JAMES VI and I, King of Scotland (1567-1625) and of England (1603-1625). Illuminated letter signed addressed to 'Sultan Osman Han Cheife Lord and Commander of the Ottoman Kingdome, and sole and supreme Monarch of ye Easterne Empire' (i.e. Sultan Osman II), Westminster, 9 July 1621.
Manuscript on vellum, one membrane, 630 x 680 mm. Illuminated border in upper and side margins, 25 lines written in a cursive hand in brown ink with initial words and titles in liquid gold; Incipit on a diapered ground of gold and blue, large initial letter 'J' made with staves of interlaced bands and the arms, emblems and supporters of England and Scotland, baluster-shaped capitals of gold and dark red. Border of symmetrical scrolling tendrils and foliage in gold, blue, pink, red and green on a dotted background. Signed by the King in the lower margin (faded); address panel of similar form and colours on verso (darkened and with some loss of pigment). Provenance. John Chapman and by descent to Sir Edgar MacCulloch who owned the letter in 1887.
The letter announces the appointment of Sir Thomas Roe as ambassador and the recall of Sir John Eyre, naming the bearer of the letter, John Chapman, as the King's 'Caya' (representative) until Roe's arrival, also stressing the importance of the appointment for the trade existing between England and the Ottoman Empire.'And because we doe well conceave how necessary it is for the supporting of our subjects which doe trade and remaine within your Dominions, to have that place supplyed by some other person of quality and discretion, through whose interposicon and industry our people might not only be releeved in their juste and reasonnable occasions, but all those things presented to your Roiall Hand which may tend to the maintenance and advancement of the mutuall commerce which hath been of long tyme contracted betwixt your Predicessors and Ours... We have thought fit to make choice of our trustie and well beloved subject and servant Sir Thomas Roe Knight, one of the gentlemen of Our Privy Chamber'.
The English ambassador to the Sublime Porte was commissioned by the sovereign as his representative but paid as an agent of the Levant Company which had obtained its first charter in 1581, when the English merchants obtained the privileges already won by the Venetians and French. Sir John Eyre soon after his appointment had become involved in a bitter dispute with the Company which claimed that he had misappropriated over £3,000 of its funds. His successor, Sir Thomas Roe (1581-1644), was well known at Court, and the devoted servant of James I's daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, wife of Frederick, King of Bohemia and Elector of the Palatinate. In a long and adventurous career, Roe explored the Amazon and Guiana, was ambassador to the Great Moghul and represented James I in Constantinople during seven turbulent years. His account of his mission to Turkey in the Negotiations and Embassies, was published by Samuel Richardson in 1740, and is an important source of information on events in the Ottoman world from 1621-1629. John Chapman, bearer of the present letter, remained in Constantinople as his secretary. The word 'caya' used in it to describe Chapman's role is probably derived from the Ottoman kethuda, or, in modern Turkish, kahya, meaning 'deputy'. The reign of Sultan Osman II (1618-1622) ended violently when he was deposed by the Janissaries and strangled, shortly after Roe's arrival.
The provenance of the manuscript is described in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries (1 December 1887), of which an offprint is included with the lot.