Archaeological Journal/Volume 8/Unpublished Notices of the Times of Edward I., Especially of his Relations with the Moghul Sovereigns of Persia

Archaeological Journal Volume 8  (1851) 
Unpublished Notices of the Times of Edward I., Especially of his Relations with the Moghul Sovereigns of Persia by Thomas Hudson Turner


It is well known that as soon as the troubles caused in England by what is generally called the Barons' War were quieted, Prince Edward, the eldest son and heir-apparent of Henry the Third, set out on an expedition to Palestine: and it has not escaped the remark of our historical writers that he should have selected such a time, when the country was still in an unsettled state, and his father's health and mind were daily on the decline, for undertaking so distant an expedition. Besides devotional motives, Dr. Lingard is inclined to regard political reasons as having moved him to this step:—"The crusades would open an honourable field for the exertions of turbulent and adventurous spirits, who might there employ against the Saracens those arms which at home they might be induced to turn against their own sovereign." In this observation there is probably great truth; at any rate, I am in a position to show that the Prince took care to carry with, or to engage by pecuniary advances to follow him, members of the most powerful families in England. Before reciting the roll of knights who covenanted to sail with him, it will be convenient to consider how much money was thought necessary for such a distant journey, and how it was raised.

In addition to a grant of the tenth part of the church revenues for three years, which Henry had obtained from the Pope in 1268, the laity in the following year granted him a subsidy of one-twentieth of their goods and chattles; and the greater portion of the latter aid was appropriated to defray the expenses of the Prince's crusade. It yielded, inclusive of the necessary charges of collection, 31,488l. 18s. 101/2d. Of this amount, 24,184 marks were either paid to, or sent after, the Prince, exclusive of the sums paid to the knights who accompanied him; 56l. 10s. were appropriated to redeem certain jewels belonging to his father, which had been pawned in France, and the balance was absorbed in the cost of collecting the subsidy. In addition to this large sum, the Prince borrowed of the King of France 70,000 livres Tournois, secured upon the revenues of Bourdeaux, to be repaid by annual instalments of 10,000 livres; in this loan were included 25,000 livres, which the French sovereign had advanced to Gaston, Vicomte de Bearne, who was to accompany Edward in his expedition.[1]

The English knights who agreed to sail in company with the Prince, or to follow him, were:—

  1. Henry of Germany, his cousin, and fourteen knights, 1500 marks.
  2. Roger de Leyburn and nine knights, 1000 marks.
  3. Brian de Brampton and one knight, 200 marks.
  4. Roger de Clifford and nine knights, 1000 marks.
  5. Robert de Mounteny and two knights, 300 marks.
  6. Wilham Fitz-Warin and two knights, 300 marks.
  7. Adam de Gesemuth and five knights, 600 marks.
  8. Thomas de Clare and nine knights, 1000 marks.
  9. Alan de Monte-Alto and one knight, 200 marks.
  10. William de Huntercombe and two knights, 300 marks.
  11. Walter de Percy and three knights, 400 marks.
  12. William de Valence and nineteen knights, 2000 marks.
  13. Richard de la Rokele and two knights, 300 marks.
  14. Payne de Chaworth and five knights, 600 marks.
  15. Robert Tipetot and five knights, 600 marks.
  16. Hamon L'Estrange, who followed the Prince, 1200 marks.
  17. Edmund, the king's brother, who was to follow likewise, 10,000 marks.
  18. Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who was likewise to follow, 1000 marks on loan.

I am not aware that these names have been before published, or that the sources from which the necessary funds for defraying the cost of the Prince's armament were derived have been hitherto indicated by any of our historical writers. It will be observed that the above eighteen names include some of the most considerable barons and knights who had survived the slaughter of the civil war; and some who, from their late complicity with the Earl of Leicester, may be considered to have been still suspected persons, whom it was desirable to restrain from further plots against the crown. Among them, Gilbert de Clare, the ambitious and turbulent Earl of Gloucester, was an especial object of fear to Henry and the Prince; and his word was so lightly esteemed that it was thought requisite to bind him by oaths and pledges to form one of the expedition. He, it will be observed, was the only one of the Prince's followers who had not a gift of money; indeed, his vast possessions, which placed him almost on an equality with his leader, rendered a gift unnecessary, although a loan of a little ready money might be needful after the waste his estates had suffered during the late war.

The sum allotted to each knight was, as it appears from the above account, 100 marks, with the exception of Hamon L'Estrange, who received the larger sum of 1200 marks, and Edmund, the king's brother, who had 10,000 marks. The number of knights, one hundred and four, corresponds very nearly with the number said to have received the cross from the hands of the Legate Ottoboni, at Northampton, in June, 1269.[2]

