wise decision given that, we are told, Giustiniani was an expert at siege warfare and the defense of fortified places.

His were not the only non-Greek forces to arrive to help. About 3/5 of the defenders of Constantinople were westerners, most of them Italians. Alvise Diedo was the commander of the Venetian naval forces and he and his men decided that they would stay and help defend the city. Another was the Venetian ambassador Girolamo Minotto who was determined, in his diplomatic capacity, to maintain the neutrality of the Republic of Venice yet, in his personal capacity, he was no less determined to prevent the Turkish capture of Constantinople and fought on the walls alongside the other defenders of the city. Cardinal Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev, the Papal Legate, also recruited about 200 soldiers in Naples, with funds provided by the Pope, to aid in the defense of Constantinople. There also numerous other brave individuals who participated such as Maurizio Cattaneo and the Bocchiardo brothers, Paolo, Antonio and Troilo. All of these men were ultimately under the command of Giovanni Giustiniani and, not surprisingly, he had to prove himself an able diplomat as well as a soldier in prevailing upon the Greeks and the Italians to work together in their common goal of repelling the Turks. Even getting the Italians alone to cooperate was not always easy given the long-standing rivalry between Venice and Genoa at that time.

The courage of Giustiniani and his skill at the art of siege warfare was instrumental in Constantinople holding out as long as it did against the hopelessly large odds against them. When the final attack came on May 29, 1453 Giustiniani was wounded while fighting on the wall to repel the invaders. The exact circumstances remain unknown and sources differ as to whether he was wounded by a crossbow bolt or debris from a cannon shot as well as whether his wound was in the arm, leg or torso but whatever the case may be it was sufficient to put him out of action. This caused morale to drop among the hard-pressed soldiers on the wall and eventually panic began to set in. Giustiniani was helped out of the combat area and as the men began to waver following his absence, Sultan Mehmed II took notice and ordered an all-out assault. The defenders were finally overwhelmed, Emperor Constantine XI falling in the attack as he rushed headlong into the Turkish column pouring into the city. Cardinal Isidore of Kiev was able to escape only by dressing a dead man in red robes and he watched as the Turks decapitated the corpse and carried the severed head through the streets thinking they had killed the Churchman.

Meanwhile, Giustiniani was helped back to his ship by a handful of his men who had survived but he died of his wounds at sea sometime early the next month. His loyal troops took his body back to the island of Chios (a Greek island which then belonged to Genoa) and buried him in the village of Pirgi. Giustiniani and his men were among the most well armed, trained and disciplined that the small garrison had and most were posted at the St Romanos Gate. He, and those with him, played a critical part in the historic battle that saw the city of Constantine, the Roman Emperor who envisioned a great capital city there on the banks of the Bosporus, fall to a non-European foe; irretrievably so it seems. Given east-west tensions, men like Giustiniani and his soldiers who fought to defend Constantinople often seem forgotten. They should not be and deserve to be remembered for their courage and sacrifice alongside Emperor Constantine XI and the thousands of others who lost their lives in the battle for the last citadel of Eastern Rome.

*Note - I have been unable to find an actual picture of Giovanni Giustiniani. Those above are simply pictures of Condottieri of the same general period.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wedding in Luxembourg

TRH Prince Emanuele Filiberto and Princess Clotilde arrive at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg for the religious wedding of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Countess Stephanie de Lannoy

The Prince and Princess of Venice and Piedmont arrive at the wedding gala dinner.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Venice Needs Italy as Italy Needs Venice

Because of a mass rally and a few new polls, there has been a lot of talk about the city of Venice seceding from Italy and becoming an independent city-state again (or actually not just a city-state as they plan to claim Veneto, Lombardy, Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia). The Republic of Venice II. However, one thing that should be established clearly at the outset is that if these modern-day separatists have their way, the new independent Venice will not be anything like the old Republic of Venice, nor will it really be independent. One of the first thing the pro-independence group did was to take their case to the President of the European Commission which should make clear to everyone that even they themselves do not believe in independence but would rather be ruled from Brussels instead of Rome. Newspaper polls have found 70-80% of the local population in favor of this so-called independence, yet at the same time stressing that part of the reason for the large numbers is the economic crisis. Italy would certainly be harmed economically by the loss of Venice but Venice would neither be better off in the long-term with her economic policies still being dictated by EU bureaucrats in Brussels.

