Franco-Ottoman alliance

Franco-Ottoman alliance

"A Vile, Infamous, Diabolical Treaty"

The 24th of February 1525 was a bad day for Francis I King of France. After his army’s complete annihilation at the battle of Pavia, he’d been captured by a lowly mercenary and he was now a prisoner of his most hated enemy Charles V, Hapsburg King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. France’s traditional allies (the Pope, the Venetians and the Poles) were in no position to threaten Charles. In fact, there was only one monarch powerful enough to challenge the almighty Hapsburgs and that was the Ottoman-Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. However, to offer an olive branch to the ruler of a vast Muslim empire was a dangerous strategy for a French queen whose son held the title ‘Most Christian King’. By encouraging the Islamic Ottomans to attack a fellow Catholic ruler, Louise knew she would attract the hostility of every pious Christian in Western Europe but she also knew that she had little choice. France was surrounded by Hapsburg territories (even England was in the Hapsburg camp by virtue of Henry VIII’s marriage to Charles V’s aunt Catherine of Aragon) but if the Ottomans attacked Charles’ dominions in the east, France could renew the war against him in the west. Francis had signed the Treaty of Madrid, in which he'd renounced all French claims to Flanders, Navarre, northern Italy and even Burgundy in order to secure his freedom, but Suleiman's offer of support allowed him to tear up this humiliating treaty. On the 22nd of March 1526, just four days after his return home, Francis proclaimed that the Treaty of Madrid had been obtained by duress and he would not abide by its terms. Charles was furious at such duplicity but he could do nothing because, shortly afterwards, Suleiman attacked Christian Hungary, whose king was Charles' brother-in-law, whilst Francis renewed the war in Italy. Though the previously independent Kingdom of Hungary was utterly destroyed in the fighting, the ensuing war did little to alter the balance of power in Western Europe and the French and Ottomans continued to attack the Hapsburgs throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. Incredibly, the centuries-old Franco-Turkish alliance was only ended by Napoleon’s conquest of Ottoman controlled Egypt and Syria in 1798!

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