The utter failure of this crusade is so well known that I shall allude to it further for the purpose only of calling the attention of the Institute to a curious negotiation which was, in all probability, the only fruit of it. Dr. Lingard, after noticing Edward's arrival at Acre in 1271, and the retreat of the Sultan of Babylon, who had already prepared to assault the city, says, "Abagha, the Tartar Khan of Persia, proposed to him an offensive alliance against the common enemy of the Moguls and Christians." Under the corrupted form of Abagha, we have the name of Abaka-Kaan, son of Hulagu-il-Khan, and nephew of Kublaï-Khan, the Tartar Emperor of China. The Moghuls under Hulagu had captured Bagdad, and put to death the last of the Abbassite Khalifs, in the year 1258. The Persian sovereigns of the new, or Moghul dynasty, were therefore the religious and political foes of all the Mohammedan races; and hence the likelihood that such an offer was really made by Abaka to the English prince. Although this negotiation led to no result at the time, and Edward was compelled to evacuate Acre and return to Europe, the policy of concluding an alliance with the sovereigns of England and France was not abandoned by the Moghul princes who succeeded Abaka on the throne of Persia. On the death of his uncle Ahmed-Khan, in 1284. Arghun, the son of Abaka, ascended the throne, and he immediately renewed the relations of his predecessors with the Frank monarchs, and more especially with the court of Rome. He sent ambassadors to the Pope, and to the kings of France[3] and England, urging them to join him in an attack on the Mohammedans; and his envoys, one of whom was baptised at Rome, held out hopes that Arghun and his subjects might be induced to embrace the Christian faith. The chief agent employed by the Moghul prince in these negotiations was one Buscarelli de Gisolfi, a citizen of Genoa. Several of the letters of Pope Nicholas IV. to Edward on this subject are still preserved. In 1289, the pontiff wrote to say that Biscarellus de Gisulfo, envoy of "Argon," king of the Tartars, had presented letters to him announcing that the Moghul ruler was prepared to invade the Holy Land, at the time of the general crusade then contemplated. As this envoy was about to visit England he recommends him to Edward's notice.[4] Another Papal brief, dated December, 1290, also recommends Bascarellus de Gisulfo, and the other ambassadors of Arghun, among whom was Zaganus, a Tartar, who had become a convert to Christianity, to the protection of the English king.[5]

From the Wardrobe Account of the eighteenth year of Edward I., we learn that Buscarelli arrived in London on the eve of the Epiphany, January 5, 1290, accompanied by three esquires, a cook, eight horses, and six garçons; he remained thirteen days at the English court; and, in all, twenty days in England; his expenses were defrayed by Edward; his Tartar colleagues are not mentioned in the account. On the departure of Buscarelli, the king delivered to him a letter addressed to Arghun,[6] in which mention is made of the attachment which the father of the latter had always shown towards the Christians. Edward compliments him on his laudable intention of arming against the Soldan of Babylon, in aid of the Holy Land, and of the Christian faith; thanks him for the offer of horses and other necessaries for his army, whenever he shall reach the Holy Land; and assures him, that as soon as he can obtain the assent of the Roman Pontiff to the passage of himself and his army beyond sea, he will take care to certify him thereof through his own envoys, by whom he will also send him some gerfalcons and "other jewels of our land," as Arghun had requested of him.

Although in this letter Edward expresses his wish to undertake another crusade, and it is certain he was under a solemn engagement to do so, which Pope Nicholas was now constantly urging him to fulfil,[7] it may be doubted if his professions were sincere; but whatever his views in that respect, he was suddenly and entirely diverted from them by the question which almost immediately arose of the succession to the Scottish throne, and the circumstances attending it, which offered him a nearer, and long desired, field for the employment of his arms and money.

It appears, however, that Edward kept his word, and actually sent envoys to the Moghul sovereign soon after the departure of Buscarelli; they joined the latter at Genoa, and travelled thence with him, his nephew Conrad, and Percival de Gisolfi to the Persian court; the name of the English ambassador was Geoffrey de Langley, who was attended by two esquires, one of whom was Nicholas de Chartres. I write with extracts before me from the original roll of their Itinerary, kindly communicated by my friend, Mr. Burtt, of the Chapter-house, Westminster.

It is not a little curious that at the very time these ambassadors from the English sovereign were making their way from Genoa to the Moghul court, that ever-to-be-beloved old traveller Marco Polo was bringing a Tartar bride to Arghun, by sea from China.[8] Marco and his charge found him deceased, that event having occurred in 1291; and he probably died before the English embassy could reach his presence. The death of Arghun did not, however, wholly interrupt the relations between the Moghul and English courts. As late as the year 1303, we find a letter from Edward to Casan, or Gazan, who, after a short interval, succeeded Arghun, acknowledging the receipt of the letter he had sent by "Buscarelli de Giussurfa," apparently the same Italian envoy, and informing him that he was prevented from attending to the affairs of the Holy Land, by the political embarrassments and wars of Europe.[9]

When the embassy started from Genoa, the Moghul court was supposed to be at Cassaria, the ancient Cæsarea, in Armenia; but it was probably constantly on the move, and therefore the route of the envoys was as frequently changed. We find them at Sebaste, or Sebastopolis, in Cappadocia; Tabriz (Taurisium), in Kurdistan; Meredin, in Mesopatamia; Erzeroum, in Armenia; at Coya, the ancient Iconium; at Papertum, the Castle of Baiburt, in Armenia; and they went as far in search of the Moghul sovereign as Sarakana, or Saraij, near the ancient Astracan, on the eastern arm of the Wolga. On the present occasion, however, it is not my intention to give the whole Itinerary. I would rather proceed to some illustrations of the times, which are to be derived from the expenditure of the envoys, and reserve the Itinerary for another communication.