The Republic of Venice (and I mean the original, legitimate, genuine article of centuries past) was a great and admirable country and a significant Mediterranean regional power in its own right. In fact, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the old Republic of Venice. Title aside, if anyone from our own time could go back and see the Republic of Venice as it was then; they would take it for a monarchy. The Doge certainly looked and acted more like a monarch than a president and, even at the time, despite his republican form of government, was considered something of a prince by the other crowned heads of Europe. Obviously, this is not what is being proposed today nor would it be something the ruling elites of the EU would ever tolerate. Venice was a city that celebrated its accomplishments, today people are expected to apologize for them. The most famous public spectacle of the old Republic of Venice was the ceremony, presided over by the Doge, which “married” Venice to the sea. This ceremony, however, originated as a celebration of the Venetian acquisition of the Dalmatian coast. Would the powers-that-be in Brussels ever allow something like that to be celebrated today? Of course not. Because they scorn pride, ambition and achievement.

Today, Venice is one of the more prosperous parts of Italy, like the north in general is still more prosperous than the south, and this is a large part of what drives the separatist campaigns in these areas; people resent having to work to support less successful parts of the country. However, so long as a potential Republic of Venice remained in the EU, this would still be the case only in a different way. This is a complaint though that many people can sympathize with. It is part of what is driving similar movements in various European countries, from Catalan to Flanders. However, separation within the EU will not solve the problem. The only thing that will solve the problem is to lift up the poorer areas so that they are no longer dependent on the more prosperous regions and this is part of why Italy needs Venice and the north in general. All Italians should take a look back at what made Venice great during her glory days. Everyone should try to learn the lesson of how this watery village of refugees rose to become one of the major regional powers of the eastern Mediterranean. The simple, basic reason is the profit motive.

The Republic of Venice was able to exercise a level of power and influence far beyond her own strength because of her economic success, driven by trade and commerce all of which was driven by the profit motive and the maintenance of a pro-business, pro-entrepreneur, adventurous spirit. That atmosphere drove Venetians to build up an extensive commercial empire throughout the eastern Mediterranean and even some areas beyond. I marvel at what Venice was able to accomplish yet, I also think of how much more could have been possible or how such a vast network could have been maintained if the rest of Italy was alongside in support rather than tearing each other apart in squabbles between the Italian states. What if men of vision and talent like Christopher Columbus or John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) had been sailing for the Italian nation rather than Spain or England? What if there had been a united Italy to prevent the conquest of Venice by the French revolutionaries in the first place and so also prevent the years of Austrian rule? If Venice wishes greater control over their own local affairs, I would have no problem with that. I would applaud a Venice that becomes even more successful by their own decisions and I would deplore Venice being robbed of their success to reward the less successful. Rather, I would encourage less successful areas to follow their example in making themselves just as prosperous as Venice.

Again, however, we come back to the current state of the Italian republic which has an EU-imposed government, which discourages national pride, encourages people to be ashamed of success and there is the very existence of the republican government in Italy which has taught the Italians to be complacent and content with the status of a third-rate power. They condemn the Kingdom of Italy, amazingly, for encouraging Italians to think “big”, to strive for something greater, to see themselves as a great people and work to reach their maximum potential. No, the answer to the ills of Venice is not independence and another republican micro-state dependent on the EU. The answer is, and always has been, the restoration of the Kingdom of Italy, the restoration of the lire, freedom from crushing bureaucratic red tape, confiscatory taxation and burdensome regulation. The answer is free and open competition that will, by the talents and ambition of individual Italians, raise up the country to a level of prosperity that states like Venice once had when they lived by these same principles but which will be so much the greater with all Italians pulling in the same direction rather than feeding off of one another in a state of collective slavery to the political class.

Viva Venezia! Viva Italia! Evviva il Re!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grand Duke Ferdinando I of Tuscany

The third member of the House of Medici to hold the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany was born on July 30, 1549 to Grand Duke Cosimo I of Tuscany and Eleanora di Toledo, the daughter of the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. He was the fifth son to be born to the couple, though only the third to survive and, as such, he was not expected to ever take the grand ducal throne. However, there was always the need to keep up the family presence in the Sacred College, so young Ferdinando was expected to take on a religious vocation and was educated accordingly. In 1562, at the age of 14, he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal by HH Pope Pius IV (Giovanni Angelo Medici, a distant relative). Teenage cardinals were far from uncommon at the time and in those days a cardinal was not necessarily an ordained man. As it turned out, Ferdinando Cardinal Medici displayed remarkable organizational and administrative skills while working for the Church in Rome. In typical Medici fashion he was also a great patron of the arts and accumulated a remarkable collection at his home, called Villa Medici (now the home of the French Academy in Rome and owned by France). Most assumed that would be where Ferdinand would spend his life.

