Franco-Ottoman Diplomacy during the French Wars of Religion, 1559-1610



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation investigates the French military alliance with the Ottoman Empire during a series of religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants in France. It asks why the French court and its diplomats continued to pursue France’s Ottoman alliance during a period of such intense internecine conflict, and how those diplomatic endeavors were achieved. Based on extensive manuscripts research, this dissertation argues that the French court pursued an alliance with an Islamic Empire while the country was in the throes of Catholic-Protestant warfare because the Ottoman Empire was a central part of how the French conceived of their foreign policy. To prevent Spanish intervention into their domestic turmoil, the French court and its diplomats turned to their Ottoman ally to counter Spain in the Mediterranean. Historians have long known about the alliance between King Françios Ier (r. 1515-1547) and Sultan Suleiman I (r. 1520-1566), but the historiography has believed there were no further political ties until the reign of Louis XIV. This dissertation shows that the Franco-Ottoman alliance continued unabated throughout the sixteenth century despite the outbreak of religious civil war. France’s cross-confessional foreign policy was institutionalized long before the 1630s. This dissertation is divided into two parts. Part one provides an in-depth analysis of the characteristics of early modern and specifically Franco-Ottoman diplomacy. It demonstrates how the French court and its diplomats in the Ottoman Empire established a structure of communication and interaction with their Muslim allies to facilitate Franco-Ottoman diplomatic and military cooperation. Part two provides a narrative of the waxing and waning of the Franco-Ottoman diplomacy. It shows that the French crown included the Ottomans in all its foreign policy endeavors during the second half of the sixteenth century until the end of Henri IV’s reign (r. 1589-1610). Frustration with the Ottoman Empire’s inability to provide substantive military support to France caused Henri IV and his court to abandon the military aspects of the alliance, leaving only an economic agreement. Historians have traditionally defined the European geopolitical community within the restrictive parameters of western Christian Europe, treating the Ottoman Empire as a peripheral actor on the margins of Europe at best and as a foil against which the European community defined itself at worst. This dissertation demonstrates that the French court and its diplomats treated their geopolitical community as a much broader region that included the Ottoman Empire.