15th Century Moorish-English Relations


Laamiri contends that for Rogers, the first official contact between Great Britain and The Empire of Morocco goes back to 1213 when King John of England dispatched an Embassy to sultan Mohamed Ennassir, Morocco’s fourth Almohad ruler (1199-1213), asking for an alliance against France and support against his enemies within Britain with the promise that he would embrace Islam. The details of this embassy, according to Rogers, were recorded by Mathew Paris and later published and kept at Saint Alban Abbey.  Rogers made of this mission the subject of the whole first chapter of his History and gave many details of the encounter between Ennassir and King John’s two envoys [Thomas Hardington and Mathew Fitz-Nicholas] to the court of Morocco. The first Moroccan Ambassador to London, Kaid  Jaudar ben Abdallah, was sent by Mohamed Ech-Cheikh to King Charles I with a message of peace and friendship in 1637.  It appears Abdallah left a good impression in London.See  P. G. Rogers, A History of Anglo-Moroccan Relations to 1900, pp.1-5. Citing Moroccan British Relations A Survey by Mohammed Laamiri  

“The King published an account of him shortly after his reception describing him (Abdallah) as having “an innate inclination to anything that is noble”, and also as “courteous, bountiful (sic), charitable, valiant, “and for “humanity, morality and generosity hee (sic) is a most accomplish’d gentleman” [quoted by Rogers op.cit; pp34-35] In 1661, the King of Portugal gave Tangier to King Charles II of England as part of a marriage dowry. On 29 January 1662, 3000 English soldiers arrived in Tangier Bay under the Earl of Peterborough; British-Moroccan relations lived a period of tensions during the English occupation of Tangier from 1662 to 1684. When Moulay Ismail became Sultan, Tangier had been a British colony for 10 years and the Moroccan-British relations were already marred by the thorny question of British captives in Morocco. This period knew a dynamic and sometimes tense diplomatic activity between the two countries. Moroccan forces under Moulay Ismail made life so difficult for the garrison that the English decided to abandon Tangier in 1684.” Citing Moroccan British Relations A Survey by Mohammed Laamiri  

“Kaid Mohamed ben Haddu Ottur [El-Attar], Moulay Ismail’s famous emissary and Morocco’s second ambassador to England arrived to London in December 1681 and was received by King Charles II on 11 January 1682.  Ben Haddu impressed Londoners by his exotic dress and his horsemanship; this event was immortalized by a famous painting of the Moroccan Ambassador on his horse in Hyde Park by Sir Godfrey Kneller. In fact, the first publication in a European language fully devoted to Morocco was Leo Africanus’ Description of Africa published in Latin in 1526 and translated into English in 1600 See Leo Africanus, A geographical historie of Africa… Translated From Latin by John Pory, London, Georg Bishop, 1600. The text became a classic and the main reference for British travelers to Morocco for the following three centuries.” Source: Moroccan British Relations A Survey by Mohammed Laamiri  

Certainly, there were periods of tension but there were much of the time long periods of mutual respect, friendship, alliances, and cooperation. Despite occasional disagreements and misunderstandings, mutual interests and alliances against their common enemies brought the two countries to close cooperation and the signing of many peace and trade treaties. Throughout the shared history between Morocco and Britain, many peace treaties were signed and British ambassadors encouraged the Moroccan Makhzen to make deep reforms to its old territory administration and trade policies especially by opening its frontiers to European commercial exchange and by the modernizing of its governance methods. (Ambassadors Kirby Green and Charles Ewan Smith worked hard to that effect.)

Source: Moroccan British Relations A Survey by Mohammed Laamiri