However, Grand Duke Cosimo I suffered many tragedies with the early deaths of his boys but he was succeeded by his eldest, Grand Duke Francesco I. However, the only son of Francesco died while still a boy and so when he passed away in 1587 it fell to his younger brother the cardinal to become the third Grand Duke of Tuscany. He packed up his art treasures and returned to Florence though he remained a Cardinal in the Church for the next two years until his marriage to Christina of Lorraine (daughter of Charles III of Lorraine and actually a granddaughter of Caterina de’ Medici) in 1589. Their wedding was a colossal and magnificently colorful occasion. Grand Duke Cosimo I, married to a Spanish lady, had been very close to Spain and the Hapsburg Empire and Queen Caterina de’ Medici had pushed for the marriage of Christina to Grand Duke Ferdinando to restore the House of Medici as allies of France rather than Spain and the Empire. There were lavish banquets, dances and even mock naval battles in a flooded courtyard. The wedding would influence the art of entertaining in royal courts across Europe for many years to come.

Grand Duke Ferdinando I brought about something of a revival in Tuscany. He and Grand Duchess Christina had five children over the years; two boys and three girls, and he worked to detach Tuscany from the influence of Spain and the empire. This made him very popular as the public had previously been taxed heavily to pay for contributions to the empire and their own laws had often been superseded by foreign statutes. Grand Duke Ferdinando reestablished the traditional justice system, took a great interest in the well being of his people and enacted many changes that boosted economic development. He established freedom of religion in Tuscany which caused many Jews and Protestants to flock to Livorno in particular and their industry was also a boost to the economy. Harbor improvements helped promote trade, irrigation projects improved agriculture and Florence became a center of banking with branches all across Europe. He took a similarly broad-minded approach to foreign policy but, in that area, was less successful.

To ease out Spanish and imperial influence and draw closer to France, he supported King Henri IV of France against the Catholic League of Guise family and the more belligerent Protestants after the assassination of King Henri III. King Henri IV was greatly helped by the money the Grand Duke loaned him and Ferdinando urged him, for the peace and stability of France as well as for his own good, to convert to the Catholic faith. He also used his connections in Rome to urge the Pope to accept a conversion on the part of the King of France, welcoming him into the Catholic fold. This, King Henri IV eventually did do, famously saying that, “Paris is well worth a mass” which has caused some to claim that his conversion was not genuine. However, there is ample evidence that his change of heart was sincere. However, King Henri IV returned no favors to Grand Duke Ferdinando who backed away from France after that point, maintaining the neutrality of the House of Medici which he thought paramount to secure their independence.

Unlike some, Grand Duke Ferdinando was not willing to ally with non-Catholic powers against those of his own faith. Despite his unwillingness to be ruled by Spain or the empire he still supported the Spanish in their war in Algeria, led by King Felipe III, against the Moors and he supported Hapsburg Emperor in his ongoing conflict with the Turks in eastern Europe. In fact, the war galleys of Tuscany won several crucial victories against the Muslim Barbary Pirates operating out of North Africa during his reign, though this commitment to the defense of Christendom did not come without cost and necessitated the raising of taxes, something the Grand Duke had not wanted to do. Nevertheless, he was always a man of vision who favored big ideas, ingenuity and entrepreneurship. His first thought was to follow up the victory of his fleet with the establishment of a domain for Tuscany in North Africa, however, this did not work out. Still, he remained eager to embrace other possibilities. Toward the end of his reign he commissioned the one and only official effort by an Italian state to colonize the Americas. In 1608 Grand Duke Ferdinando commissioned the English Captain Robert Thornton to lead an expedition to the coast of South America, around northern Brazil.

The ships reached the New World, explored the area and took on some native passengers before returning to Italy. The plan was to follow-up with the establishment of a colony around what is now Cayenne, to reach down to the Amazon and make the area a source of timber exports to Italy and a place of colonization for Italian settlers. A few decades later this area would be claimed and colonized by France, named French Guiana and it remains an overseas department of France to this day. The voyage was a success and Captain Thornton returned without losing a man. Unfortunately, he returned to find that Grand Duke Ferdinando I had died on February 17, 1609 at the age of 59. He prepared to launch the planned follow-up voyage but the new monarch, Grand Duke Cosimo II (Ferdinando’s son) saw no need for an Italian colony in America and called off the enterprise. Nonetheless, the reign of Ferdinando I is a bright spot in the history of the Medici family and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. He was a capable monarch who defeated his enemies, aided his allies and left his state more prosperous, more developed and more free and independent than he had found it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Columbus Day