In the first place, the account of monies is made out in aspers, except in some few instances.

At Genoa, the ambassadors, to whom the various climates they were about to encounter must have been well known, bought furs, cloths, armour, carpets, silver plate, fur pelisses; and there one of the attendant squires fell sick, and had 31l. 3s. 4d. allowed to pay his expenses back to England. The silver plate which they bought cost altogether the large sum of 193l. 12s. 7d. currency (English) of that time; so that it may be safely said ambassadors' outfits are of very old date. Their carpets, fifteen in number, which would have to serve as beds, cost 15l. 15s. 6d. The armour, including seven iron plates, eleven basinets, &c., cost 44l. 5s.

When they were fairly landed in Asia Minor, we find that they employed the Saracens as porters to carry their luggage, and perform other servile offices, so strong appears to have been the Moghul rule. At Trebisond, the climate proving rather warm, Master Buscarelli, the chief envoy, was obliged to buy a parasole (sic),—an item not without interest to those who have sought to trace the introduction, or early uses, of the umbrella in England. The Emperor, or Sultan, of Trebisond's cook seems to have suited their tastes, for they made him a gift of 100 aspers. The weather still grew warmer, and another parasol was bought at Tabriz, in Kurdistan. These were, including two shillings'-worth of paper, their most remarkable purchases.

On returning home to England, they brought with them a leopard in a gabea or cage (gabbia), which was fed on sheep throughout the journey; several being put on board the galley for its use while at Constantinum Nobilem, as it pleased the scribe to write Constantinople.

As this document is perhaps the earliest extant relating to an English mission to such very remote parts, it appeared to me worthy of being brought under the notice of the Institute. In a succeeding paper I hope to complete the Itinerary.


  1. The amount of the twentieth, and its appropriation, is stated on the Pipe Roll, 1 Edw. I., 2us. rot. comp. For the French loan, see Liber de Antiquis Legibus, p. 111.
  2. Wykes, 85—Rymer.
  3. For the negotiations between the Moghul sovereigns and the kings of France, see "Memoires sur les Relations Politiques des Princes Chrétiens, et partienlièrement des Rois de France avec les Empereurs Mongols: par M. Abel Remusat, Paris, 1822," 4to. Two original letters of Arghun are still preserved in the Royal Library at Paris; M. Remusat has given fac-similes of them.
  4. New Rymer, vol. i. pt. ii., 713.
  5. Ibid. p. 742. A third papal brief, dated January 1290, introduces Saabedin Archaon, another Tartar envoy, to Edward. Ib. p. 743.
  6. I am indebted to my friend Mr. T. D. Hardy, of the Tower, for the communication of this hitherto unpublished missive: it is as follows. "In omni nomine Salvatoris Argon' Regi Tartarorum illustri, salubriter vivere ac tronum regium justicia roborare. Reducentes ad sedule recordacionis examen devocionis eximie puritatem qua inclitus vir, genitor vester, erga Christicolas suis fulgebat temporibus, attendentesque quod vos, tanquam laudabilis imitator ipsius, Christi nominis et honoris cupiatis augmentum proinde virtutum, Domino gratias vobisque grates referimus multiformes; glorificetur altissimus Dominus dominantium et Rex regum qui tam bonum tamque laudabile propositum inspiravit conceptui mentis vestre, ut contra Soldani Babilon' sueque gentis perfidiam exsurgere delectamini in terre sancte subsidium et fidei Christiane, beatum quoque vos dicent omnes generaciones si vobis votum perseveret hujus- modi, et ea que dictus vester nuncius ex parte vestra nobis exposuit efficaciter perstuderitis adimplere. Ceterum pro equitatura et aliis exercitui nostro necessariis, que per eundem vestrum nuncium, cum nos agredi contigerit terram sanctam, nobis liberaliter fecistis offerri, non nullas vobis grates referimus iterato, vos ignorare nolentes quod quamcicius poterimus sanctissimi in Christo patris sancte Romane ecclesie summi pontificis super nostro nostrique excercitus transitu ultra mare optincre consensum, vos inde reddere curabimus cerciores, et ad terram predictam disponemus nostros gressus, adjutorio Jhesu Christi, quod faciendi habemus utique magnum velle, quameito possimus; et hoc vobis faciemus constare per nostros proprios nuncios, per quos vobis mittemus de nostris Girofalcis et aliis jocalibus nostre terre, prout inde nos requisivit vestra regia eclsitudo. In predicto laudabili vestro proposito vos conservet gratie summus dator." Rot. Claus. 18 Edw. 1. m. 6, in dorso.
  7. New Rymer, vol. i. pt. ii., pp. 744, et seq.
  8. See Marsden's edition of the Travels of Marco Polo; the lady had the euphonious name of "Kogatin;" p. 27. Marco is supposed to have landed his charge at the port of Ormuz.
  9. New Rymer, vol i., pt. ii., p. 949.