Regal audiences for Ottoman and foreign ambassadors

'Dutch Ambassador Cornelis Calkeon received by Sultan Ahmed III,' by Jean-Baptiste Vanmour.

For the Ottomans, the concept of ambassador as someone who was stationed in a foreign country where he represented his own country was late in coming. Nor was diplomatic immunity a concept that was honored 100 percent of the time. Certainly there were plenty of examples starting from the 17th century when the first European ambassadors applied for residency in Istanbul. Prior to that, embassies came for specific reasons and left when they had accomplished their goals or finally realized that they couldn't.

The first Ottoman mission occurred in 1417. It was sent to Venice to convey a maritime treaty signed in 1416 between Venice and the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed I (r. 1413-1421). The name of the person in charge is unknown and the record of it is not dated but it represents the first maritime treaty to regulate trade between the two countries. Over the ensuing centuries, embassies were sent to numerous countries in the Balkans, North Africa and Iran, many of them to announce the death of one sultan and the accession of another. It wasn't until 1792 that the Ottomans posted an ambassador to a foreign country who would stay and represent the empire, in this case to England.

Of all the ambassadors that the Ottomans dispatched until 1792, only one really stood out - Yirmisekiz Mehmed Çelebi. (Yirmisekiz is Turkish for the number 28 and refers to the number of the Janissary battalion to which he had served before becoming a bureaucrat in the Ottoman treasury.) He was selected to be the ambassador to Paris by Sultan Ahmed III at the behest of his grand vizier, Nev?ehirli Damad ?brahim Pa?a. His appointment had the blessings of the French ambassador of the time, the Marquis de Bonnac whose support paved the way for a warm welcome when he finally reached...

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