Today the United States celebrates Columbus Day, known in Latin America as "la Dia de la Raza" which is also the national holiday of the Kingdom of Spain. All to remember the voyage of discovery of probably the most famous and most significant Italian explorer in history. Christopher Columbus is in illustrious company alongside other Italian navigators who led the world in exploration, on land and sea, to bring Christendom into contact with the other continents of the world. Yet, it would be hard to say that any other had so great an impact on world history as Christopher Columbus. People, of course, have argued for years about Columbus not being the first to "discover" America and in the strictest sense that is, of course, true. Plenty of people who lived in the Americas knew their land existed (obviously) and the Vikings had visited the northernmost reaches of North America long before as well. However, it cannot be argued that these earlier voyages had little to no impact on the world at large, to the point that most were largely forgotten. It was the voyage of Columbus which enthralled Europe and which started the long process of the colonization of the Americas, eventually leading to the founding of New Spain, New France and New England among others which eventually became the modern countries we know today from Canada in the north to Chile in the south. So much of the world we know today would not be as it is today without Christopher Columbus.

Columbus and Queen Isabella
It is unfortunate that so many people, in recent years, have tried to blacken the reputation of Christopher Columbus and to blame him for any and all mistakes or crimes committed by any and all of the European powers who came to American shores in the aftermath of his discovery. It is unfair and utterly ridiculous that they do so and all due credit should go to the Italian-American community in particular for defending the reputation and good name of the great explorer all these centuries later. Columbus was a great man, a man of intelligence, learning (though self-taught), determination and vision. He was also a man of great faith who felt there was some divine plan in his very name "Christopher". Just as St Christopher carried the divine child Jesus across a stream, Columbus would carry the Christian message across the 'Ocean Sea' (as the Atlantic was known then) to people who had never heard it. Queen Isabella of Spain was also very specific that a key motivation for the voyage was to open up new lands (presumably in Asia, which is where they thought they were going) to the message of Christ. Columbus learned Latin, studied the Bible frequently and went to mass often. It was the last thing he and his men did before leaving Spain on their epic voyage.

Columbus lands in the New World
During the voyage itself, Columbus prayed several times each day and prayer was a regular part of the routine onboard ship. When bad weather would threaten the little flotilla, Columbus would order his men to pray -and if the danger did not subside he would order them, in a stronger voice, to pray harder! When land was finally sighted and Columbus landed, their first act was to thank God for their safe voyage. Columbus named the place where they landed San Salvador (Holy Savior) and as new islands were discovered he had crosses erected on them and usually named them after saints. When one of his ships was lost and used to build a fort where a group of the men would wait for the others to return from Spain, Columbus named the fort "La Navidad" (the Nativity) because it was so close to Christmas time. Of course, Columbus hoped to win fame and fortune by his voyage of discovery but it is wrong to claim that these were his only motivations. He was also motivated by his sincere faith and desire to spread civilization and Christianity to new lands. This was ultimately done and it is often noted that the Catholic Church gained about as many new converts in the Americas as they had recently lost in Europe as a result of the spread of Protestantism.

Columbus Day, as a holiday, took hold because of anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States. This caused Catholics to recall the voyage of Christopher Columbus to point out to their Protestant countrymen that it had been a Catholic who had discovered America and without whom their might be no United States at all. It is also worth remembering that the name "America" itself came from another (Catholic) Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. The Italian-American community also seized on Columbus as a famous figure who was one of them and it helped when so many still viewed them as outsiders to point to the Italian who had been the "first" to discover America. Angelo Noce, an Italian-American living in Denver, Colorado lobbied the government to make Columbus Day a legal federal holiday and the cause was also taken up by the rising Catholic organization called the Knights of Columbus who pointed to the image of the great explorer in their demand of equal rights for Catholics, many of whom were Italian immigrants. The memory of Columbus was upheld as the symbol for their right to live in America. The world as it had been was changed forever because of Columbus and the world, especially Europe and the Americas, owe him a debt of gratitude.

