The United Kingdom owes its existence to the Ottomans
England’s King Henry VIII, famous for having married six times and establishing his own denomination by defying the Pope, sent an emissary to the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Suleiman, says Suleiman the Magnificent, who aroused great admiration in Europe.
According to American historian Fairfax Downey, who wrote a biography of Sultan Suleiman titled “The Grande Turke: Suleyman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottomans”, this delegation examined the Ottoman political, financial and judicial system – in other words , secrets of the superpower – and prepared a report to present to the king. The king took the step of making England one of the most powerful states in the world by embarking on a reform in this direction.
The English Ambassador begs the Sultan
Spain was the second most powerful state in the world. The Ottomans, who were at war with Safavid Iran, did not want to go to war directly with Spain. On the other hand, the Turks supported the two enemies of Spain: England and France. The Ottoman government, which wanted to separate Austria and Spain, granted England the privilege of trading freely in English-flagged Ottoman ports in 1581, as the third state after Venice and France. This trade was to be carried out through the intermediary of the Compagnie du Levant.
It also gave an advantage to the Ottomans at war with Spain and Iran. It was also a great success for Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was in a fight to the death with Spain because they knew that once King Felipe II made peace with the Ottomans, the Spain would side with the Holy Roman Empire dominated by Austria and invade England then France with its “Invincible Armada”. Even the smallest gesture of the Ottomans brought great joy to England. Indeed, the seizure of four Spanish ships in the Indian Ocean by the Ottomans created a festive atmosphere in London.
England’s first permanent ambassador to Istanbul, William Harborne, almost begged Sultan Murad III for help from the Ottoman navy against the Spanish armada. The Queen wrote friendly letters and sent gifts to Sultan Murad III, Ottoman statesmen, and even Safiye Sultan, the Sultan’s wife. In the letter she wrote to the Sultan, the Queen stated that they did not worship statues like Catholics, whom she called pagans. She wanted at least 60 to 70 galleys to be sent to fight the Spanish Armada, provided the costs were covered by England.
In the letter he sent to the Queen, the Sultan said that “the Queen of England will be treated the same as those who were friends with the Ottoman Sultans in the past and were protected. In 1587, thanks to the Ottoman navy In the spring of the maneuvers in the Mediterranean, the Spanish Armada was divided in two. The English were thus able to defeat the Spaniards. Spain never regained its former power and position.
England, the Netherlands and even France owe their existence to this event. In fact, a few years ago The Guardian mentioned it with the short story titled “Why We Have to Thank the Turks …”
The next English ambassador, Edward Burton, joined the Sultan’s expedition to Hungary. He died in 1597 and was buried in Heybeliada, an island near Istanbul.
Shadow Grand Vizier
Europe, which on the one hand discovered the world and established colonies, was also enriched with gold, silver and raw materials from the New World. Britain started the Industrial Revolution and after the Napoleonic Wars. It became the most powerful state in the world in 1815; however, he could only carry this title for 130 years.
Britain, fearing the strengthening of Russia, wanted the Ottoman Empire to survive for several centuries. His policy was “Neither die nor live”. For this reason, the British prevented the French invasion of Egypt in 1798. They even aided the Sublime Porte against the Governor of Egypt, who was provoked and revolted with French support.
When an Ottoman-friendly government came to power, Anglo-Ottoman relations were about to improve. Indeed, this was the case at the time of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Sultan Abdülmecid was in favor of an agreement with this most powerful state in the world. Along with France and Sardinia, he became an ally of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War of 1854. Some 50,000 young British soldiers died for this cause. The graves of some are in Haydarpaşa in Istanbul.
Britain saw this victory as an opportunity for the complete invasion of India. The Grand Vizier Reşid Pasha was a supporter of the British. He was a close friend of Lord Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador to Istanbul. Its policy has always been parallel to that of London. Lord Canning was even called the “Grand Vizier of the Shadow”. The Baltalimanı trade deal was signed around this time and great trade concessions were granted to Britain.
Sultan Abdülaziz also stopped in London during his trip to Europe in 1867. Queen Victoria awarded him the Order of the Garter. During this trip, the marriage of Crown Prince Murad Efendi, who was admired for his beauty and kindness, with the daughter of Queen Victoria was proposed. If accepted, when he ascended the throne, Istanbul would have been completely under British influence. Sultan Abdülaziz declined the offer.
The win-win situation
In the last days of Sultan Abdülaziz, the Ottoman government established close relations with Russia. The Sultan was afraid of the Russian policy of moving south. Troubled by this, Britain took a final step. The British wanted to dominate Ottoman politics through the bureaucrat Midhat Pasha, who was a sympathizer of Great Britain. Sultan Abdülaziz was overthrown in a coup d’état in 1876. He was replaced by Sultan Murad V.
A sympathizer of Great Britain, the new Sultan befriended the Prince of Wales during his trip to Britain with his uncle. Three months later, however, he began to have mental health issues and was dismissed. Instead of his brother, Sultan Abdülhamid II ascended the throne. During the Ottoman-Russian War of 1878, Great Britain did not support the Ottoman Empire. But when the war ended, it helped reduce casualties. In return, the British were given a temporary base on the island of Cyprus but never returned it.
Sultan Abdülhamid II followed the British friendship policy of his father, Sultan Abdülmecid. But by this time, the global geopolitical balance had changed. Germany has emerged; Britain agreed with Russia against this new rival. This meant the end of Sultan Abdulhamid’s policy of balance. In fact, Britain invaded Egypt in 1882.
When Britain began to colonize the lands where Muslims lived, she was afraid of the Ottoman Caliphate because she feared that with just a word from the Caliph, Muslims could revolt. For this reason, the British based their policy in the second half of the 19th century on the weakening and overthrow of the Ottoman Caliphate.
As Britain supported Arab nationalism, it began to propagate that the Ottoman sultans were not from the Quraysh tribe and therefore had no legitimate right to the caliphate. Thus, relations between Istanbul and London became strained. The British supported the opposition of the Young Turks, paving the way for the dethronement of Sultan Abdülhamid.
However, power fell into the hands of the Germanophiles among the Young Turks. It is believed that Great Britain was behind the attempted backlash of April 12, 1909. This backlash was unsuccessful. But on this occasion, Sultan Abdülhamid II was deposed. He was succeeded by his older and discreet brother, Sultan Mehmed V.
Wait and watch!
The disasters the state suffered as a result of the Young Turks’ alliance with Germany benefited England. The Ottoman provinces of the Middle East were occupied by Great Britain and its ally France. The British were in Istanbul for the second time in 1918 after 1854, but this time as an invader. Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George provoked the invasion of Izmir by the Greeks, whom he admired, while remaining neutral to the nationalists fighting against them. He captured the caliph in Istanbul.
During the Istanbul-Ankara struggle, the British implemented the usual wait-and-see policy. If Ankara won, it would have been freed from the Caliph. If Ankara lost, Istanbul was already in British hands. When Ankara won, it seemed to come to an understanding with the new state. Founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and British Ambassador Sir Percy Loraine have established good relations. King Edward VIII came to Turkey in 1936 and visited Atatürk.
Britain was the one that was truly defeated in WWII. He was financially destroyed. It lost all of its colonies and had to abandon its imperialist policies which were the main reason for almost all the unrest in the Middle East today. But it continued to have a say globally thanks to its robust system and powerful intelligence service. Since 1923, relations between London and Ankara were generally cordial apart from brief periods of crisis, and based on mutual interests. There is no room for sentimentality in diplomacy; everything is based on profit.