Nurbanu Sultan, Italian Empress of Turkey

The girl who would become one of the most prominent women in the Ottoman Empire was born Cecelia Venier-Baffo, probably sometime in 1525, on the island of Paros, today a part of Greece but at the time a client state of the Republic of Venice. Some sources refer to her as Olivia, others as Rachel but it seems she was the natural daughter of a local noble named Nicolo Venier and a woman named Violante Baffo. As such she was the niece of His Serenity Sebastiano Venier, Doge of Venice. It was he who, prior to his election, commanded the Venetian fleet at the historic battle of Lepanto. Little is known about the earliest years of Cecelia Venier-Baffo but when she was only twelve years old events took place which changed her life forever. In 1537 the island of Paros was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Cecelia, along with many others, was captured along with other Christians for the slave markets. But she was a pretty little girl and must have caught the eye of someone important as she ended up being taken to the palace and placed in the harem of Prince Selim II in Constantinople. She was converted to Islam and given the name “Afife Nur-Banu”. Other stories exist about her origins but this is probably the most common.

Prince Selim II was greatly taken with the young girl and soon decided that she would be the one to bear his children, a fact which would give her greater status than all the other concubines. In time she bore him four children; three daughters and one son and heir; Prince Murad. Nurbanu became the “first lady” of the princely harem and was promoted to leadership of the imperial harem when the Prince ascended the throne as Selim II, “Grand Sultan, Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe” in 1566. This made his son, Prince Murad III, heir to the throne and as such added to the prestige of Nurbanu Sultan as mother of a future sultan. Of course, Selim II took numerous other concubines but Nurbanu Sultan always remained his favorite for both her beauty and her brains. Although it was far from normal at the time, Selim II would often ask Nurbanu for her advice on various subjects because of his respect for her good judgment. She was a devoted wife and a very loyal mother as later events would prove. The Ottoman Empire was far from being very stable at the top and clashes over the imperial throne were common. It was also not uncommon for the loser to have his entire family massacred along with him to prevent any future challenge. Nurbanu Sultan was determined, however, that when the time came for her son to succeed his father, nothing would interfere with that.

Prince Murad had been sent to serve as Governor of Manisa on the Aegean coast and was there when Sultan Selim II passed away in 1574. This would have been the prefect opportunity for someone to seize power with the Sultan dead and his son away from the capital. Nurbanu realized this as much, if not more, than anyone and took quick action. Security and privacy in the harem were the most strict anywhere and no one knew when Selim II had actually died. Nurbanu told no one and hid the dead body of her husband in an icebox and sent to Manisa for her son to come to Constantinople immediately. All the while no one was the wiser that Sultan Selim II had actually departed this life. It was not made known publicly until twelve days later when Murad arrived and Nurbanu delivered up the body of her late husband. Her son became Sultan Murad III and Nurbanu became Valide Sultan (effectively “Queen Mother”), the highest position a woman could hold in the Ottoman Empire. She became a formidable figure with far-reaching influence during this time, so much so that it is regarded by some historians as the beginning of the so-called “Sultanate of Women”. According to some sources (Italian mostly, from Venetian accounts) Nurbanu Sultan effectively ran the government alongside the Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmet Pasha. Because women of the imperial household, no matter how lofty, were quite restricted in their movements, she depended on her long-time friend Esther Handali, a jeweler, to bring messages back and forth for her. The two became so close rumors began to surface about the nature of their relationship.

Venetian accounts are the most prolific in describing Nurbanu Sultan as a woman who never forgot her Venetian origins. For the nine years she served as regent of the Ottoman Empire, her foreign policies were reputedly so partial toward the Republic of Venice that their primary competitor, the Republic of Genoa, came to view Nurbanu Sultan as an enemy of their state. She corresponded with Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France, and was always on the lookout for potential allies against the Hapsburg empire centered on Austria and Hungary that was the primary threat to the Ottoman Turks and the primary block to further European expansion. Nurbanu Sultan was also known for her charitable giving and her patronage of building projects, especially the construction of a magnificent building complex that included a mosque, madrassah and bath among other things. She was a beloved and respected figure when she died in her palace in Constantinople on December 7, 1583, presumably of natural causes though some (probably Venetian accounts) speculate that she was poisoned by a Genoese assassin.

Unfortunately, the Ottoman Empire did not fare so well after her loss as the reign of Sultan Murad III was generally one of decline, though certainly not resoundingly disastrous. Considering his mother’s correspondence with the Queen of France, one of the things Sultan Murad III is remembered for was his own correspondence with Queen Elizabeth I of England, arguing that the Protestants and Muslims had much in common and should unite against the Catholic powers, something the Queen very seriously considered during the war with Hapsburg Spain. In any event, both sides benefited from the sale of English tin and lead to the Ottoman Turks to update and expand their military arsenal.